Teaching Treasures™

The Inuit

The Inuit live mainly within the Arctic Circle where winters are long, dark and very cold. Inuit means 'the people' but you might know them better as Eskimos. The Inuit like to be called Inuit not Eskimos. The word Eskimo means 'eaters of raw flesh'.

The Inuit used to build snow houses called igloos. Now they have modern housing. They also used to train dogs to pull sledges called komatiks. These days they travel on sledges with motors called skidoos.

The Inuit hunted whales, seals, walrus, fish, musk ox, foxes, birds, squirrels, hares and caribou for food and skins. The skins were used to make tents and clothing. Light sealskins were used to make canoes called kayaks.

In summer meat and fish were dried and stored as winter foods. Summers are short so they worked hard to get everything ready for winter again.

When someone died they dressed them in their best clothes and furs and took them to a special place. The Inuit left the dead person there for the wild animals to eat.

When English sea captain Martin Frobisher searched for a short cut to China to buy spices they came across the Inuit. The North West Passage claimed hundreds of seamen's lives. Their ships had to sail past icebergs in the cold Arctic waters.

When more Europeans came to hunt for whales, whale numbers reduced drastically over the years. The Inuit didn't like other people killing the whales and the sea animals because it was soon evident that there was not enough wildlife left for the Inuit to hunt.

The whalers also brought different sicknesses to the Inuit which were unknown before. This caused much unhappiness to the Inuit. By 1821, the Hudson's Bay Company, which belonged to England had trading posts in many places. The Inuit were not allowed to sell furs to anyone else.

When missionaries came on the scene it had good and bad results. They preserved the Inuit language by writing it down and provided medicine but a lot of the old Inuit way of life was forbidden. Children were not allowed to speak the Inuit language in school for example.

After the 1930's few furs were sold and many Inuit starved to death or died from measles or influenza. After 1945 many Inuit started work for the Americans on radar stations. Gradually the Inuit traditions of hunting and providing food for themselves disappeared. When the jobs ran out with the Americans again the Inuit had trouble surviving.

When oil and gas was discovered under the sea in Alaska the Inuit realised much money was to be made and they wanted governments to help them with a share of land and money.

The Inuit were given 44 million acres of land in Alaska and 900 million dollars which was used for creating jobs and training. The Inuit today live modern lives. Children have television, radios, videos and travel by aeroplane. They are taught the Inuit language at school and in summer they learn how to hunt and fish. by Ingrid Griggs

Learn more at these sites

The Inuit of Nunavut, Canada

Nunavut Planning Commission

Nunavut Muskox

your task 1

Below is a list of Inuit words. Find out what they mean.

Eskimo Igloos
Komatiks Nunavut
Kudliks Inuk
Inuit Umiak

Write a short essay about the Inuit. Incorporate some of the Inuit words.

your task 2

Find out what the mining of oil and gas has done to the environmentand
the wildlife where the Inuit live. Write a short essay about your findings.


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