Meaning of name[change | edit source]
They are sometimes called Eskimos, a word which likely comes from the Algonquin language and may mean "eater of raw meat". Some Inuit do not like to be called Eskimos but some do. Inuit in Canada and Greenland like the name Inuit because it is a name they made. Inuit means more than one, one person is an "Inuk". The native Greenlanders are related to the Inuit. The language of the Inuit is Inuktitut, and it is one of the official languages of Nunavut and of the Northwest Territories in Canada.
Life in the past[change | edit source]
Eskimos did not have any wood to burn fires, and that is why they ate raw meat. The little bit of wood they rarely found was too important to burn, and it had to be used for other things. The only fire they had was blubber lamps. These burned low and gave off only a little heat. It took a long time to cook a meal over one. So, the Eskimos often ate their meat without cooking it.
Eskimos were also nomads, but they did not domesticate any animals except for dogs, which they used to pull their sleds and help with the hunting. They were hunter/gatherers, living off whatever they found or killed. They were very careful to make good use of every part of the animals they killed.
Eskimos lived in tents made of animal skins during the summer. In the winter they lived in sod houses and igloos. They could build an igloo out of snow bricks in just a couple of hours. Snow is full of air spaces, which helps it hold in warmth. With just a blubber lamp for heat, an igloo could be warmer than the air outside. The Eskimos made very clever things from the bones, antlers, and wood they had. They invented the , which was used to hunt seals and whales. They built boats from wood or bone covered with animal skins. They invented the kayak for one man to use for hunting the ocean and among the pack ice.
Eskimo sleds could be built from wood, bone, or even animal skins wrapped around frozen fish. Dishes were made from carving soapstone, bones, or musk ox horns. They wore two layers of skins, one fur side in, the other facing out, to stay warm.
Eskimos had to be good hunters to survive. In the winter, seals did not come out onto the ice. They only came up for air at holes they chewed in the ice. Eskimos would use their dogs to find the air holes, then wait patiently until the seal came back to breathe and kill it with a . In the summer, the seals would lie out on the ice enjoying the sun. The hunter would have to slowly creep up on a seal to kill it. The Eskimos would use their dogs and spears to hunt polar bears, musk ox, and caribou. Sometimes they would kill caribou from their boats as the animals crossed the rivers on their migration. The Eskimos even hunted whales. From their boat, they would throw harpoons that were attached to floats made of seal skins. The whale would grow tired from dragging the floats under the water. When it slowed down and came up to the surface, the Eskimos could keep hitting it with more harpoons or spears until it died.
During the summer months, the Eskimos were able to gather berries and roots to eat. They also collected grass to line their boots or make baskets. Often the food they found or killed during the summer was put into a cache for use during the long winter. A cache was created by digging down to the permafrost and building a rock lined pit there. The top would be covered with a pile of rocks to keep out the animals. It was as good as a freezer, because the food would stay frozen there until the family needed it. Eskimos did not have a government or laws. They learned early in life to help each other in order to survive. They always shared food, since it was often so hard to find. They usually moved around in small groups looking for food, and sometimes they would get together with other groups to hunt for larger animals such as whales. The men did the hunting and home building, and also made weapons, sleds, and boats. The women cooked, made the clothes, and took care of the children.
Eskimos today[change | edit source]
Today, most Eskimos live in modern houses built by the government of their country. Many still hunt or fish for some of their food and income. They use rifles and when they go. They sell some of the fish they catch or the beautiful things they make for extra money. In Alaska, many of the people have received money from the oil discovered in that state. However, there are not many jobs for people in the Arctic. Often they must have help from the government to survive. The Arctic is very different from the rest of the world that the way of life in the south does not work well in the north.