Arctic Ocean On A Map

Inuit of the Arctic

As a rule Inuit have shorter, thicker bodies than their European counterparts. Therefore they lose less heat through their limbs. They also have more blood vessels in their hands and feet, which means they can use them in much colder temperatures, sometimes as low as -40 oC. Their eyelids and cheeks are also fleshier to protect against the extreme cold. Inuit object to being called Eskimos. It is a Cree Indian expression with the meaning, ‘Eaters of raw meat,’ and quite naturally is considered derogatory. Many people in their ignorance still try to use ‘Eskimo’ as a general description but it should never be used any more. ‘Squaw’ is another Indian word which has a deeply offensive meaning, and hopefully will also be dropped. Places using Squaw in their names should also have them renamed. It’s a word that has been featured mistakenly in many old Western cowboy films, presumably it wasn’t then realised that it indicated a woman of ill-repute and is very offensive. The Province of British Columbia has taken the major step of wiping ‘squaw’ off the face of the map by renaming eleven creeks, rivers, lakes and mountains. ‘Inuit’ has the straightforward meaning, ‘The People.’

The usual Inuit word for white people is qallunaat meaning, ‘high brows’. Sometimes they also call white people kabloona meaning, ‘pale face’. Another word, although hardly used nowadays is arnasiutiit ‘stealers of our women’. Hopefully the latter description is a word that has faded into the historic past. The language of the Inuit is Inuktitut. This means ‘in the manner of the Inuit’ or ‘the way an Inuk does things.’ If you add titut to any word it also has the same meaning. So Englishtitut can mean ‘the way an Englishman does things.’

Arctic Ocean On A Map Photo Gallery



There are seven dialects and seventeen sub-dialects and two writing systems. It’s quite a heritage which the elders are doing their best to preserve and protect. The area known as Baffin, which includes Baffin Bay and Baffin Island where the Inuit capital Iqualuit is based, is their main homeland. The Inuit settlements are mostly dotted along the coasts, comprising anything between 100 persons to perhaps 1,000. No one is absolutely certain how they first came across to the Arctic. They were there before the Vikings and the great seafaring travellers who crossed oceans and dangerous waters in search of new lands to settle or conquer. It is thought that they initially migrated eastwards from Alaska, they travelled on foot, by sledge and by boat to reach Baffin Island and the other surrounding areas, some 3,000 years ago. Legend handed down tells that they were called Tuniit, Dorset and Thule. The Thule are the direct ancestors of the Inuit.

They lived in igloos or semi-subterranean oval houses built into the ground or ice. These had whalebone rafters covered with skins, mostly seal. They used slate tools and weapons. For heating, their lamps were set within stone with moss wickers. They were nomads depending on the winter and summer seasons as to where they would base themselves. The Inuit are a peaceful people and have never tried to conquer other nations but have only wanted to coexist within nature and to live off the land as well as the ice. They say the land owns them, rather than man owning the land as many other cultures think. Inuit treat everything as well as everybody with respect. It’s fundamental to their way of life. They are hunters only by necessity, as they can not farm or sow and therefore must hunt those animals which also live in the tundras and snowy wastelands, as they do themselves.

The Inuit have always travelled and carried their few possessions on sledges (komatiks) pulled by husky dogs or in their boats built with animal skins (umiaks). They have also built their boats (kayaks) for faster travel and hunting and used whatever materials were to hand, mostly bone, skin or wood. Kayaks were used to hunt whale and seal, and polar bears were tracked on foot or with the komatiks. Umiak is their word for a boat made of walrus skin. The Inuk man and Inuk woman always work as a family team, he hunting, she preparing the food and making their clothes. She uses a crescent shaped knife called the ulu for practically every task. She might send out her man to hunt, wearing bearskin trousers, sealskin boots and a caribou parka with the hood framed by wolverine fur. You can’t get much closer to Arctic nature than that.

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