The Inuit people of Canada are culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada. These people can be dated back almost 20,000 years ago for inhabiting Canada, and may have crossed the Bering Land Bridge to arrive in Canada. The physical environment in which they live in can be characterized by long daylight hours and moderate temperatures in summer and long, cold winters often spent in near total darkness. There are absolutely no trees observed in this area, but there are some low stubby plants and berries. Of course, due to Arctic being in the north, alpine glaciers as well as low lying lakes are common.
The Inuit peoples are descendants of Thule culture 1000 CE. They have a total of 8 separate tribal groups. Not only that, they have an Eskimo Aleut (Inuktitut) language group, which contains 6 dialects. The Inuit people are organized in regional bands consisting of 500 to 1000. These regional groups congregate in the winter time for seal hunting. Within these regional bands, the Inuits live together in smaller groups consisting of 2-5 households. The smaller group generally comprises of a married couple and their children, although elders and unmarried relatives might also be present. Having great cooperation within the household and sharing amongst each other was the predominant trait of the Inuit people. Essentially, selfishness was intolerable.
Marriage in Inuit society was nearly universal and occurred in early adulthood. Inuit children generally lived with the family of one or the other spouse. In this culture, children were greatly revered and thought of as extremely important in society. They were important in establishing valuable interfamily relationships. Having your children betrothed to someone was quite common in Inuit society. Family is the central economic unit of the Inuit, and as mentioned in the First Nations post, everyone was assigned a particular job. Children, parents, and elders all worked to ensure a sustainable community.
Inuit economy was mostly based on sea-mammal hunting, particularly seals. In addition to that, they hunted caribou and game in the summer. Fishing, whaling and polar bear hunting was also common. As can be seen, the Inuit people are fierce hunters. Occasionally, the Inuit would gather seasonal plants and berries. With all the food they hunted and collected, it would serve as a commodity but was also stored. The Inuit generally stored food through the methods of drying and caching.
The Inuit people were quite technologically advanced relative to their location and time period. Inuit technology included bone, horn, antler, ivory, stone, animal skins, baleen for basketry, etc. Inuit inventions were
considered “technological masterpieces” given available materials. Some of these inventions include:
- Iglus, toggling harpoon heads and kayaks
- Sleds and skin covered boots used universally while hunting techniques differ from person to person
- Early domestication of dogs for hunting and packing
The Inuit people were semi-nomadic, in that they settled in accordance to hunting needs. The women were responsible for transporting households and the materials and possessions inside the household.
The majority of the Inuit clothing was made from furs and skins, with much regional variations. The general daily attire of an Inuit were parkas, gloves, and boots. Women usually dressed more elaborately than the men, although there were few adornments present on their clothing. Having tattoos on the face was a common aspect of Inuit women.
There were many vital and significant ceremonies celebrated at summer gatherings. These ceremonies began once an Inuit is born (naming, betrothal, marriage), as well as rights of passage (demonstrations of skill such as sewing and hunting). In Inuit culture, the Shaman was the head of spiritual life and intermediaries between people and the spirit world. He/she decided the appropriate atonement for transgressions. Other worlds the Inuit believe in include the sky, centre of the earth, and beneath the sea. The Inuit people think there is an intimate relationship between people and the natural world. They have a strict adherence to rules and regulations (codes of conduct). Plus, dreams are considered to be important and symbolic in their culture.
Inuit children learn by examples from their parents and elders and education is believed to be a life long endeavour. In Inuit society, having a strong desire to be praised and attain social competence is incentive to join adult society. Having detrimental qualities (e.g. selfishness) in a collaborative society such as the Inuit one is greatly looked down upon. All lessons and teachings were passed on orally; no written work. Lessons were explained through “stories,” as well as traditional knowledge.
Artistic endeavors include drumming, throat singing, square dancing, and carving.
The Inuit people barely had any contact with the Europeans before the 18th century. They eventually adopted the usage of metals, but most technology they had before remained the same. In terms of religion, they are nearly all Christians today.