The Inuit People of Canada extend beyond their nation’s international boundary, west into Alaska (U.S.A.) and east into Greenland, a Denmark Territory. These People, whose traditional language is defined as a continuum, meaning it has numerous dialects, dominate the human mark upon the Great North in the Western Hemisphere. The footprint of Canada itself is rather small, with the exception of resource extraction areas and some official government ‘management. ’ The Canadian government has mostly left the higher latitudes to the Inuit Peoples, relative to what occurred farther south.
Winter! The life of Inuit People can be fairly much defined by that word and, at that far North, it is the greatest word of the language. Winter can last for as long as eight months some years, unrelenting the entire time. Their food, water supply, clothing, shelters, celebrations, spirituality, and world-view are all inter-dependent with snow, ice, temperatures colder than the freezing point, wind, and nights that last up to 24 hours for a few months of the year.
The area traditionally occupied by the Inuit People in Canada spans 3000 miles east to west and nearly 1000 miles north to south. Water or ice make up about 50% of that region, be it the Arctic Ocean, various bays, or the great rivers that pour from interior mountain ranges toward the sea. Most lands that the Inuit occupy are relatively flat and near sea level in elevation. The biome is tundra or coast.
Traditional life meant a somewhat nomadic existence as dictated by climate cycles and animal movements. Living on the mainland included sod and/ or animal bone frame houses, while life on the sea was conducted with watercraft such as the kayak during the thaw and the iconic igloo, as a temporary home, when frozen. Clothing, bedding, and sleep coverings all were of animal skins. The high caloric diet of seal mammals (blubber) provided the necessary means to stay warm in the intense cold. Spiritualism, based on the natural world and led in practice by shamans, guided the conduct of the people and established social norms.
Contemporary life still has many aspects of the traditional ways, but it is the materials of life—from white flour that gets flown into remote villages on a bi-weekly basis to aluminum skiffs with outboard engines—that has changed. The material change inevitably has effected other aspects of life as well. Religion has supplanted spiritualism to a certain degree. English is spoken and heard as often (or more often) as Inuit is, in all communities. While next weeks existence now is more likely assured, unlike the past when it could be somewhat tenuous, the dependency on foreign items has sapped a joy and decreased a positive outlook for some Inuit remaining close to their traditional ways. No matter, when winter comes around, traditional or contemporary, the climate dominates all.
Note: Raven Makes Gallery can acquire and sell works from Alaska Native Peoples that contain sea mammal parts but not from the Canadian Inuit Peoples.