The Peoples of the Far North can be generalized as living in the Arctic or Subarctic, either in Canada or Alaska. Those living along the northern coast are the Inupiat People of Alaska or the Inuit People of Canada. Along the western coastal region of Alaska are their cultural and linguistic cousins, the Yupik People. Further south in Western Alaska are the Aleut and Alutiiq. The subarctic region of inland Canada is home to several loosely related Peoples known as the Cree, whereas the inland People of Alaska are another related group, the Athapaskans.
Winter—cold, snow, long periods of darkness, and the Northern Lights—dominates their lives at least half the year, while spring, summer, and fall—a high energy time during the long-light days of cool or warm weather—balances out the year. This cold-dark and warm-light cycle is common to all the people. The dependency on animals for nutrition and, traditionally, clothing is another commonality they share.
The inland and coastal Peoples are distinctly different, however, in their languages, cultural norms, societal practices, and spiritual beliefs. These differences primarily stemmed from the variances in ecosystems and the resources each provided. Traditionally, the Peoples of these regions both traded with and fought against each other. While intermarriages occurred, they are thought to have been rare, while today they happen a bit more frequently.
The Peoples of the coastal and sea ice region live upon the tundra biome, where winds can blow at a steady 35 mph for days on end; whereas, the inland Peoples live in the boreal, taiga forests biome, where temperatures can reach -70 degrees F (without wind chill) in winter. Sea mammals provide both a caloric rich diet and exceptionally protective clothing along the coast; caribou, moose, and fish are the diet staples inland. Relationships with other hunters—bears and wolves in particular—had to be established and respected in the old days.
Of all the First/ Original Peoples of North America, those of the Far North are regarded as having lived the most demanding existence. Today, they are still envisioned as the People who have the most to endure, due to the unyielding seasonal environment. Perhaps the single greatest difference between then and now is the ability to control the temperatures of their inhabited dwellings during winter, followed by the weapons used for hunting and methods of transportation.
The old ways of doing things have gone away, in many of the day to day practices. Fewer and fewer of the young speak the language. Cyber technology is taught in the schools. But perhaps up here, the basic conditions and demands upon a person’s life remain the same, and this allows the people to stay a bit more closely connected to the lessons and memory of the ancestors than anywhere else in the North America.