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Eskimo (Inuit) culture


Haida portrait mask Alaska
Haida portrait mask Alaska

Eskimo (Inuit) culture developed in western Alaska, and it was also there that the Eskimo and Aleut languages diverged from each other. In time the Eskimo developed techniques to exploit the arctic seas. The Arctic Small Tool tradition, starting in Siberia, was the technological base. It developed further in Alaska and spread across the Arctic to Greenland about 4,000 years ago.

From Alaska’s northern coast to Greenland the Eskimo hunted large sea mammals such as whales, walruses, and seals. Some groups, however, depended on caribou hunting as their mainstay. These groups included the Caribou Eskimo in Canada’s Barren Grounds west of Hudson Bay, and smaller groups along the Colville and Noatak rivers and in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Despite these differences, the Eskimo were fairly uniform culturally. This happened because about 1,000 years ago the whaling-oriented Thule culture, with its innovations of dog teams and kayaks, spread from Alaska, eventually reaching all the way to Greenland.

Eskimo social life


Eskimo social life centered on the nuclear family. However, there were also men’s organizations related to hunting. The Yupik Eskimo, for instance, had ceremonial houses for men, where men taught traditional skills to the boys, while mothers taught their daughters in the homes. Most marriages took place within the community.

Survival depended on the ability to take game and fish. These animals, therefore, were important in religion, and the Eskimo placed great importance on charms to aid in hunting. There were also many taboos, such as a prohibition against combining land and sea products. The Bering Sea Eskimo had elaborate rituals that centered on the animals they hunted; the so-called bladder feast was the most complex of the various ceremonies and focused primarily on seals. The northern coast hunters and fishers, on the other hand, did not develop such complex rituals. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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