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Kayak Nomads

The Arctic is a harsh environment to live in and it was the last large region of the habitable world humans moved into.


All the people of the Canadian and American northlands were originally nomads -- people who have not only one home, but move several times a year with the seasons from place to place to take advantage of the food, water, and grazing land.

Did you know
that Eskimo means
"Eater of Raw Meat"
- So, most Arctic
natives  prefer to
be called Inuit.


Anthropologists (people who study the culture and "history" of humans) divide them mostly into two groups. Dene and Inuit people. Dene most often lived in the forest and on the tundra whereas Inuit were traditionally found along the Arctic coastline.

About 5000 years ago some brave hunting peoples of northeastern Siberia crossed the Bering Strait to what is now Alaska. They most likely crossed in the wintertime over the very unstable and dangerous ice. The next 1000 years they slowly spread out across all of Arctic North America, as far north as Greenland and as far South as Labrador. We call these people the Palaeo-eskimos, as palaeo means "old".

After about 3000 years (!!!) the arctic climate became much cooler and the "palaeo way of life" had to change very quickly. This new way of living is called the "Dorset Culture". Some of what had worked great for the earlier palaeo Eskimos for some reason disappeared – they stopped using bow and arrow – even the use of sled dogs disappeared! Instead it is believed they were more dependent on hunting sea animals such as seal, walrus, beluga and narwhal.


Dogsledding --- color it by clicking here. . . Then the weather changed again!

About 1000 years ago -- this time for the warmer. A new group of people who were bowhead whale hunters moved in from Alaska. They had these great big boats called "Umiat" and qamutiit, which is what we know as sleds, pulled by dog teams. This way the Thule people as they are called, could cover distances at speeds the Dorset people could only dream about. The Dorset people – or Tuniit as they are called by the natives today – slowly disappeared. The Thule people quickly adapted to the rich land now surrounding them. Some stayed on the coast, some moved further inland living off the land, its caribou and other mammals.

This graphic is a link to a cool Canadian site where you can  print it out and color it -- Just click here...

Today only the native people of Arctic Alaska call themselves Eskimo. Elsewhere – in Greenland, Siberia and Canada – the different cultures have taken proud names from their own languages. In Canada they call themselves Inuit (pronounced INN-yoo-it), which means "the people". One Inuit person is an inuk and their language is called Inuktitut.

People of Mackenzie River

Each tribe of Inuit people has their own name even though they are all closely related. The ancestors of the Thule people living on the arctic coast around the Mackenzie River Delta call themselves Inuvialuit. In the 1800s the Nunatamiut – which means "inland people" – started coming from the interior of Alaska where for some reason the large caribou population they lived on was getting smaller and smaller.

You can also color this one!
Link by clicking on the graphic
-- once there print it out
(go to file on your menu bar
and pick Print Page)
The picture appear sideways,
to give you a big picture to color.

Caribou Watching! - Color it by clicking here. . .


The Nunatamiut were great hunters especially for caribou and the relations between the Nunatamiut and the Inuvialuit were not at first amicable. An old Inuvialuit story is about how the Inuvialuit first noticed Nunatamiut moving east through the Mackenzie Delta. They were afraid that the Nunatamiut would discover the excellent hunting offered by the Bluenose caribou herd east of the River, so an Inuvialuit shaman diverted the herd so that it could not be found. Unfortunately, she hid it too successfully, and it was many years before the animals returned to their former haunts.

Today, most if not all modern Inuvialuit are of mixed Alaskan and local descent, although some families and communities identify more with one heritage than the other. Of the communities aboriginal Inuvialuit dialect (Siglitun), for instance, survives best in Tuktoyuktuk while the dialect of the Alaskan newcomers - Uummarmiutun - is spoken primarily in Aklavik and Inuvik.

AND then to make your confusion total we cannot forget about the Dene people who are part of the great North American Indian family, whose ancestors roamed the northern plains 25,000 or more years ago.

The word "Dene" also means "people" in their own language. The Dene are usually classified as northern Athapaskans. They include the Hare, Kutchin, Dogrib, Yellowknife, Slave, and Chipewyan ethnic groups. The Dene were traditionally of the northern forests depending on caribou, moose, hare, fish, and berries for food and clothing. Even though Dene is considered very different from Inuit it is believed that their ancestors also came across the Bering Strait from Siberia, just much earlier – at the end of the Stone Age about 30,000 years ago!

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