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Inuit Culture, Traditions, and History


Inuit Musical Tribute

The Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule culture, who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 AD and spread eastwards across the Arctic, displacing the related Dorsets, the last major Paleo-Eskimo culture (in Inuktitut, the Tuniit). Inuit legends speak of the Tuniit as "giants", although they were sometimes called "dwarfs", people who were taller and stronger than the Inuit. Researchers believe that the Dorset culture lacked dogs, larger weapons and other technologies that gave the expanding Inuit society an advantage. By 1300, the Inuit had settled in west Greenland, and they moved into east Greenland over the following century.

Inuit (plural; the singular Inuk means "man" or "person") is a general term for a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Russia and the United States.The Inuit language is grouped under Eskimo-Aleut languages.

The Inuit people live throughout most of the Canadian Arctic and subarctic: in the territory of Nunavut ("our land"); the northern third of Quebec, in an area called Nunavik ("place to live"); the coastal region of Labrador, in an area called Nunatsiavut ("our beautiful land"); in various parts of the Northwest Territories, mainly on the coast of the Arctic Ocean and formerly in the Yukon. Collectively these areas are known as Inuit Nunangat. In the US, Alaskan Inupiat live on the North Slope of Alaska and the Seward Peninsula. Greenland's Kalaallit are citizens of Denmark. The Yupik live in both Alaska and the Russian Far East.

In Alaska, the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat (which technically is Inuit). No universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, is accepted across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples. In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is considered pejorative by the natives and has been replaced by the term Inuit. In Canada, the Constitution Act of 1982, sections 25 and 35 recognised the Inuit as a distinctive group of Canadian aboriginals, who are neither First Nations nor Métis.

Inuit Videos

"Old Inuit Song"

"I think over again
My small adventures
My fears
Those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach
And yet there is only one great thing
To live and see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world."

Distant Eagle



Inuit Myths

Inuit Mythology

Tales and Traditions

The ancient tales, called okalugtuat (plural of okalugtuak), and the more recent ones, called okalualârutit (plural of okalualârut). The first kind may be more or less considered the property of the whole nation, at least of the greater part of its tribes; while the tales included under the second are, on the other hand, limited to certain parts of the country, or even to certain people related to each other, thus presenting the character of family records. The Inuit are, more than any other nation, spread over a wide extent of country, only occupied by themselves, and thus are little acted upon by alien settlers. The inhabitants of their extreme western bounds, with their native means of transport, would have to traverse somewhere about five thousand miles before reaching the dwellings of their countrymen in the farthest east, and in this journey would meet only with scanty little bands of their own tribes settled here and there, generally consisting of less than a hundred souls. Their little hamlets are severed from each other by desolate tracts of ten to twenty—nay, even hundreds of miles.

Though there is every probability that the various tribes of these vast regions have originated from one common home, their present intercourse is very limited; and it may without exaggeration be asserted that the inhabitants of Greenland and Labrador, and those of the shores of Behring Strait, cannot in any likelihood have communicated with each other for a thousand years or more, nor have they any idea of their mutual existence.1 In accordance with this isolation, a closer study of the traditions will also show how wide a space of time must be supposed to exist between the origin of the two classes of tales. The greater part of the ancient tales probably date from a far remoter period than one thousand years; the invention of the more recent traditions, on the other hand, must be supposed in most cases not even to go back so far as two hundred years, and they chiefly comprise events concerning families living in the very district where they are told.

It may, however, be taken for granted, that in days of yore such new tales may have appeared at any time; but after a short existence they were gradually forgotten, giving place to others, and so on, continuously alternating during the lapse of ages: while the ancient tales have been preserved unchanged, like some precious heirlooms which it would have been sacrilege to have touched. The definition we have here tried to give of the two classes is, however, by no means exhaustive, nor without exceptions. In our collection will be found stories which undoubtedly must have originated between the two periods described, and therefore should form an intermediate or exceptional class, if the division were to be complete and fully carried out. There are, moreover, many others which we are at a loss how to classify.

Aurora Borealis

About The Children
of Two Cousins

About The Children of
Two Cousins 2

About The Men From The Firth
Visiting The People At The Open SeaShore


Aklaujak, A Tale From Labrador
Akutak and Inuinak


Angakok Flight
Angakok On Kekertarsuak

Angakorsiak Was Very Proud
Of His Angakok Wisdom



Angutisugsuk Ver 2

the Nomad Wolf

Another Tale From
East Greenland

The Kivigtok Woman

Artuk, Who Did All
Forbidden Things



Atanarjuat (the Fast Runner)



Atdlarneq, The Great Glutton


Aterfio 2


Atungait, Who Went AWandering

Atungak, A Tale From Labrador



Avarunguak or Agdlerut

Avatarsuak, Who Was
Baptised Nathan


Being still at night

Creation An Inuit Tale

Creation By Women

Creation Inuit

Creation Stories

Creation Story

Crow Brings Daylight

Deceived Blind Man

Dog Husband

Eagle Boy

Eagle and Whale Husbands
Fox Woman

Encounter of Kaladlit with the
Ancient Kavdlunait on the Ice

Ernersiak The Foster-Son

Fog Woman

Game of Ball: Legends and Folklore
of the Northern Lights

Girl Named Isserfik

Girl Named Tuagtuanguak

Girl Who Went Away
in Search Of Her Brother


He Man Not To Be Looked
At By The Europeans

How Anikunapeu Took A Wife

How Fox Saved the People

How The Fog Came



Ímarasugssuaq, Who Ate His Wives

In The Beginning

Inuarutligak - Whose Christian Name
Was Peter Rantholl


Inuit Prophecies



Isigarsigak And His Sister

Iviangersook Travelled All Around
the Coast Of Greenland


Kâgssagssuk, The Homeless Boy
Who Became A Strong Man





Ka-ha-si and the Loon

Kajortoq, the Red Fox




Kasiagsak, The Great Liar




Kigutikak Who Was Carried
Off By The Whalers

Kiviuq And The Fox Woman

Kumagdlak And The Living Arrows

Kumagdlat And Asalok

Kushapatshikan: the Shaking Tent

Lamentable Story

Lamentable Story 2

Last of the Thunderbirds

Legend of the Aurora Borealis


Malaise—The Man Who
Travelled To Akilinek



Man Living On Karusuk


Manitutshu the Spirit

Married Couple Remained Childless On Account
of Their Both Being Angakok

Moon Story

Mountain at Muskrat Falls

Mashkussuts: Bear Cubs

Mishtamishku-shipu: Giant Beaver River

Manitutshu the Spirit Mountain at Muskrat

Old Bachelor

Old Man Lost His Only Son

Old Man, Who Was Always Anxious
To Outdo Other People


Raven's Great Adventure


Tale About Two Girls

Tale From East Greenland

Tale From Labrador

Visit To The Giants

Woman Named Alekakukiak

Woman Named Arnasugaussak

Woman Who Was Mated With A Dog

Youth Who Joined the Deer

The Inuit are the people of the high arctic. It's what they call themselves, formerly called by outsiders as Eskimo.

The Naskapi are an Indian nation whose area stretches from northern Quebec, north of the St. Lawrence River, into most of presentday Labrador. They have begun to call themselves once more the Innu.

The Montagnais speak a similar Aboriginal language (with differences in dialects), share an Aboriginal culture with (again with certain differences) and face many similar political concerns as the Innu. Their territory stretches south of the Innu into central Quebec. There are some Montagnais and Innu who feel their differences and separations were imposed upon them by the drawing of a boundary between Quebec and Labrador. Many Montagnais want to *erase* those differences to define their own identities and reject those imposed upon them by outsiders. As a consequence, many Montagnais, including many of those from the village of Betsiamites where the two members of Kashtin hail from, are now beginning to identify themselves as Innu as well.

The Inuit Nation
P.O. Box 119
Sheshatshiu, Nitassinan (Labrador)
Phone: (709) 4978398
Fax: 7094978396
via Canada A0P 1M0

Groups involved in solidarity with the Innuit include:

International Campaign for Innuit & Earth (ICIE)
Oakville Comm. Centre for Peace, Ecology & HR
148 Kerr St.
Oakville, ON
L6K 3A7
(905) 8495501 (phone/fax)
contact: Stephen Dankowich

Arctic Peoples Alert

Nl-2512 TN Den Haag

the Netherlands

tel/fax 0031 704020943

email :

contact: Govert de Groot

Gesellschaft Fer Bedrohte Volker
Postfach 2024
D 37010 Gottingen

[ + 49551499060 ]

[ + 114955158028 (fax)]

Theodor Rathgeber
Dept. Indigenous Peoples

Support group for Indigenous Peoples

Abingdonstraat 17
B-9100 Sint Niklaas
tel (32)03 777 55 89

contact: Martina Roels

Survival International
1115 Emerald. St
London, WC1N 3QL

[ + 44712421441 ]

[ + 44712421771 fax ]

contact: Johnny Mazower

Freedom of the Skies
Ty Yfory
Llanfair Rd,
Lampeter, Dyfed SA48 8Z

[ + 440157045576 (tel)]

[ + 440157045636 (fax)]

contact: Gillian Metcalf

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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