The Eskimo (Part 2)

Clothing and Transportation. Traditionally, nearly all parts of animals killed by the Eskimo were used. Eskimo clothing was made from skins of birds and animals (seal, caribou, and polar bear). Sewn with sinew thread and bone needles, hooded jackets, pants, and waterproof boots were well adapted to cold and wet climatic conditions. Skins were also processed into tents and boats, and bones were made into weapons.
Two kinds of boats were common. The umiak was a large open boat consisting of a wooden frame covered usually with walrus hide; it was used both to transport people and goods and especially in northern Alaska, to hunt whales. The other type of craft distinctive of the Eskimo transportation and their cultural relatives, the Aleuts, was the kayak. This one-man hunting vessels was entirely decked over with sealskin or caribou skin. The hunter sat in a cockpit inside, dressed in tight-fitting waterproof clothing made from seal or walrus intestine. The kayak glided silently through the water and enabled the hunter to move very close to his prey.
Everywhere the Eskimo depended on the Dogsled as a mode of winter Eskimo transportation over both land and the frozen sea. The sled was drawn by 2 to 14 huskies and was usually made from wood; where wood was unavailable (as in certain regions of central Canada), dried salmon was sometimes used as structural material for sleds. In recent years, snowmobiles have largely replaced the dogsled as the Eskimo's primary mode of transportation in many areas.
Social Organization. There were no tribes in traditional Eskimo society. Generally a group of people was known by a geographic term to which was added the suffix miut, meaning "people of". The basic unit of social organization in most areas was the extended family-a man, his wife, and unmarried children, and his married sons and their wives and children. Usually several family groups would join together and exploit the animal resources of a given area.
The leader of the group would be the eldest male still capable of hunting. At times he was called upon to settle disputes within the group and between it and outsiders. If that way of resolving quarrels did not bring peace, disputants might wrestle each other or join in a public joking and insulting contest to determine the winner. Special partnerships between men who were not relatives were important in trade relations, sharing of wives, and protection in travel to other regions. In Alaska, a village usually used at least one man's house for ceremonials and as a place where men and boys did much of their work and often even ate their meals and spent the night; this house was called a kashgee, or by a similar name.
The traditional kinship system of most Eskimo groups resembled that of America society. They called the same kinds of relatives "cousins" and generally practiced bilateral descent, by which they recognized both the mother's and the father's side of the family equally. In the western Bering sea areas, however, the paternal aspect of descent was so pronounced that there was a clan system based upon patrilineal principles. Every person belonged to the clan of his or her father. In those areas, too, the terms for "cousins" were markedly different from the usual Eskimo pattern.
Religion and Art. Eskimo religion was animistic. It imputed spirits, or souls, to most animals and to important features of the landscape. Human beings had several souls, or spiritual substances, one of which was the name. After death it was believed that the name and the personality of its bearer would enter the body of a newborn infant given the same name. To avoid their hostility, souls of the important subsistence animals-seals, walrus, whales, and polar bears-were propitiated through extensive honorary customs and taboos. For example, one of the most widespread customs was for the hunter's wife to offer a dead seal a drink of water as a sign of hospitality when her husband brought the carcass to the entryway of the house. In some areas, especially western Alaska, complex annual ceremonies of thanksgiving were performed in honor of the souls of seals and whales.
The central religious figure was the Shaman (angakok in some of the central Canadian languages). His function were comprehensive; to divine the causes of poor hunting, which often was believed to be brought on by a group member breaking food or hunting taboos; to diagnose and treat sickness; and to serve as the general source of advice in coping with crisis. Most groups believed in a supreme ruler of the sea animals and in a vague deification of the forces of nature. Arts and crafts were expressed mainly in etched decorations on ivory harpoon heads, needlecases, and other tools; in carved sculpture in ivory, tooth, or soapstone; in skin sewing; in dancing and the composition of songs; and in storytelling Elaborate wooden masks were also made by the Alaskan Eskimo.
Eskimo Life Today. Wherever they life-Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Siberia-the Eskimo are now much involved in the modern world. Not only have they wholeheartedly much of its technology, but they also use imported food, clothing, and house forms; similarly, their educational, recreational, economic, religious, and governmental institutions have been heavily influenced by the dominant European, Canadian, American, and Soviet cultures. Traditional practices and beliefs have not so thoroughly changed that most Eskimo can be termed assimilated or acculturated, especially in matters relating to social organization  and child rearing. Significant changes have begun to occur in all areas of their way of life as a result of sustained contact with the outside world.


Sonel said...

Lovely blog ROE! Very interesting as well. Thanks for the comment on my blog. :)
Kind regards