The Eskimo

The Eskimo are the native inhabitants of the seacoasts of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America and the northeastern tip of Siberia. Their habitation area extends over four countries; the United States, Canada, the USSR, and Greenland. Of the more than 90,000 Eskimo in this region, the greater part live south of the Arctic Circle, with approximately 28,000 on the Aleutian Islands and in Alaska; 17,000 in Canada; 1,500 in Siberia; and 45,000 in Greenland.
The world Eskimo is not an Eskimo word. It means "eaters of raw meat" and was used by the Algonquin Indians of eastern Canada for these hardly neighbors who wore animal-skin clothing and were adept hunters. The name became commonly employed by European explorers and now is generally used, even by Eskimo. Their own term for themselves is inuit (the Yupik variant is Yuit), which means the "real people". 
The Eskimo inhabit one of the most inclement regions of the world. Their land is mostly tundra-low, flat, treeless plains where the ground remains permanently frozen except for a few inches of the surface during the brief summer season. Although some groups are settled on rivers and depend on fishing, and others follow inland caribou herds, most Eskimo traditionally have lived primarily as hunters of maritime mammals (seals, walrus, and whales), and the structure and ethos of their culture have always been fundamentally oriented to the sea.
One of the most striking aspects of traditional Eskimo culture is its relative homogeneity across more than 8,000 km (5,000 mi) of the vast expanses of the Arctic. The main institutional and psychological patterns of the culture, religious, social and economic are much the same.There are some differences in traditional kinship systems, however, especially in the western regions, and the language is divided into two major dialectical groups, the inupik speakers (Greenland to western Alaska) and the Yupik speakers (southwestern Alaska and Siberia)
Traditional Way Of Life
The ability of the Eskimo to adapt successfully to a cold and harsh environment depended on a highly inventive material culture and particular values and psychological traits. An essential ingredient in this was the Eskimo's skill in making tools and other useful devices from all kinds of materials. Clothing sewn from skins, the toggle harpoon fashioned from ivory or antler and fitted with stone blades, sled runners made, in emergencies, from frozen strips of meat, and the well-known igloo, or snow house, are examples of indigenous cultural adaptations developed from available natural materials. Broad cultural values stressed the importance and excitement of hunting and the need to appease the souls of animals killed in the hunt. Courage and hardihood were emphasized in the training of young Eskimo, as was a strong sense of fatalism in facing the disappointments and frustrations of life, such as the death of loved ones.

Settlement. Settlement patterns varied according to the location of particular groups, the time of year, and subsistence opportunities in a given area. Permanent villages of stone houses existed in Greenland, which marks the eastern fringe of Eskimo inhabited areas, and in Alaska; along the Siberian shore villages were made up of houses composed of drift-wood and earth. In the central areas there were no such settled communities, although a given group might well return to the same location, a favorite fishing of hunting site year after year. In Eskimo areas an annual cycle took place in which groups spent the winter together in a larger settlement and then dispersed into smaller, family-sized bands during the summer. Such seasonal congregating and breaking up settlements occurred even in Greenland and western Alaska. During the summer, people would leave the permanent communities and live in animal-skin tents at favorite spots for seal hunting, for fishing, or for collecting birds, eggs, and plants. The Igloo (from an Eskimo word meaning "home") was constructed of packed snow and used only during the winter, when villages of these structures  were built on the firm ocean ice of the central Arctic to facilitate seal hunting through holes in the ice. Such dwellings were also used as temporary structures in Greenland and in parts of Canada and Alaska.
Subsistence. Traditional Eskimo subsistence patterns were closely geared to the annual cycle of changing seasons, the most important feature of which was the appearance and disappearance of solid ice on the sea. During summer, when the sea was free of ice, small groups of families traveled to their camps by open boat. In late spring and throughout the summer they hunted the northward-migrating caribou herds by killing them at river crossing or by driving them into large corrallike structures. Fish swimming upstream for spawning were netted of speared especially in weirs, net enclosures set in waterways. As fall approached, the Eskimo began to reassemble in the settled communities once again, where seal and bird hunting were the principal activities.

In Greenland and western Alaska, where the ocean surface does not freeze solid, seals and walrus come to open spaces between ice floes for air; in this areas, Eskimo hunters stood by the floes, hoping for a chance to throw their harpoons or pursue the seals in kayaks. The utog method of hunting seals in the spring was also distinctive of the more northerly Eskimo. Seeking warmth, seals often climb onto the surface of the ice to bask in the sun. A hunter would slowly creep toward a sleeping animal, either pushing a white shield of skin before him or else dressed and acting in such a manner that to seal he would look like another animal. He would get close enough to fix a harpoon (or, after contact with Europeans, shoot with a rifle) before the seal, sensing danger, could scramble back into the water. 

The Eskimo Part 2