In class, Professor Watrall mentioned how after the crew from the Franklin Expedition abandoned the H.M.S. Erebus and Terror, that they were sighted by Inuits. However, none of the crew ever sought out help from any of the local Inuits. When Professor Watrall was lecturing on this, I had a pretty vague idea of who Inuits were. I assumed they may be a local, rustic, eskimo type of community; although I really didn’t know. So for my blog post I decided to research a little bit on who the Inuits are.

Inuit is a Native American word meaning “the people.” They were however previously referred to as eskimos, which is a Native American word for “eater of raw meat.” Inuits reside in the Candian Artic, Alaska, and Greenland, and have been able to successfully adapt and live in the harsh conditions that exist in those regions. All Inuit people speeck a language called Inuit-Aleut, which then has different dialects of itself.

As we all know, the artic is a very dry, cold, and unmerciful environment. To accommodate for this, Inuit peoples built huts from driftwood and animal hides, or would build igloos. Being typically nomadic in nature, these types of structures were relatively quick and easy to build and take down. Aside from walking on foot, would use dog sleds or kayaks to travel from one place to another.

Hunting and gathering consisted mainly of only hunting, obviously since there wouldn’t be much to gather other than ice…
The animals they hunted included fish, whales, seals, narwhals, caribou, musk oxen, arctic hare, and more. Although they would cook, or freeze and save their meat, most of the time, Inuits ate the meat raw. Harpoons, spears, and bow and arrows were primarily used to hunt.

The Inuits believed in a religious concept called animism; which holds the belief that everything-living or not-has a spirit. Shamans were religious leaders who were the only ones who would be able to communicate with the spirit world. Inuits also believed that human beings consisted of three different parts; the body, the name, and the soul. When someone passed away, it was only their body that actually died, while the name and soul would live on in a different body. They would even save the bladders of the animals the hunted, believing that the spirit of the animal was harbored inside of the bladder and could find a new body if saved.

Looking back to this past winter we’re just now seeming to get out of, I remember not being able to keep warm walking to class no matter how many layers and thick coats I wore. It amazes me that the Inuit people are able to stay warm in a place as harsh as the Artic. They mainly wore two layers of caribou hides, mittens, layered trousers snow goggles made from caribou antlers to protect their eyes from the snow, four layers of boots, and a parka made from caribou hair on top of all that.

Each Inuit community consisted of about 6-10 families, and each of these families typically had around 5-6 members. There was no real central chief or political entity at all, families and communities would work and hunt together as one group and share their meats and other goods.