People Ethnic

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized Wednesday to the nation’s native people for “a sad chapter in our history,” acknowledging the physical abuses and cultural damage they suffered during a century of forced assimilation at residential schools.

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Canada (1974) 2 Dollars (back) – The Inuit People of Artic Canada, preparing for hunting

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 Alaska, Greenland, and Canada. Until fairly recent times, there has been a remarkable homogeneity in the culture throughout these areas, which have traditionally relied on fish, marine mammals and land animals for food, pets, transport, heat, light, clothing, tools, and shelter. The Inuit language is grouped under Eskimo-Aleut languages.

The Inuit people live throughout most of the Canadian Arctic and subartic: 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 the Yukon territory.

The Inuit have traditionally been hunters and fishers. They hunted, and still hunt, whales, walruses, caribou, seals, polar bears, muskoxen, birds, and at times other less commonly eaten animals such as foxes. The typical Inuit diet is high in meat, but there is abundant edible vegetation in most areas of the Arctic, and while it is not possible to cultivate plants for food, gathering those that are naturally available has always been typical. Grasses, tubers, roots, stems, berries, and seaweed were collected and preserved depending on the season and the location.

Inuit communities in Canada continue to suffer under crushing unemployment, overcrowded housing, substance abuse, crime, violence and suicide. The problems Inuit face in the 21st century should not be underestimated. However, many Inuit are upbeat about the future. Arguably, their situation is better than it has been since the 14th century. Inuit arts, carving, print making, textiles and throat singing, are very popular, not only in Canada but globally, and Inuit artists are widely known. Indeed, Canada has, metaphorically, adopted some of the Inuit culture as a sort of national identity, using Inuit symbols like the inukshuk in unlikely places, such as its use as a symbol in the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Respected art galleries display Inuit art, the largest collection of which is at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Some Inuit languages such as Inuktitut, appears to have a more secure future in Quebec and Nunavut. There are a surprising number of Inuit, even those who now live in urban centres such as Ottawa, Montreal and Winnipeg, who have experienced living on the land in the traditional life style. People such as Legislative Assembly of Nunavut member, Levinia Brown (b. 1947) and former Commissioner of Nunavut and the NWT, Helen Maksagak (b. 1931) were born and lived the early part of their life “on the land”. Inuit culture is alive and vibrant today in spite of the negative impacts of recent history.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Inuit”