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Cultural Traces Around the World

The Arctic’s Resilient Inuit People

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The Inuit are a remarkable indigenous community who are considered the world’s northernmost culture. Living above the tree line in the Arctic, this nomadic group needed to develop special skills to survive.

One of the most famous and iconic structures made by the Inuit is the igloo, which they developed as a temporary shelter for the long, harsh winters. An igloo is typically made of very hard packed snow and excellent at blocking out wind. Once people are inside the structure, their body heat warms the interior, causing a small amount of melting. If they then leave the igloo for a period, the inside walls freeze up again. The ice created serves as a barrier to the colder temperatures outside.

Another iconic feature of the ancient Inuit was their mode of transportation. During the warmer months, when travel on ice and snow was not practical, they walked on foot and used boats. They had two types of boats, the umiak and the kayak. The umiak was the larger one and used for transporting people and trading goods. Umiaks could carry up to 15 people, but were also light enough to lift out of the water and transport across the ice. Kayak building and use is a notable aspect of Inuit culture. One of the unique features of an Inuit kayak is that the watertight, covered deck protects the navigator from the elements, water spray and waves.

A great deal about the Inuit can be understood by their approach to music. Katajjaq, or throat singing, is a vocal game or contest usually involving one or more pairs of women. Pisiit songs are sacred, typically accompanied by a drum, and are of joy, healing, and resilience. They record Inuit history and are poetry-like.

The modern Inuit come from a lineage of people dating back thousands of years who have had to survive in harsh conditions. But the specter of climate change is one that is threatening their unique and vibrant way of life. We pray that there will soon be a rapid and full embrace of the plant-based diet globally as this will halt the Arctic’s melting and help safeguard the Inuit culture.

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