Arctic Peoples: Handouts
For the last four thousand years Inuit have been living in the extreme conditions of the High Arctic. The first people came to Ellesmere Island to hunt muskox, caribou and sea mammals. They used sledges for winter transportation and kayaks in the summer and lived in small nomadic groups.
The Inuit way of life changed when the Arctic climate went through a natural period of warming between the years 1000 and 1200 A.D. Attracted by the warmer climate, greater numbers of whales migrated further north into the Arctic Ocean. Whale-hunting people spread from northern Alaska across the Arctic. Hunting and butchering large whales required the work and cooperation of many people, but the labor was rewarded by a more secure source of food and resources and a strong community culture.
The warmer weather also attracted Norse Vikings who settled in Greenland. The Vikings traded and fought with the Inuit. The warmer climate did not last, however, and from around 1450 until the end of the 18th century a natural cycle of cooling forced the whales further south and contributed to the disappearance of the Viking settlements in Greenland. The Inuit also had to adapt to the colder climate. They moved south from Ellesmere Island to Baffin Island and Northwest Greenland, eventually becoming two separate cultures, the Inuit of Baffin and the Inughuit of Northwest Greenland.
Today Inuit and Inughuit continue to live close to the land, getting a large portion of their diet from hunting, fishing and gathering. Changes in the climate can impact their ability to successfully hunt or travel from community to community.
- How did the climate of your home region influence the way of life of the historical inhabitants?
- How does the climate influence the way you live?
- If the climate were to change in your home, what types of adaptations would you have to make?