In the Arctic, about four million people have adapted to the icy conditions of that region and found a way to survive with what their living environment gives to them.
Anyone who grew up in a big city might think that those people have a boring life, without places to have fun and who must survive daily in hostile and complicated environment, but the fact is that the people of the Arctic have found a way to a productive life that’s been keeping them busy and providing them learning every day, taking experiences that will enhance their lifestyle. Living in the Arctic area is not easy, but it’s all about adaptation, organization and team collaboration.
Humans have inhabited the Arctic from thousands of years ago, before our era. One of the first cultures to reach Alaska was the Dorset. It is said they were the ancestors of the Inuits and they were mostly hunters and toolmaker. They died in 1500 but in 1824 a group of whalers discovered a group of natives whom they called Sadlermiut, which in 1955 evidence of their relationship with Dorset was found, affirming they were part of the last generations that were left.
After the supposed extinction of the Dorset in 1500, the Thule, who came to Alaska, occupied the areas abandoned by their predecessors. Studies show that the Thule and Dorset had contact with the Vikings in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The Thule culture was characterized by creating new techniques for hunting by manufacturing innovative tools such as harpoons, useful for catching whales. With the bones of these large mammals, they created different styles of harpoon for specific situations. They became extinct around 1600 AD.
The colloquially called Eskimos, are perhaps the best known culturally inhabitants. The Eskimo word can refer to the Inuit culture settled on North of Alaska, Canada and Greenland and the Yupik, inhabitants of southern Alaska and the Chukchi Peninsula; the latter are rather part of the subantarctic territory. The Sami or Lapp, people is another community that covers the Arctic part of Europe.
There are also many other native cultures outside of the area that comprises the Arctic Circle which maintain similarities in the lifestyles and livelihoods of Arctic indigenous.
The inhabitants of the native peoples of the Arctic region share certain similarities in their physical characteristics, such as slanted eyes and bushy and heavy eyelashes; this is an adaptation that helps them to protect eyes from the aggressive glare the sun does in the snow. Similarly, they possess low rise robust bodies, which allow them to store more heat.
Igloos are culturally familiar to most of us. Television, cartoons or literature have taught us to associate these ice structures with the arctic and Eskimos. These can be of different sizes and characteristics.
The smaller ones serve mostly to temporarily protect the hunters during the winter season. There, they can sleep or protect themselves against the wind for a few hours.
The medium ones, which can fit a family or two, are to be inhabited by a slightly longer time, but not to settle permanently.
Finally, there are large igloos, which are capable of accommodating up to 20 people. Something very interesting is that there are collective agreements where the igloos are constructed so that they can connect with each other and so individuals can protect themselves towards any eventuality.
Animal bones and skins are the primary raw materials for the construction of tools that will help them to survive.
The pisiksi or bow and arrow are one of the most important tools, because their survival depends on them practically, since this way they get the raw materials they need to meet their most basic needs.
For them, it’s called Iggaak, but for us it will be translated as “snow goggles”. This is part of modern culture and is to have a better visibility and prevent blindness caused by the flashing reflection of sunlight with the snow. This craft is made of bone or ivory tusks and has become a basic and everyday use, something their early ancestors did not use.
The Aulasaut is a fishing line with its carved decoy, tied and with incrustations that they use during the spring. It is built of wood, walrus tusk and mainly iron hooks.
Due to the icy conditions of their habitat, inhabitants of the Arctic have learned and perfected their hunting techniques; have also been instructed to clean the skins of animals they trap in order to make garments like pants, hats, gloves and coats.
Traditional hunting and fishing are the main activities for these people. Species such as salmon and seals are the primary food sources for some indigenous people.
A minimum percentage of indigenous natives today is dedicated to the breeding and grazing of reindeer, a work that in the past was much more profitable.
Many other workers have chosen to work in the oil fields where the pay is much higher but the destruction and pollution generated by these industries, represents a threat to their own culture and the integrity of their families.