Saturday, November 14, 2009
The traditional Inuit dietary staples were seal, whale, caribou, walrus, polar bear, arctic hare, fish, birds, and berries. Because they ate raw food, and every part of the animal, the Inuit did not lack vitamins, even though they had almost no vegetables to eat. With the introduction of modern Western-style food, including fast food, over the past two to three decades, the Inuit diet has changed, and not for the better. The consumption of foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates has resulted in tooth decay and other diet-related medical problems. A tradional bread, bannock, was made while trapping or living in camps. The dough could be wrapped around a stick and cooked over an open fire. A recipe for bannock that can be prepared in an oven accompanies this article.
Reference: Condon, Richard(1987). Inuit Youth and Change in the Candian Arctic New Brunswick,NJ,Rutgers University Press.
The Inupiaq Ulu is an Inupiaq all-purpose knife traditionally used by women. It is utilized in applications as diverse as skinning and cleaning animals, cutting a child's hair, cutting food and, if necessary, trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an igloo. Traditionally the ulu was made with a caribou antler, muskox horn or walrus handle and slate cutting surface, due to the lack of metal in the Arctic. The size of the ulu would tend to reflect its usage. An ulu with a 5 cm blade would be used as part of a sewing kit to cut sinew. An ulu with a 15 cm (6 in) blade would be used for general purposes. Occasionally, uluit can be found with blades as large as 30 cm (12 in). Because the rocking motion used when cutting on a plate or board with an ulu pins down the food being cut, it is also easier to use an ulu one-handed (a typical steak knife, in contrast, requires a fork).
Reference: Wikipedia Contributors(2009) Ulu.Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Eskimo women had a truly unique way of life. They had, as one book put it, "a thousand things to do". The men, who did most of the "heavy" work, could not easily live without a woman there to help him. The women's main jobs were to chew the skins to make them soft, clean and dry the men's clothing when they came in, sew new clothing (which was their main task), and take care of any children they had. During the winter the men wore a coat of fox fur. It had a hood that could completely cover the head. The women wore a similar coat made of fox fur, only they had sealskin hoods edged with fox tails. In the summer they wore a coat of sealskin, because it was much cooler. It too was edged with fox tails. The men wore a shirt underneath their coat that was made out of bird skin with the feathers turned inward. During really warm weather they would wear the shirt alone.
The Inuit language is written in several different ways, depending on the dialect and region, but also on historical and political factors. In Greenland during the 1760s, Moravian missionaries intending to introduce Inuit peoples to Christianity through the Bible contributed to the development of an Inuktitut writing system that was based on Roman orthography. When they travelled to Labrador in the 1800s, they brought the written Inuktitut with them. The Roman alphabet-writing scheme is distinguished by its inclusion of the letter kra. The Alaskan Yupik and Inupiat, and the Siberian Yupik also adopted the system of Roman orthography. In addition, the Alaskan peoples developed their own system of hieroglyphics.
One leading Inupiat dancer and musician strongly emphasizes that native drumming and dancing have nothing to do with shamanism. He says that many whites think the musical event portrays the performance of a shaman. This individual insists that Inupiat music and dance serve only to entertain and provide enjoyment for all who attend. The dances do not deliberately depict particular scenes or activities, nor do they tell a story, he says. Although some songs contain actual words in the Inupiat language, most are comprised of meaningless syllable.
Every Inupiaq is responsible to all other Inupiat for the survival of our cultural spirit, and the values and traditions through which it survives. Through our extended family, we retain, teach and live our Inupiaq ways. Here are some of the Inupiat Values and the meanings:
Avoidance of Conflict- The Inupiaq way is to think positive, act positive, speak positive and live positive. Humility- Our hearts command we act on goodness and expect no reward in return. This is part of our cultural fiber. Spirituality- We know the power of prayer. We are spiritual people. Cooperation- Together we have an awesome power to accomplish anything. Compassion- Through the environment is harsh and cold, our ancestors learned to live with warmth, kindness, caring and compassion. Hunting Traditions- Reverence for the land, sea and animals is the foundation of our hunting traditions. Knowledge of Language- With our language we have an identity. It helps us to find out who we are in our minds and hearts. Sharing- It is amazing how sharing works. Your acts of giving always come back. Family & Kinship- As Inupiaq people we believe in knowing who we are and how we are related to one another. Respect for Elders- Our elders model our traditions and ways of being, providing a light of hope to younger generations. May we teach as our elders have taught us. Respect for Nature- Our creator gave us the gift of our surroundings. Those before us placed ultimate importance of respecting this magnificent gift for future generations.
Major population centers such as Point Hope and Point Barrow, located along sea mammal migration routes, contained several large local families clustered in distinct locations or neighborhoods, each set linked together by various affinal and consanguineal kinship ties.In the larger settlements, such as the whaling communities of Point Hope and Barrow, this differentiation culminated in a recognizable system of stratification whereby a small number of families were able to attain more wealth and power than those less well endowed. Given the importance of maximizing success in hunting, choosing the most knowledgeable individual within the larger group to lead the effort was a far more effective approach than limiting the selection to a member of one's own family. Exceptions included journeys to or from a Messenger Feast, a ceremonial gathering of local families from different localities whose leaders were either trading partners or linked by co-marriage; and visits to relatives in other territories brought on by problems of famine in the individual's home district. Local trade goods such as pokes of oil, seal, whale, and walrus meat and maktak, ugruk skins and rope, were exchanged for Russian tobacco, regional specialties such as jade, pottery and Siberian reindeer skins, beads, caribou skins and furs.
Reference: Chance,Norman A.(1990). The Inupiat and Arctic Alaska. Harcourt Brace
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Inupiaq groups in common with other Eskimo/Inuit groups, often have a name ending in "miut," which means 'a people of'. One example is the Nunamiut, a generic term for inland Inupiaq caribou hunters. During a period of starvation and influenza (brought by American and European whaling crews, see John Bockstoce's 1995 Whales, Ice, & Men: The History of Whaling in the Western Arctic) most of these moved to the coast or other parts of Alaska between 1890 and 1910. A number of Nunamiut returned to the mountains in the 1930s. By 1950, most Nunamiut groups, like the Killikmiut, had coalesced in Anaktuvuk Pass, a village in north-central Alaska. Some of the Nunamiut remained nomadic until the 1950s.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The umiak is a type of boat used by the Eskimo people, both Yupik and Inuit. It was originally found in all coastal areas ranging from Siberia to Greenland. The word “umiak” means woman’s boat. The Inupiat umiaks are made with a wooden frame and covered with either walrus skin or bearded sealskin. This boat can carry a crew of 6 whalers and all their hunting gear. The whaling captain sits towards the back of the umiak on his whale seat and guides the hunt.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Whaling is a very important part of the native lifestyle. In many ways, it is a part of the Inupiat sacred beliefs. Everything that the Inupiat people are doing in a year is dealing with some form of whaling preparation, celebration, rites and rituals of whaling. The capture of a whale benefits each member of a community, as the animal is butchered and its meat and blubber allocated according to a traditional formula. Even city-dwelling relatives thousands of miles away are entitled to a share of each whale killed by the hunters of their ancestral village. Maktak, which is the skin and blubber of Bowhead and other whales, is rich in vitamins A and C and contributes to good health in a population with limited access to fruits and vegetables.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The Inupiat whale seat is believed to be a good luck charm for the whaling crew. The whaling captain sits on this seat while pursuing a whale in hopes that the spirit of the whale will lead the crew to another whale. This carving on the underside of the seat is an example of a whaling effigy used by Inupiaq whalers as a helping spirit to attract bowhead whales.