By Quinn, Nation, and Millett
Published here with authors’ permission
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The Inuit live in Canada, Greenland and the north of America. They were the first people to live in these countries, arriving there about 5,000 years ago. They live in a land of ice and snow, a land without trees. For nine long months of the year it is cold, dark winter, while summer is only three short months. Today, many Inuit live modern lives in towns and cities, but not so long ago the people lived the way their parents and their parents’ parents had lived for thousands of years. Like many people all over the world, the Inuit do not want to lose their language and culture. They want to keep their way of life and teach their children the old ways.
Most Inuit lived in small groups of only a few families. These groups lived near the sea because most of their food came from there. Because the weather was too cold to grow anything, their food was the fish and animals that they caught. Other Inuit moved from place to place following the animals called caribou, which made up the biggest part of their food. Sometimes the Inuit boiled their food but often it was not cooked at all.
In winter, the Inuit lived in houses made of earth and stones with an earth roof. Another kind of Inuit house was made of snow. The people could build these houses very quickly so they were useful when they travelled from place to place. The snow houses were round and not very high. The beds and tables were also made of snow and the windows were made of ice. The doors of the snow houses were small so the warm air inside could not get out and the cold air could not get in. A house like this was not cold. There was a lamp inside the house and this warmed it. The lamp was important because it did three things. It warmed the house, it gave light and it was used to cook the food.
Because it was always very cold, the Inuit had to wear thick, warm clothes. The women made clothes from the skins of animals. Each piece of clothing could take weeks or even months to make and they could be very beautiful. Mothers wore special clothes so they could carry their babies on their backs against their skin to keep them warm and safe.
Dogs were important to the Inuit way of life because they could live in the very cold weather. Each group had several dogs which helped the people when they moved around. The Inuit also used boats. The boats were light and easy to carry and they could move through the water quickly. Small boats were used to catch animals and fish, and bigger boats were used when the family travelled. A long time ago the Inuit used stone and animal bones to make knives and the other things they needed. However, over time they began to use guns and modern knives. There are many Inuit languages, but because there is not much difference between each one, people from different places can usually understand each other when they get together. There are about 90,000 people who speak Inuit languages.
Now the old Inuit way of life is changing but the old ways are still remembered and valued.