Approximately 80% of all Inuit live in Nunaat, with half living in Nunavut followed by Nunavik in northern Québec, Nunatsiavut, located along the northern coast of Labrador, and the western arctic (Northwest Territories and Yukon) known as Inuvialuit. Statistics Canada reported that between 1996 and 2006, the First Nations population increased 26%, which is 3.5 times the growth rate of 8% for the non-Aboriginal population of Canada.
Culture and Communities
There are 8 main Inuit ethnic groups: the LABRADOR, UNGAVA, BAFFIN ISLAND, IGLULIK, CARIBOU, NETSILIK, COPPER and Western Arctic Inuit (who replaced the MACKENZIE INUIT). There are five main Inuit language dialects in Canada: Inuvialuktun, (Inuvialuit region in the Northwest Territories); Inuinnaqtun (western Nunavut); Inuttitut (Eastern Nunavut dialect); Inuttitut (Nunavik dialect); and Inuttut (Nunatsiavut). (see NATIVE PEOPLE, LANGUAGES) In the 2006 census almost 70% of Inuit reported having knowledge of the Inuit language and almost two-thirds described Inuktitut as their mother tongue (first language learned). The language usage was strongest in Nunavik and Nunavut, where more than 9 out of 10 Inuit could converse in Inuktitut. In contrast, the figures were 27% in Nunatsiavut and 20% in the Inuvialuit region. Although the language and its use remain strong among the Inuit, the number of speakers has been gradually decreasing, prompting the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, territorial and federal governments to establish Inuktitut curriculum in schools.
Traditionally, the Inuit were hunters and gatherers who moved seasonally from one camp to another. Large regional groupings were loosely separated into smaller seasonal groups, winter camps (called "bands") of around 100 people and summer hunting groups of fewer than a dozen. Each band was roughly identified with a locale and named accordingly - eg, the Arvirtuurmiut of Boothia Peninsula were called "baleen whale-eating people." Today, many types of food such as fruit, vegetables, and milk must be transported long distances to northern communities, which results in higher costs, limited availability and food that is not fresh. However the availability of "country food" through harvesting and sharing partially explains the high percentage of Inuit who consume country food. A report released in 2005 found that an overwhelming majority of Inuit adults living in Nunaat harvested country food, which includes seal, whale, duck, caribou, fish and berries. Country foods remain an important food source for many Inuit, and almost all families in Nunaat (96%) share country food with people in other households.
During roughly 4000 years of human history in the Arctic, the appearance of new people has brought continual cultural change. The ancestors of the present-day Inuit, who are culturally related to Inuppiat (northern Alaska), Katladlit (Greenland) and Yuit (Siberia and western Alaska), arrived about 1050 AD. As early as the 11th century the NORSE exerted an undetermined influence on the Inuit. The subsequent arrival of explorers, whalers, traders, missionaries, scientists and others began irreversible cultural changes. The Inuit themselves participated actively in these developments as guides, traders and models of survival. Despite adjustments made by the Inuit over the past 3 centuries and the loss of some traditional features, Inuit culture persists - often with a greater reflective awareness. Inuit maintain a cultural identity through language, family and cultural laws, attitudes and behaviour, and through their acclaimed INUIT ART.
The Inuit have never been subject to the INDIAN ACT and were largely ignored by government until 1939, when a court decision ruled that they were a federal responsibility. The Inuit negotiated the NUNAVUT territory ("Our Land") with the federal government to define Inuit and DENE lands in the NWT. Some Inuit still follow a nomadic way of life, but others are involved in the administration and development of northern Canada - in business, local and territorial politics, teaching, transportation, medicine, broadcasting and the civil service. See also NATIVE PEOPLE, ARCTIC.
Many Inuit in northern communities face significant challenges, such as living in some of the most crowded conditions in Canada. A 2006 survey found that in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec, and Labrador, more than 15 000 Inuit were living in over-crowded conditions, and were the most likely to live in households with more than one family. Although the Inuit population is young (median age of 22 years, compared with 39 years for the total Canadian population in 2006), the living conditions and lack of access to healthcare partially contribute to an increase in chronic health conditions, including obesity and diabetes. Despite these challenges, the traditions that tie the Inuit to their land remain strong today and even with high unemployment, substandard housing and low income, most Inuit do not move away from the communities in which they were raised.
In 2006, Mary May Simon was elected national leader of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the organization that represents the interests of Inuit people.
Author MINNIE AODLA FREEMAN Revised: ANNE-MARIE PEDERSEN
Links to Other Sites
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
The official website of Canada's Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which is responsible for meeting the Government of Canada's obligations and commitments to First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Government of Nunavut
Your source for information about Government of Nunavut programs, regional tourism and local business opportunities. Also check out the links to Inuktitut language resources.
Watch the Heritage Minute about Inuit stone figures referred to as Inukshuk. From the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
The Barren Lands
This site offers an extensive online collection of archival documents from two Geological Survey of Canada expditions to the Barren Lands region located in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and in the area now known as Nunavut. From the University of Toronto.
Art of this Land
A virtual exhibit devoted to Aboriginal art within the permanent collection of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada.
Holman: Forty Years of Graphic Art
This Virtual Museum website showcases the life, culture, and work of Inuit artists who reside in the northern Canadian community of Holman. Printmaking techniques and an extensive collection of their captivating art are also featured. Developed by the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic
A comprehensive multimedia collection of stories and images about the history, lifestyle, and culture of the Inuvialuit (Inuit) people in Canada’s North. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Arctic String Figure Project
Try creating these traditional arctic string figures. From the International String Figure Association.
Avataq Cultural Institute
This extensive Avataq Cultural Institute website features a fine collection of Inuit art, stories, and artifacts. Also included are maps, background historical information, and an Inuttitut lexicon.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
Explorers and Northern Exploration
This site chronicles the exploration of Canada's North. Illustrated with photographs and related archival material. From the Northern Research Portal, Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists.
Map of Amerindian and Inuit communities
A detailed interactive map of Amerindian and Inuit communities in Québec. From the Secrétariat Aux Affaires Autochtones du Québec.
The Spatial and Historical Evolution of Iqaluit
Explore the history and development of Iqaluit in this interesting multimedia website from Natural Resources Canada. Check out the many cartographic visualization features and the Historical Research section, which includes an interactive tutorial about the history of the Iqaluit region. Requires Adobe Shockwave Player.
A biography of Nunavut MLA Tagak Curley. From the website for the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.
Yukon Native Language Centre
A superb multimedia site that offers an introduction to native languages in the Yukon. Features the Gwich'in, Hän, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish, and Upper Tanana languages. Includes information about training programs for teachers and the public.
ArcticNet is devoted to the study of the impact of climate change and globalization on local societies and coastal ecosystems in the Canadian High Arctic, the Eastern Canadian Arctic and the Hudson Bay region.
Charlie Panigoniak: Eskimo Music in Transition
An article about traditional Eskimo drum dance songs by ethnomusicologist Lynn Whidden. A summary in French is included at the end of the article. From the “Canadian Journal for Traditional Music.”
Iqaluktuuq Archaeology Project
The website for the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, an organization that preserves, promotes and celebrates the history, culture, language, and diversity of the people of the Kitikmeot region. See the illustrated feature on the Iqaluktuuq Archaeology Project.
Inuvialuit Place Name Virtual Exhibit
A fascinating multimedia exhibit on Inuvialuit place names, including the village of Kitigaaryuk. Meet the Inuvialuit people, their land and their traditions, as you journey along the Mackenzie Delta region. From the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
Angulalik Kitikmeot Fur Trader
Learn about Inuit fur traders, the Hudson's Bay Company, and more at this multimedia website from the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.
Inuit Circumpolar Conference
This international organization is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Inuit people who inhabit the Arctic. Also concerned with environmental conservation in the Arctic region.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is the national Inuit organization in Canada. Represents four Inuit regions – Nunatsiavut (Labrador), Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunavut, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories. Their extensive website covers regional political, economic, cultural, and environmental issues. Also offers online articles from the magazine "Inuktitut" in Inuktitut, English, and French.
Terra Incognita: Exploration of the Canadian Arctic
A multimedia historical retrospective of 19th and early 20th century expeditions to the Canadian Arctic. From the McCord Museum of Canadian History.
An illustrated website about archaeological research and prehistoric culture in the Canadian Arctic. From the University of Waterloo.
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples represents off-reserve Indian, Inuit, and Métis people, and acts as an advocate for the rights of all Aboriginal peoples. Their website offers background notes, reports, and articles about current programs and issues.
A superb online exhibit about the search for the Northwest Passage. Historic maps and images from books show how the Inuit assisted foreign led expeditions into the Canadian Arctic and how European explorers gradually accepted Inuit techniques of travel and survival. Contemporary maps show the lasting achievement of the expeditions: the mapping of the Canadian Arctic. From the Toronto Public Library.
Our World - Our Way of Life
Learn about Haida and Inuit culture as revealed through oral histories, works of art, and photographs in this extensively illustrated Virtual Museum of Canada exhibit.
About Sharon Pollock’s compelling play based on early 20th century court proceedings involving two Inuit hunters charged with the murder of two Catholic priests. From the website for the Stuck in a Snowbank Theatre in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc.
Video clips from feature films, documentaries, and other productions offer an intimate introduction to Inuit culture. Includes films by Zacharias Kunuk, co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions, Canada’s first Inuit-owned independent production company. Also provides learning aids for students and their teachers.
Inuit Sled Dogs
Final Report: RCMP Review of Allegations Concerning Inuit Sled Dogs. From the RCMP website.
Inuit Truth Commission
CBC News article: Inuit truth commission begins hearings on sled-dog deaths.
Tanya Tagaq Gillis
The website for Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis.
This website offers tools and strategies for learning Inuktitut, the Inuit language.
Ilititaa : Bernier, His Men and the Inuits
Explore the life and times of Joseph-Elzéar Bernier at this online exhibit from the Virtual Museum of Canada website.
Listening to Our Past
This multimedia website explores the many facets of Inuit Traditional Knowledge. Produced by the Francophone Association of Nunavut.
Glossary: Aboriginal Studies
This glossary is adapted from Alberta's Aboriginal Studies 10–20–30 program. The terms and definitions, while not prescriptive, take into consideration Aboriginal diversity and also relate to the overall generic understandings of Aboriginal historical chronology. A Government of Alberta website.
Life at the Top of the World
A background piece about Glenbow Museum's exhibition "Inusivut: Our Way of Life." This show features images of the Inuit community, the Lomen brothers, and others. Also focuses on the Canadian Reindeer Project and Lloyd Binder, reindeer herder. From Maclean's magazine.
Canada’s First Nations
This extensive multimedia website profiles the history, culture, and language of Canada's First Nations peoples. Also examines the impact of European contact on First Nations communities. A joint project of the University of Calgary and Red Deer College.
Sikusilarmiut Place-Name Project
The Sikusilarmiut Place-Name Project draws from the expertise of Inuit living in the present-day community of Kinngait, meaning mountains or high hill.
Inuit were moved 2,000 km in Cold War manoeuvring
This news feature chronicles the outcomes of the federal government's 1950's relocation of the Inuit to the High Arctic wastelands of Ellesmere and Cornwallis Islands, 2,000 kilometres from their home.
The website for Arctic Mission, a scientific voyage through the Arctic’s fabled North-West Passage. Features interactive maps, videos, photos and written observations about the landscape, climate, and wildlife that inhabit this region. From the National Film Board.
Oceans North Canada
This website examines conservation strategies that address the impact of climate change in the Arctic. Programs include identification of marine conservation areas, land claims agreements, fisheries management plans, ecosystem studies, and related initiatives. Features maps and striking photographs of local landscapes.
Ottawa apologizes to Inuit for using them as ‘human flagpoles’
A news story about a Government of Canada apology delivered to Inuit families who were relocated from Inukjuak, northern Quebec, to the Arctic communities of Resolute and Grise Fiord during the 1950s. From thestar.com.
Apology for Inuit High Arctic Relocation
A backgrounder about the Canadian government's apology to Inuit families who were forcibly moved from northern Quebec to barren High Arctic territory in the 1950s. From the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
High Arctic Exiles
Watch a video about the Inuit forced movement to Grise Fiord, Craig Harbour, and Resolute in the early 1950s in support of Canadian Arctic sovereignty. This 2009 video was produced prior to the Government of Canada's "Apology for Inuit High Artic Relocation." From thestar.com.
Check out Sikunews for daily coverage of the top stories around the circumpolar world. Search for news items about specific issues and locations in the Canadian Arctic.
Check out the bio for award-winning children's writer Michael Kusugak. On the stories page, click on the book titles to see what they are about. Also, try out the “How Do You Say That” feature to hear some spoken Inuktitut words.
Beaufort Sea commercial fishing banned
A CBC News story about the federal government and the western Arctic Inuvialuit people agreeing to declare commercial fishing off-limits in the Beaufort Sea.
A Lexicon of Snow
A lengthy list of Innuit and English words that refer to "snow". A University of Calgary website.
The Forgotten Story of Inuit Whalers
This site explores the role of whale hunting in ancient Inuit (Thule) culture. Features videos with commentary by international experts, archival photographs, and more.
Representations of the Inuit: From Other to Self
Click on the link to this essay that examines how Inuit people and their culture are depicted in Canadian theatre. See also other articles about theatre in the Canadian North. From "Theatre Research in Canada."
Unikkausivut - Sharing our Stories
View an online collection of documentaries and animated films that provide a unique audiovisual record of the life and culture of the Inuit. From the National Film Board of Canada.
View a document that examines the aboriginal roots of the people that have inhabited South/Central Labrador from antiquity to the present time. Also describes the meaning of Inuit place names and the history of early European contact in this region. From the website for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
People of a Feather
Watch a trailer for an engrossing film about the world of Inuit on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay and their cultural relationship with the eider duck.
The truth about polar bears
An article about contemporary challenges facing polar bear populations in Canada. From the Canadian Geographic website.
Former N.W.T. commissioner dies at 95
A CBC News obituary for Gordon Robertson, an influential civil servant who was instrumental in shaping government policy in Canada's North.
The Legend of Sarila
Watch the trailer for the Inuit-themed 3D animated feature film "The Legend of Sarila."
Inuktitut Living Dictionary
A searchable online dictionary of the Inuktitut language.