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The Inuit
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The Inuit lived in an area comprising a large part of northern Earth, including Northern Canada.
Parts of the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Quebec and Labrador were settled by the first peoples of the Canadian Arctic.
Food / Hunting
  • The Inuit were mainly hunters, and relied heavily on the animals of the Arctic as their main source of food.
  • Since very little vegetation could survive in the Arctic climate, the Inuit could not depend solely on plants for food.

Inuit hunter with bow and arrow

Making muktuk
  • The Inuit were skilled hunters, and caught food year-round, even during the harsh winters.
  • The Inuit were able to hunt for food year-round, so depending on the season they would hunt for different animals.
  • Sea Mammals
    • Sea mammals were usually hunted during the winter when they were out on the ice. However, some sea mammals, like whales, were hunted in the open water.
    • Some sea mammals - seals, walruses, beluga whales, narwhals
    • What they were hunted for:
      • Seal: meat and skin
      • Walrus: ivory (tusks), and meat (mostly for the dogs)
      • Beluga Whales: skin, food like muktuk (outer skin and blubber)
      • Narwhal: ivory, meat for dogs
  • Land Animals
    • Some land animals that were hunted - caribou, musk oxen, arctic fox, polar bear, arctic hare, arctic birds

Hooded Seal

Beluga Whale




Polar Bear

Musk Oxen

Arctic fox

Arctic hare

Arctic bird

Summer Hunt
  • Summers were spent fishing and hunting caribou in the interior regions of the Arctic, and hunting seal and walrus along the coasts.
  • One of the most important animals to the Inuit was the caribou. Caribou were hunted, mostly in the summer, for their meat and their skins.
  • In the fall, the caribou would gather in large herds to migrate south to better winterfeeding areas, making them easier to kill.

Caribou migration


Seal hunter waiting at breathing hole
Winter Hunt
  • Hunting and fishing was harder during the winter months because of the thick ice and snow that blanketed the Arctic, but the Inuit were still able to find food.
  • Winters were spent seal hunting and ice fishing. In the interior regions, they also hunted caribou.
  • Seals were the main source of food during the winter months.
  • Sealskin and blubber were also used to make clothing, and materials for boats, tents, harpoon lines, and fuel for light and heat.
  • Hunters would wait, sometime for hours, at a seal's breathing holes in the ice, then kill them with a harpoon when they came up for a breath.
  • The Ringed Seal was the most important marine mammal, because they were a year-round source of food for the Inuit.
  • However, the ringed seal hunting patterns did change with the seasons:
    • October-November (ice cover starting to freeze): easy to find breathing holes in ice
    • December-March (thicker ice and snow cover): harder to find breathing holes
    • April-June: hunted the younger seal pups
    • July-September (open water season): when most of the seals are hunted

Harp Seal

Ringed Seal

Ice Fishing
  • Fishing was also an important source of food for the Inuit, although it was more important in certain areas than others.
  • They mostly fished for Arctic char, especially during their spring and fall runs. Whitefish and trout were also available.
  • During the summer, the Inuit fished from boats called 'kayaks'.
  • During the winter, the Inuit fished through holes in the ice.

Inuit child fishing with harpoons

Men in kayaks
Preparing the food
Netsilik man ice fishing
  • The Inuit had several ways of preparing meat and fish.
  • The first way was to cook the meat and eat it fresh. However, this was not very common because of the shortage of fuel for cooking.
  • The second method was to dry the meat as a way to preserve it.
  • They also froze meat to save it, and eat it later.
  • However, most of the meat was eaten raw.
  • Most tools that the Inuit used were made out of stone, or parts of animals, like bone, ivory, antlers, teeth, and horns.
  • When fishing, the Inuit attached sealskin floats to harpoon heads (with lines), which kept the animal close to the surface after being killed.
  • Most harpoon heads were made out of ivory from walrus tusks or whalebone.
  • To catch fish they also used fishing lines, nets, leisters and three-pronged spears.
  • For hunting, the Inuit used spears, bow and arrows, clubs and stone traps.
  • The Inuit used knives for cutting meat, and also snow and ice.
  • A special knife that the Inuit used was called an 'ulu'. Ulus was used for skinning animals, preparing the animal skins, and buthchering.

Stone knife

Ivory harpoon heads

Bow and arrow

Knife of carved bone

Ulu, muskox horn handle
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