Inuit Customs And Traditions Throughout History

The Inuit people, indigenous to areas of the Arctic such as Canada and Greenland have many customs, beliefs and traditions that are rooted in their history. Before the invention of the aeroplane and the arrival of the cold war, they had these vast and remote lands all to themselves, developing an intricate and efficient way of life.

Whilst some customs are no longer commonplace in Inuit settlements, many of them are still present in one form or another. They developed ways to thrive in the harshest of conditions, making the most of what was around them and creating a great sense of community.

Societies Centred Around Shaman

Everybody had a role in Inuit society. Whether you were a hunter, a seamstress, a mother or a fisherman, there was a job for everyone and people were ranked in terms of importance according to how good they were in their role. At the centre of the society was the Shaman, the most powerful member and the only one able to contact the spirit world. Shamans were seen as a source of knowledge and would practice rituals to help appease the spirits.

Belief In Myths And Legends

Whilst storytelling is still a big part of Inuit culture, these myths and legends were regarded as pure truth in the past. They believed in all kinds of external powers relating to the moon, the weather and the abundance or lack of animals to hunt. These myths helped the Inuit establish a sense of right and wrong in the community and ensure their ideas and customs were passed down through the generations.

The Importance Of Family

Family is still an important part of Inuit life today, but in the past, it was even more integral. So much so that older generations were expected to ‘go walkabout’ if a bout of illness infected the community so as to not become a burden on the rest of society. Names are also important and are one of the three parts that define humans. When the body dies, the spirit lives on and the name is passed on to a new generation to ensure the spirit has another body to live in.

Inuit Throat Singing

The tradition of Inuit throat singing is still very much alive today. It started as a pastime for the women left behind whilst the men were out hunting. Originally, it was a form of entertainment that was not classed as music, but more of a breathing exercise to see which of the two ‘singers’ could outlast the other. In modern times, Inuit children perform opposite each other until one breaks the pattern to laugh – in a similar vein to a staring or blinking contest. Inuit throat singing has now been added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Living Between Two Camps

Historically, Inuit would live between two different camps throughout the year. In the winter, when there was lots of snow, they would build the iconic igloos that we all know, but when the snow thawed throughout the summer, they would build huts from animals bone and skin. They would also travel from season to season so that they followed animals on their migration to different territories. Today, imported materials and better technology mean that most modern Inuit live in wooden huts.

There will be many opportunities to meet and learn about Inuit communities during our arctic expedition cruises. To plan your adventure, contact us today.

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