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How did the Inuit Use the Natural/Physical Environment to Meet their Basic Needs?. By: E. I. See. Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland Curriculum 2.0 - Grade 4 2012.
By: E. I. See
Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland
Curriculum 2.0 - Grade 4 2012
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar people living in the Arctic regions of the United States, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. The Inuit used to be called Eskimos, but they prefer the name “Inuit.” In the Inuit language, Inuit means “the real people”.
The Arctic is one of the coldest places in the world. In winter, temperatures can fall as low as -85 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice and snow cover the ground for most of the year. This environment has shaped the Inuit way of life.
How did the these people, the Inuit, use the natural/physical environment to satisfy their needs for food, clothing, and shelter?
Marine mammals were particularly important to the Inuit. These animals, including whales, seals, and walrus , not only provided large amounts of food, but also skins, oil, tusks, and bones. Hunters used harpoons to catch these animals . They fashioned sharp blades from bones, ivory, and stones. They sometimes caught marine mammals on land or through the ice. Sometimes they pursued them by boat.
How did the Inuit use the natural/physical environment to obtain their food?
Inuit seal hunter in an umiak boat (umiaks were framed with wood or bone and covered with animal skin)
The Inuit also took advantage of land animal and plant resources . Caribou were particularly important because one animal provided large amounts of meat and also skins, bones, and antlers for making clothing, kayaks (a type of boat), weapons, and other items. Caribou hunts took place in the late summer and early fall, when the animals were plump after a season of grazing and had thick fur ideal for making winter clothes. The Inuit drove small groups of caribou into lakes or rivers, where hunters killed them with bows and arrows or with lances.
A herd of Caribou
An Inuit man today with a Caribou kill
When marine mammals, fish, and caribou were not available, the Inuit turned to fox, mussels, and other small animals. They also gathered and ate local plants and berries. Most food sources were only seasonally available. The Inuit dried and stored whale, seal, and caribou meat in the summer and fall for eating in the late winter.
An Inuit man today using a traditional method of catching fish
The Inuit lived in a variety of shelters, depending on the time of year and type of activity in which they were engaged. The Inuit built all of their dwellings themselves with materials gathered from the natural/physical environment. During the summer, they lived in conical tents framed with wooden poles and covered with the hides of seals, caribou, or other animals. The coverings were weighted down along the ground with large rocks.
How did the Inuit use the Natural/Physical Environment for Shelter?
Ruins of an Inuit tent
Native Americans in this region also dug pit houses into the ground during the colder months. They framed each pit house with wood or whale bones and covered it with sod and animal skins. Large stone slabs covered the floors and piles of furs served as bedding. A long U-shaped tunnel functioned as an entryway and prevented warm air from exiting and cold air from entering. The Inuit burned sea-mammal oil in soapstone lamps inside each pit house for warmth and light.
A reconstructed whale bone frame for an Inuit pit house
Another winter shelter was the igloo, or snowhouse, which was a temporary shelter for Inuit people when travelling or away on hunting expeditions. The Inuit used bone knives to cut large snow slabs, which they then piled on top of one another in a spiral pattern to form a dome-shaped shelter.
Left: An Inuit man using the traditional method to construct a snowhouse
Above: A completed snowhouse
Inuit women made a wide range of clothing from animal hides, which they sewed together with caribou sinew. Although they could make clothing from a variety of skins, including those from mammals, birds, and even from fish, the Inuit valued seal and caribou hides above all else.
How did the Inuit use the natural/physical environment to obtain their clothing?
Inuit needle case set used for sewing
Sealskin was waterproof and ideal for boots, while caribou skin made excellent leggings and coats. During the winter, many Inuit wore a double layer of clothes – the bottom layer was worn with the fur pressed against the skin, where it formed pockets of warm air, while the outer layer was worn with the fur facing outside for additional protection from the cold and precipitation.
Inuit children in traditional caribou leggings and coats
The Inuit used wood, antlers, bones, ivory, and various stones to make tools and utensils including needles, harpoons, spears, soapstone pots, slate knives, antler snow goggles, and wooden or bone toys.
Traditional Inuit snow goggles made from animal skin and antlers
The Inuit were a self-sufficient people. They were skilled at hunting and gathering, building shelters, tailoring clothes, and making a wide range of items with materials gathered from the natural/physical environment.
Traditional Inuit shoes made from caribou and seal hide
How did the Inuit use the natural/physical environment to satisfy their needs for food, clothing, and shelter?