Have the Inuit ever lived in Asia?

Inuit

The origins of the Inuit

The Inuit are likely descended from an Asian people of hunters and gatherers. They came to America via the Bering Strait, long after the Indians, around 3000 to 2500 BC. Today they settle from the Chukchi Peninsula on the Bering Strait via Alaska along the Arctic Ocean on the islands of northern Canada to Greenland.

Archaeologists found evidence of several waves of immigration, with the newcomers mostly being technically advanced and displacing the locals or mixing with them.

The most recent immigration, around 1000 AD, took place, like the previous ones, in a much warmer climatic phase than today. But the Inuit were able to adapt to colder climates. As pure hunters, unlike the Indians, they were not dependent on agricultural products or collected fruits and berries.

As long as there was enough hunted prey, the existence of the Inuit community was assured. Even the so-called "Little Ice Age" from 1550 to 1850 could not endanger them as a people.

How did the Inuit live?

The Inuit mostly lived in permanent settlements during the warm periods, at least as long as there was sufficient prey in the area all year round. In colder phases they changed seasonally with the migrating prey between several hunting camps.

Depending on the region, they mainly hunted the various prey animals of the Arctic: caribou, musk ox, fish, seals, walruses and whales. They usually did not live in the legendary snow houses, the igloos. These were mostly only used as short-term accommodation while traveling or hunting trips.

The encounter with the whites

Up until modern times, encounters with whites had little impact on everyday life for many Inuit people in northern Canada. However, there have been repeated epidemics from diseases such as tuberculosis and venereal diseases that have been transmitted to the Inuit.

While whalers often only visited the settlements for a short time, missionaries had a greater cultural influence. For example, around 1770 German missionaries, the Moravians from Saxony, did missionary work on the coast of Labrador.

As a result, the Inuit there had to adopt Christian and sometimes even German first names. In the local Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit, German words with only slightly different spelling have been entered, such as the days of the week: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.

Apart from the southern coastal regions, however, large areas were without intensive contact with western culture. A first step in the early 20th century were the activities of the "Hudson Bay Company", which traded furs for hunting rifles, tents and similar goods.

This was the first time that many Inuit came into contact with the rules of the modern economy. The coveted goods had to be paid for. The Inuit became victims of unscrupulous traders who shamelessly took advantage of them when buying the coveted hunting rifles.

Survival in modern Canada

With the Second World War, the strategic value of northern Canada grew. The state began to pay more attention to the Inuit. In addition to military interests, raw material deposits such as lead, silver, zinc, crude oil and natural gas were also an incentive.

The Inuit had to live in a modern society within a short period of time, but above all in an economic system in which every commodity has to be paid for with money.

The Inuit could hardly earn any money with the hunt, at best seal skins could be sold. But only until the major sales markets in Europe and America collapsed due to calls for boycotts from animal rights activists.

However, there are few other paid jobs in the Arctic. No Inuk will starve to death today. But many do not earn enough to be able to pay for the food and goods imported from the south, on which they are increasingly dependent due to the sedentary lifestyle.

The modern wooden houses are comfortable, but you can no longer make a living from hunting. Many Inuit became recipients of government grants.

Dramatic consequences: unemployment, alcoholism, suicide

The hopelessness of this situation, combined with extreme isolation, has resulted in extremely high suicide rates in some communities. Often with young people who experience the big wide world on television, but feel as if they are buried alive.

The high travel costs in the Arctic mean that they can hardly ever leave the village.

Alcohol abuse is also a problem, especially in places where there is no established social structure, for example in mining settlements or near military facilities. Recently, the sale of alcohol in self-governing regions has been largely banned.

Many well-intentioned attempts by the government to help the Inuit out of their difficult situation also created new problems. Compulsory schooling meant that the traditional language Inuktitut was partly forgotten because it was not allowed to be spoken in school or boarding schools.

Since there were no schools in remote communities, many young Inuit had to attend boarding schools and felt the culture imposed there as a great compulsion.