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The Inuit are a people inhabiting small enclaves in the coastal areas of Greenland, Arctic North America (including Canada and Alaska), and extreme northeastern Siberia. The name Inuit means “the real people” (Chance 21). In 1977 the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, held in Barrow, Alaska, officially “adopted Inuit as the replacement for the term ‘Eskimo’” (Chance 25). There are several related linguistic groups of Arctic peoples, including the Kalaallit in Greenland, the Inuvialuit in Canada, and the Yupiget, Yuplit, and Alutiit in Alaska. Many of these groups prefer to be called by their specific “tribal” names rather than as Inuits. In Alaska the term “Eskimo” is still commonly used.
Chance notes that the Inuit vary within about 5 cm (about 2 in) of an average height of 163 cm (5 ft 4 in). They also display “metabolic, circulatory, and other adaptations to the Arctic climate” (Chance 95). Inhabiting an area spanning almost 5150 km (almost 3200 mi), Inuit have a wider geographical range than any other aborigines and are the most sparsely distributed people on earth.
From archaeological, linguistic, and physiological evidence, most scholars conclude that the Inuit migrated across the Bering Strait to Arctic North America. A later arrival to the New World than most native peoples, the Inuit share many cultural traits with Siberian Arctic peoples and with their own closest relatives, the Aleuts. The oldest archaeological sites identifiable as Inuit, in southwest Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, “date from about 2000 BC and are somewhat distinct from later Inuit sites” (Chance 17). By about 1800 BC the highly developed “Old Whaling” or “Bering Sea” culture and related cultures “had emerged in Siberia and in the Bering Strait region” (Chance 30). In eastern Canada the “Old Dorset” culture flourished from about “1000 to 800 BC until about AD 1000 to 1300” (Chance 17). The Dorset...
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