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Inuit Culture in a Warming Arctic

Simon Qamaniq wearing traditional Inuit clothing. Simon is an Inuit hunter, expert dog musher and a member of the globalwarming101 Baffin Island Expedition.
Courtesy of the Will Steger Foundation

The Arctic is warming quickly, faster than other places on Earth. Inuit people who live there have been noticing the change.  Because their culture is adapted to the Arctic’s cold climate, global warming is making it difficult for Inuit people to continue their traditions.

Several Canadian Inuit groups got together recently to record what climate change means to them.  They recorded the changes that they observed and how people were coping with these changes.

Here are a few of their observations in their own word:

  • “We need to be more careful when pursuing animals because of thinner ice and changing ice conditions,” said an Inuit from the Nunavut Territory.
  • “The water from some rivers and ponds smells and tastes bad, particularly when it does not rain for quite some time. We do not want to drink this water,” said a Nunatsiavut Inuit.
  • “Caribou are a lot skinnier,” noted an Inuit. “And the caribou don’t look as healthy as they used to.”

Like the comments above, a lot of the observations that the Inuit recorded were things that had a negative impact. They reported an increase in sunburns and a decrease in their ability to predict the weather, for example.  Some of their observations were positive. With the warmer climate, animals that usually live further south have moved further north and these species can be new food sources for the Inuit, for example.

What do these changes to the environment mean for the Inuit way of life?  “Inuit are going to have to find new ways to make a living from the land,” said Jose A. Kusugak, a Canadian Inuit.  He continued that, “our millennia-old traditions are already being altered because of the warming Arctic, and we face the possibility of having to completely reinvent what it means to be Inuit. This is a prospect we fear.”


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