The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov


Reference work entry

Eskimo – is the ethnos, populating the northeast of Russia, the Chukchi Peninsula, as well as St. Lawrence Island and Alaska in the USA (approx. 40,000) and Canada (approx. 25,000). The descent of the Eskimos is questionable. Evidently, their ancestral home was Northeast Asia, from where they migrated to America through the Bering Strait. The Eskimos are direct descendants of an ancient culture, which was spread on the White Sea coast since the late first century BC.

Since the seventh until the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, whale hunting was developing there, and the regions of Alaska and Chukotka, closer to the north, saw the development of small pinniped hunting. The main type of economic activity was sea animal hunting. They shot whales from several canoes by harpoons and later harpoon cannons were employed. The walrus was hunted on drifting ice, the seal was shot from kayaks, and bottom gill nets were installed under ice to hunt for the ringed seal (at the beginning of winter). For water transportation, canoes and kayaks were used, “racket skis” helped to travel on snow, and special boots with spikes (made of bone) attached to them secured walking on ice. The oldest type of the housing was a stone construction with the floor submerged into the ground and paved with the bones of the whale’s skull and shoulders. They wore blind clothes made from seal and deer skin. The traditional food is seal, walrus, and whale fat and meat. The Eskimos never practically Christianized and every settlement had a shaman. The early stages of the Eskimo Arctic culture development include bone carving. Traditional occupations, such as fishing, sea animal hunting, and fur mosaics, continue developing. Traditional beliefs, shamanism, songs, and dances are preserved. The national language is taught at schools.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016