Part 2       Eskimos--The People of the Arctic , by Stan Griffin


Eskimos Today

Eskimo life is much different now. Most of the people live in towns or small settlements. They wear modern clothing, live in modern houses, and eat food purchased from stores. Instead of kayaks and dog sleds, they use motorboats and snowmobiles. Many have renounced the native religion for Christianity. Many Eskimos now work for wages, but a substantial number are unemployed and require government help to live.

Here is a short description of Eskimo life in the four countries where they live:

In the Soviet Union at present there are approximately 1,500 Eskimos living on the northeast tip of Siberia. In the 1920s the Communist government took control of all Eskimo communities. They provided health care and helped with housing and education. The Eskimos were encouraged to produce goods for sale throughout the country. Some examples of successes in this area were reindeer hides, walrus tusks, and bone and soapstone carvings.

In Alaska the Eskimo population is approximately 42,000. By the early 1900s, rifle hunting and trapping greatly reduced the number of game animals. They began to hunt reindeer which had been brought in from Siberia by the U. S. government. They became U. S. citizens in 1924. During World War II (1941-1945) they worked at U. S. military bases; afterward, part-time jobs were the only employment available. Many  now depend on the government to improve living conditions.  Eskimos benefited, to a small degree, from the 1968 oil strike.  Most of the Eskimo children do not finish high school.

Canada's Eskimo population is about 25,000. Their lives didn't change a lot until the 1950s. The fur trade declined, and the number of caribou decreased after rifle use increased.

More and more of the Eskimos moved to communities developed around trading posts, government administrative offices, military radar sites, and mission churches. Construction jobs were plentiful for a period of time. The Canadian government assisted through the development of commercial fishing cooperatives and handicrafts. Soapstone sculptures are sold to people in Canada and the United States.  The government provides assistance with financial aid and health care.

Greenland is presently a province of Denmark, after being a Danish colony for 573 years. There are approximately 50,000 Eskimos living there. In the early 1900s they began to engage in commercial fishing. A change in climate warmed coastal waters; this drove seals north and attracted cod, salmon, and other fish. Shortly afterward, the Danish government established programs to aid the Eskimos. They improved education, housing, and health care besides providing training for jobs in manufacturing and service industries. The Eskimos who live in northern Greenland still follow the traditional life.

Although many changes have occurred since their ancestors first arrived in North America, there are almost 120,000 Eskimos still living in the Far North. To survive they have been forced to battle weather and then the influence of white men; in many ways the latter has been much more challenging to their endurance.


More stories by Stan Griffin:

The Navajos

The Hawaiians

Human Rights: Then and Now


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