Inughuit - Orientation

Identification. The Inughuit are a Greenland minority constituting about 1 percent of the general population. They speak a unique Inuit dialect and exist as a distinct subculture. Very much aware of their unique identity, they are proud people and strongly believe that survival in their harsh environment depends on the use of Inughuit ways and experience. The Inughuit feel uncomfortable outside their native communities and territory and choose not to live elsewhere in Greenland or Denmark. Over the decades, the Inughuit have been renamed a number of times by White visitors. "Polar Eskimo," the most common name, was given by Knud Rasmussen in 1903. The Inughuit call themselves "the great and real human beings," and until White contact in 1818, they believed that they were the only humans in the world. "Thule Inuit" is a misnomer, as it refers to the prehistoric culture antecedent to all current Inuit groups.

Location. The Inughuit live in the high Arctic on the west coast of North Greenland between 75° to 80° N and 58° to 74° W. Once called the "Thule District," the region is officially labeled Avanersuup Kommunia. There are four sunlight seasons: dark (twenty-four hours of darkness) from mid-October to mid-February; daylight (twenty-four hours of sunlight) from mid-April to mid-August; and two day/night seasons in between. There are also four climate seasons: Summer (no sea ice) from mid-July to mid-September; fall (unsafe sea ice) from mid-September to mid-October; winter (total sea ice) from mid-October to mid-May (with dark and light periods); and spring from mid-May to mid-July. The average temperature is —31° F in winter and +41° F in summer.

Demography. Estimates place the pre-1880 population at 100-200 people, the 1880-1930 population at about 250, and the 1980 population at 700. The sex ratio, once favoring males 60 percent to 40 percent, has been balanced for the past sixty years.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Inughuit speak their own dialect of the Inuit language, with "s" replaced by "h."

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