The relationship of the Inuit to their environment is one of the most remarkable in human history. In one of the most difficult environments in the world, it is little surprise that the land and its wildlife are as fundamental to Inuit beliefs and culture as they are to their very existance. Inuit, a word meaning “the people”, live in a world where everything has a spirit and consider themselves as integral to their environment as the polar bear or the seal.
The relationship of the Inuit to their environment forms the basis of a culture and way of life dating back more than 4000 years. Originally part of the great migration across the Bering land bridge some 15,000 years ago, the Inuit are uniquely adapted to their environment. Inuit in the Kitikmeot region are primarily descended from the Copper Inuit, noted for their use of the native copper in the area for various tools and artefacts. The eastern communities of Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak and Kugaaruk are mostly descendants of the Netsilik Inuit of the eastern arctic.
Some of the traditional subsistence way of life has been lost since the federal government moved the Inuit off the land and into settlements in the 1950s and 60s. Without the ability to track and hunt caribou throughout their migration across the tundra and unable to move to new hunting grounds each winter, the largely nomadic, subsistence based culture of the Inuit became impossible to support.
There is however, a dedicated effort to recover this culture and history to preserve it for the generations to come. The Kitikmeot Inuit Association plays an important role in this process and facilitates or hosts workshops and other activities documenting and recoding the past and giving youth the opportunity to learn from their elders as they have for generations.