Times & Places

The Arctic (North Pacific Rim)

The Arctic coasts of Alaska and Canada are part of the Arctic, or North Pacific Rim, culture area. The Arctic is inhabited by various native groups that speak distinct but related Eskimo-Aleut languages: the Aleut, Alutiiq, Yup'ik and Inupiaq in Alaska, the Yuit in Alaska and Siberia, the Canadian Inuit, and the Greenland Inuit. Though they had previously been known as Eskimos, today, Canadian groups especially prefer the collective term 'Inuit', which means 'people' in their language.

Traditionally, these peoples were dependent on hunting and fishing, and thus, the resources of this rich maritime environment have played a significant role in the region's cultures. Birds, fish, shellfish, and many sea mammals—sea otters, whales, seals, sea lions, and walrus—provide food, and from the sea mammals come other products such as oil, skins, and ivory. They shared many common cultural elements, such as the kayak, dog sleds, double-layer clothing made from various hides, hunting and fishing techniques, and some religious beliefs and practices. They shared considerable differences as well, however.

Adapted from

  • Carol Robbins, "Mask with seal or sea otter spirit (1976.50)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 200.

  • "Native North America, an introduction: The Arctic," The British Museum: Khan Academy, 2015, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-americas/native-north-america/beg-guide-native-am-1600/a/native-north-america-an-introduction (accessed 28 October 2015).

Web Resources

Khan Academy
Read about Arctic clothing.