EskmosandIntuitpicHistory for Kids: The Eskimos And The Inuit

By: Charles River Editions

This is another excellent selection in the Charles River Editions providing comprehensive knowledge in a concise and enjoyable format. Most of us use the terms Eskimo to uniformly refer to the people who live in the harshest climates of Canada, America, Russia and Greenland, but many of them are Inuit. They are descendants of the travelers who crossed the land bridge that once connected Russia and Alaska. The editors use the term Eskimo to simplify. The Eskimos are associated with igloos, sleds, seals and dogs. This book briefly covers their origin, their history and legacy.

The word Eskimo translates to “eaters of raw meat.” Historical records prove that they traded with the Vikings in the 1100’s. By the 1500’s Europeans traded with the Eskimos living in the Arctic parts of America. In the 1800’s they traded the furs from the animals they hunted with the Europeans. But those same Europeans brought many diseases which reduced the Eskimo population. As late as the 1950’s many Eskimos continued to move from place to place, surviving by fishing and hunting and trading for things they could not make from animal bones like needles and wood. Utensils and plates were made from the bones of animals and clothing from seal and caribou. The Eskimos traveled by sled over the frozen ice and in warmer weather used boats made of caribou skin stretched over a wood frame. Some Eskimos lived in igloos during the winter but more often lived in small homes made of sod or tents made from animal skins. They lived in small family units with no formal government. Their family law was called maligait. Each member of the community was asked to think of others before himself. Each family felt it their responsibility to take care of members of the community and would be punished severely if they did not. Eskimos believe that people, animals and things all have magic powers. The sea goddess Sedna lives at the bottom of the ocean. Burial customs often involved a person laid on the ground and left face up surrounded by a ring of stones so the soul could return to nature.

After World War II, most Eskimos gave up  hunting and took government jobs. Today many Eskimos work for the government in both the US and Canada. They now live in modern homes that have, radio TV and electricity. The villages are still small with a school and church. They rely on airplanes to transport food and supplies. About 50,000 Eskimos live in North America. Most speak English, though some Canadians speak French. Those Eskimos living in Greenland speak Danish and in Russia, they speak Russian. But the Eskimos still pass down the native language and customs to their children.

Children from age seven up will enjoy learning about this unique culture. There are maps, photographs and drawings which bring out the unique characteristics of these peoples. This particular edition is very well written. Children will become immersed in the story and forget that they are learning. Adults will learn a few things as well.