Eskimo is an English term for the indigenous peoples who have
traditionally inhabited the northern circumpolar region stretching
Siberia (Russia), across
Alaska (of the United States)
and Canada, to Greenland. The two main peoples known as "Eskimo"
are: (1) the Alaskan
Eskimo Inuit, and the
Inuit peoples of Canada, and (2) the
Yupik of eastern
Siberia and Alaska. The
Yupik comprise speakers of four distinct Yupik
languages: one used in the
Russian Far East
Russian Far East and the others among
people of Western Alaska, Southcentral
Alaska and along the Gulf of
Alaska coast. A third northern group, the Aleut, is closely related to
these two. They share a relatively recent common ancestor, and a
language group (Eskimo-Aleut).
The word "Eskimo" derives from phrases that Algonquin tribes used for
their northern neighbors. The
Yupik peoples generally do not
use it to refer to themselves, and the governments in
Greenland have ceased using it in official documents.
5.1 Greenland's Inuit
Inuit of Canada's Eastern Arctic
Inuvialuit of Canada's Western Arctic
5.4 Alaska's Iñupiat
6.2 Central Alaskan Yup'ik
6.3 Siberian Yupik
7 Sirenik Eskimos
8 See also
10 Additional sources
11 Further reading
Illustration of a Greenlandic
In its linguistic origins, the word
Eskimo comes from Innu-aimun
(Montagnais) 'ayas̆kimew' meaning "a person who laces a snowshoe" and
is related to "husky", so does not have a direct pejorative
Canada and Greenland, the term "Eskimo" is predominately seen as
pejorative and has been widely replaced by the term "Inuit" or terms
specific to a particular group or community. This has
resulted in a trend whereby some Canadians and Americans believe that
they should not use the word "Eskimo" and use the Canadian word
"Inuit" instead, even for
Yupik speakers. In section 25 of the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and section 35 of the
Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, recognized the
Inuit as a
distinctive group of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Under U.S. and Alaskan law (as well as the linguistic and cultural
traditions of Alaska), "
Alaska Native" refers to all indigenous
peoples of Alaska. This includes not only the
Iñupiat and the
Yupik, but also groups such as the Aleut, who share a recent ancestor,
as well as the largely unrelated indigenous peoples of the Pacific
Northwest Coast and the Alaskan Athabaskans. As a result, the term
Eskimo is still in use in Alaska. Alternative terms, such as
Inuit-Yupik, have been proposed, but none has gained widespread
Inuit building an igloo, by George Francis Lyon, 1824
Several earlier indigenous peoples existed in the region. The earliest
Paleo-Eskimo cultures (Early Paleo-Eskimo) date
to 5,000 years ago. They appear to have developed in
people related to the
Arctic small tool tradition
Arctic small tool tradition in eastern Asia,
whose ancestors had probably migrated to
Alaska at least 3,000 to
5,000 years earlier. Similar artifacts have been found in
date to perhaps 18,000 years ago.
Yupik languages and cultures in
Alaska evolved in place (and
migrated back to Siberia), beginning with the original pre-Dorset
indigenous culture developed in Alaska. Approximately 4000 years ago,
the Unangan culture of the
Aleut became distinct. It is not generally
Approximately 1,500–2,000 years ago, apparently in northwestern
Alaska, two other distinct variations appeared.
Inuit language became
distinct and, over a period of several centuries, its speakers
migrated across northern Alaska, through
Canada and into Greenland.
The distinct culture of the
Thule people developed in northwestern
Alaska and very quickly spread over the entire area occupied by Eskimo
people, though it was not necessarily adopted by all of them.
Further information: Native American name controversy
Look up eskimo or
Eskimo in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Two principal competing etymologies have been proposed for the name
"Eskimo", both derived from the Innu-aimun (Montagnais) language, an
Algonquian language of the Atlantic Ocean coast. The most commonly
accepted today appears to be the proposal of
Ives Goddard at the
Smithsonian Institution, who derives the term from the Montagnais word
meaning "snowshoe-netter" or "to net snowshoes." The word
assime·w means "she laces a snowshoe" in Montagnais. Montagnais
speakers refer to the neighbouring
Mi'kmaq people using words that
sound very much like eskimo.
In 1978, Jose Mailhot, a
Quebec anthropologist who speaks Montagnais,
published a paper suggesting that
Eskimo meant "people who speak a
different language". French traders who encountered the
Montagnais in the eastern areas, adopted their word for the more
western peoples and spelled it as Esquimau in a transliteration.
Some people consider
Eskimo derogatory because it is widely perceived
to mean "eaters of raw meat" in Algonquian languages
common to people along the Atlantic coast. One
suggested the original word that became corrupted to
Eskimo might have
been askamiciw (which means "he eats it raw"); the
Inuit are referred
to in some
Cree texts as askipiw (which means "eats something
Laminar armour from hardened leather reinforced by wood and bones worn
by native Siberians and Eskimos
Lamellar armour worn by native Siberians and Eskimos
Canada and Greenland, the term
Eskimo has largely been supplanted
by the term Inuit. While
Inuit can be accurately
applied to all of the
Eskimo peoples in
Canada and Greenland, that is
not true in
Alaska and Siberia. In
Alaska the term
Eskimo is commonly
used, because it includes both
Yupik and Iñupiat.
Inuit is not
accepted as a collective term and it is not used specifically for
Iñupiat (although they are related to the Canadian
In 1977, the
Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) meeting in Barrow,
Alaska, officially adopted
Inuit as a designation for all circumpolar
native peoples, regardless of their local view on an appropriate term.
As a result, the Canadian government usage has replaced the (locally)
Inuit (Inuk in singular). The preferred term
in Canada's Central
Arctic is Inuinnaq, and in the eastern
Arctic Inuit. The language is often called Inuktitut, though
other local designations are also used. Despite the ICC's 1977
decision to adopt the term Inuit, this was never accepted by the Yupik
peoples, who likened it to calling all Native American Indians Navajo
simply because the
Navajo felt that that's what all tribes should be
Greenland refer to themselves as "Greenlanders" and speak
the Greenlandic language.
Because of the linguistic, ethnic, and cultural differences between
Inuit peoples, it seems unlikely that any umbrella term will
be acceptable. There has been some movement to use Inuit, and the
Inuit Circumpolar Council, representing a circumpolar population of
Yupik people of Greenland, Northern Canada, Alaska,
and Siberia, in its charter defines
Inuit for use within that ICC
document as including "the Inupiat,
Yupik (Alaska), Inuit, Inuvialuit
Kalaallit (Greenland) and
In 2010, the ICC passed a resolution in which they implored scientists
to use "Inuit" and "Paleo-Inuit" instead of "Eskimo" or
"Paleo-Eskimo". American linguist
Lenore Grenoble has explicitly
deferred to this resolution and used "Inuit–Yupik" instead of
"Eskimo" with regards to the language branch. In a 2015 commentary
in the journal Arctic, Canadian archaeologist Max Friesen argued
Arctic archaeologists should follow the ICC and use
"Paleo-Inuit" instead of "Paleo-Eskimo".
Inuit people of
Alaska refer to themselves as Iñupiat, plural,
and Iñupiaq, singular (their North Alaskan Inupiatun language is also
called Iñupiaq). They do not commonly use the term Inuit. In Alaska,
Eskimo is in common usage.
Alaskans also use the term
Alaska Native, which is inclusive of all
Aleut and Native American people of Alaska. It does not apply
Yupik people originating outside the state. The term
Alaska Native has important legal usage in
Alaska and the rest of the
United States as a result of the
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
The term "Eskimo" is also used in linguistic or ethnographic works to
denote the larger branch of Eskimo–
Aleut languages, the smaller
branch being Aleut.
Main article: Eskimo–
English ("Welcome to Barrow") and Iñupiaq (Paġlagivsigiñ
Utqiaġvigmun), Barrow, Alaska, framed by whale jawbones
Aleut family of languages includes two cognate branches:
Aleut (Unangan) branch and the
The number of cases varies, with
Aleut languages having a greatly
reduced case system compared to those of the
Aleut languages possess voiceless plosives at the bilabial,
coronal, velar and uvular positions in all languages except Aleut,
which has lost the bilabial stops but retained the nasal. In the
Eskimo subfamily a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is also
Eskimo sub-family consists of the
Inuit language and Yupik
language sub-groups. The Sirenikski language, which is virtually
extinct, is sometimes regarded as a third branch of the Eskimo
language family. Other sources regard it as a group belonging to the
Inuit languages comprise a dialect continuum, or dialect chain, that
stretches from Unalakleet and
Norton Sound in Alaska, across northern
Alaska and Canada, and east to Greenland. Changes from western
(Iñupiaq) to eastern dialects are marked by the dropping of vestigial
Yupik-related features, increasing consonant assimilation (e.g.,
kumlu, meaning "thumb", changes to kuvlu, changes to kublu,
changes to kulluk, changes to kulluq), and increased consonant
lengthening, and lexical change. Thus, speakers of two adjacent Inuit
dialects would usually be able to understand one another, but speakers
from dialects distant from each other on the dialect continuum would
have difficulty understanding one another. Seward Peninsula
dialects in western Alaska, where much of the
Iñupiat culture has
been in place for perhaps less than 500 years, are greatly affected by
phonological influence from the
Yupik languages. Eastern Greenlandic,
at the opposite end of the
Inuit range, has had significant word
replacement due to a unique form of ritual name avoidance.
Yupik languages, by contrast, including
Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Naukan (Naukanski), and Siberian Yupik, are
distinct languages with phonological, morphological, and lexical
differences. They demonstrate limited mutual intelligibility.
Alutiiq and Central
Yup'ik have considerable
dialect diversity. The northernmost
Yupik languages – Siberian Yupik
Yupik – are linguistically only slightly closer to Inuit
than is Alutiiq, which is the southernmost of the
Although the grammatical structures of
Inuit languages are
similar, they have pronounced differences phonologically. Differences
of vocabulary between
Inuit and any one of the
Yupik languages are
greater than between any two
Yupik languages. Even the dialectal
Alutiiq and Central Alaskan
Yup'ik sometimes are
relatively great for locations that are relatively close
The Sirenikski language is sometimes regarded as a third branch of the
Eskimo language family, but other sources regard it as a group
belonging to the
Iñupiat woman, Alaska, circa 1907
Inuit family, c.1917
An overview of the Eskimo–
Aleut languages family is given below:
Western-Central dialects: Atkan, Attuan, Unangan, Bering (60–80
Eastern dialect: Unalaskan, Pribilof (400 speakers)
Eskimo (Yup'ik, Yuit, and Inuit)
Yup'ik (10,000 speakers)
Alutiiq or Pacific Gulf
Yup'ik (400 speakers)
Yupik or Yuit (Chaplinon and St Lawrence Island,
Naukan (700 speakers)
Inuit or Inupik (75,000 speakers)
Iñupiaq (northern Alaska, 3,500 speakers)
Inuvialuktun (western Canada; together with Siglitun, Natsilingmiutut,
Uummarmiutun 765 speakers)
Inuktitut (eastern Canada; together with
Inuktun and Inuinnaqtun,
Kalaallisut (Greenlandic (Greenland, 47,000 speakers)
Inuktun (Avanersuarmiutut, Thule dialect or Polar Eskimo,
approximately 1,000 speakers)
Tunumiit oraasiat (East Greenlandic known as Tunumiisut, 3,500
Sirenik Eskimo language
Sirenik Eskimo language (Sirenikskiy) (extinct)
Yup'ik of Nelson Island) fisherman's summer house
Inuit and Lists of Inuit
Not to be confused with the Innu, a
First Nations people in eastern
Quebec and Labrador..
Inuit inhabit the
Arctic and northern
Bering Sea coasts of Alaska
in the United States, and
Arctic coasts of the Northwest Territories,
Nunavut, Quebec, and
Labrador in Canada, and
with Denmark). Until fairly recent times, there has been a remarkable
homogeneity in the culture throughout this area, which traditionally
relied on fish, marine mammals, and land animals for food, heat,
light, clothing, and tools. They maintain a unique
Main article: Greenlandic Inuit
Inuit make up 90% of Greenland's population. They
belong to three major groups:
Kalaallit of west Greenland, who speak Kalaallisut
Tunumiit of east Greenland, who speak Tunumiisut
Inughuit of north Greenland, who speak
Inuktun or Polar Eskimo.
Inuit of Canada's Eastern Arctic
Main article: Inuit
Inuit live primarily in
Nunavut (a territory of Canada),
Nunavik (the northern part of Quebec) and in
Nunatsiavut (the Inuit
settlement region in Labrador).
Inuvialuit of Canada's Western Arctic
Iñupiat family from Noatak, Alaska, 1929
Main article: Inuvialuit
Inuvialuit live in the western Canadian
Arctic region. Their
homeland – the
Inuvialuit Settlement Region – covers the Arctic
Ocean coastline area from the Alaskan border east to
Amundsen Gulf and
includes the western Canadian
Arctic Islands. The land was demarked in
1984 by the
Inuvialuit Final Agreement.
Main article: Iñupiat
Iñupiat are the
Inuit of Alaska's Northwest
Arctic and North
Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region, including the Seward
Peninsula. Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, is
Arctic Circle and in the
Iñupiat region. Their language is
known as Iñupiaq.
Alutiiq dancer during the biennial "Celebration" cultural event
Main article: Yupik
Yupik are indigenous or aboriginal peoples who live along the
coast of western Alaska, especially on the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta and
Kuskokwim River (Central Alaskan Yup'ik); in southern Alaska
(the Alutiiq); and along the eastern coast of Chukotka in the Russian
Far East and
St. Lawrence Island
St. Lawrence Island in western
Alaska (the Siberian
Yupik economy has traditionally been strongly dominated by
the harvest of marine mammals, especially seals, walrus, and
Main article: Alutiiq
The Alutiiq, also called Pacific
Yupik or Sugpiaq, are a southern,
coastal branch of Yupik. They are not to be confused with the Aleut,
who live further to the southwest, including along the Aleutian
Islands. They traditionally lived a coastal lifestyle, subsisting
primarily on ocean resources such as salmon, halibut, and whales, as
well as rich land resources such as berries and land mammals. Alutiiq
people today live in coastal fishing communities, where they work in
all aspects of the modern economy. They also maintain the cultural
value of a subsistence lifestyle.
Alutiiq language is relatively close to that spoken by the Yupik
in the Bethel,
Alaska area. But, it is considered a distinct language
with two major dialects: the Koniag dialect, spoken on the Alaska
Peninsula and on Kodiak Island, and the Chugach dialect, spoken on the
Kenai Peninsula and in Prince William Sound. Residents of
Nanwalek, located on southern part of the
Kenai Peninsula near
Seldovia, speak what they call Sugpiaq. They are able to understand
those who speak
Yupik in Bethel. With a population of approximately
3,000, and the number of speakers in the hundreds,
are working to revitalize their language.
Central Alaskan Yup'ik
Main article: Yup'ik
Yup'ik, with an apostrophe, denotes the speakers of the Central
Yup'ik language, who live in western
Alaska and southwestern
Alaska from southern
Norton Sound to the north side of Bristol Bay, on
the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, and on Nelson Island. The use of the
apostrophe in the name
Yup'ik is a written convention to denote the
long pronunciation of the p sound; but it is spoken the same in other
Yupik languages. Of all the
Alaska Native languages, Central Alaskan
Yup'ik has the most speakers, with about 10,000 of a total Yup'ik
population of 21,000 still speaking the language. The five dialects of
Yup'ik include General Central Yup'ik, and the Egegik,
Norton Sound, Hooper Bay-Chevak, and Nunivak dialects. In the latter
two dialects, both the language and the people are called Cup'ik.
Yupik aboard the steamer Bowhead
Main article: Siberian Yupik
Yupik reside along the
Bering Sea coast of the Chukchi
Siberia in the Russian Far East and in the villages
of Gambell and Savoonga on
St. Lawrence Island
St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. The
Yupik spoken on the
Chukchi Peninsula and on St.
Lawrence Island is nearly identical. About 1,050 of a total Alaska
population of 1,100 Siberian
Yupik people in
Alaska speak the
language. It is the first language of the home for most St. Lawrence
Island children. In Siberia, about 300 of a total of 900 Siberian
Yupik people still learn and study the language, though it is no
longer learned as a first language by children.
Naukan people and Naukan
About 70 of 400
Naukan people still speak Naukanski. The Naukan
originate on the Chukot Peninsula in
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in
Model of an Ice Scoop, Eskimo, 1900–1930, Brooklyn Museum
Main article: Sirenik Eskimos
Some speakers of Siberian
Yupik languages used to speak an Eskimo
variant in the past, before they underwent a language shift. These
former speakers of
Sirenik Eskimo language
Sirenik Eskimo language inhabited the settlements
of Sireniki, Imtuk, and some small villages stretching to the west
Sireniki along south-eastern coasts of Chukchi Peninsula.
They lived in neighborhoods with Siberian
Yupik and Chukchi peoples.
As early as in 1895, Imtuk was a settlement with a mixed population of
Sirenik Eskimos and Ungazigmit (the latter belonging to Siberian
Eskimo culture has been influenced by that of Chukchi,
and the language shows
Chukchi language influences. Folktale
motifs also show the influence of Chuckchi culture.
The above peculiarities of this (already extinct)
amounted to mutual unintelligibility even with its nearest language
relatives: in the past,
Sirenik Eskimos had to use the unrelated
Chukchi language as a lingua franca for communicating with Siberian
Many words are formed from entirely different roots than in Siberian
Yupik, but even the grammar has several peculiarities distinct not
Eskimo languages, but even compared to Aleut. For example,
dual number is not known in Sirenik Eskimo, while most Eskimo–Aleut
languages have dual, including its neighboring Siberian Yupikax
Little is known about the origin of this diversity. The peculiarities
of this language may be the result of a supposed long isolation from
Eskimo groups, and being in contact only with speakers
of unrelated languages for many centuries. The influence of the
Chukchi language is clear.
Because of all these factors, the classification of
language is not settled yet:
Sireniki language is sometimes
regarded as a third branch of
Eskimo (at least, its possibility is
mentioned). Sometimes it is regarded rather as a group
belonging to the
Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North documentary
Alaska Native religion
^ a b Pamela R. Stern (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Inuit.
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Canada and parts of
Alaska prefer to call
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Inuit find the term offensive or
Inuit or Eskimo? -
Alaska Native Language Center". Although the
name "Eskimo" is commonly used in
Alaska to refer to all
Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many
other places because it was given by non-
Inuit people and was said to
mean "eater of raw meat."
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^ Friesen, T. Max (2015). "On the Naming of
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doi:10.14430/arctic4504 . hdl:10515/sy5sj1b75 .
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^ Меновщиков 1964: 7
^ a b c Menovshchikov 1990: 70
^ Меновщиков 1964: 132
^ Меновщиков 1964: 6–7
^ Меновщиков 1964: 42
^ Меновщиков 1964: 38
^ Меновщиков 1964: 81
^ Меновщиков 1962: 11
^ Меновщиков 1964: 9
^ a b Vakhtin 1998: 161
^ Linguist List's description about Nikolai Vakhtin's book: The Old
Sirinek Language: Texts, Lexicon, Grammatical Notes. The author's
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Kaplan, Lawrence D. (1990). "The Language of the Alaskan Inuit" (PDF).
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Arctic Languages. An Awakening (PDF)format=
requires url= (help). Vendôme: UNESCO. pp. 131–158.
Menovshchikov, Georgy (= Г. А. Меновщиков) (1990).
"Contemporary Studies of the Eskimo–
Aleut Languages and Dialects: A
Progress Report" (PDF). In Dirmid R. F. Collis.
Arctic Languages. An
Awakening (PDF)format= requires url= (help). Vendôme: UNESCO.
pp. 69–76. ISBN 92-3-102661-5.
Nuttall, Mark. Encyclopedia of the Arctic. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Vakhtin, Nikolai (1998). "Endangered Languages in Northeast Siberia:
Yupik and other Languages of Chukotka" (PDF). In Erich
Kasten. Bicultural Education in the North: Ways of Preserving and
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(PDF). Münster: Waxmann Verlag. pp. 159–173.
Меновщиков, Г. А. (1964). Язык сиреникских
эскимосовref Фонетика, очерк
морфологии, тексты и словарь. Москва •
Ленинград,: Академия Наук СССР.
Институт языкознания. The transliteration of
Меновщиков 1964: 38 author's name, and the rendering of
title in English: Menovshchikov, G. A. (1964). Language of Sireniki
Eskimos. Phonetics, morphology, texts and vocabulary. Moscow •
Leningrad: Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
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University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections – Frank H.
Nowell Photographs Photographs documenting scenery, towns, businesses,
mining activities, Native Americans, and Eskimos in the vicinity of
Alaska from 1901-1909.
University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections –
Canada Collection Images documenting
Alaska and Western
Canada, primarily Yukon and British Columbia, depicting scenes of the
Gold Rush of 1898, city street scenes,
Eskimo and Native Americans of
the region, hunting and fishing, and transportation.
University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections – Arthur
Churchill Warner Photographs Includes images of Eskimos from
Indigenous peoples of the world by continent
Indigenous peoples by geographic regions
Black American princess
(North & South)
Pocho (non-Spanish speaking Hispanics)
Indian (Native American/First Nations)
Redskin (Native American/First Nations)
Squaw (Native American women)
Yank / Yankee
Banana (westernized East Asians)
American-born Chinese (ABC)
Jook-sing (overseas/westernized Chinese)
Sangokujin (also Koreans)
Sangokujin (also Chinese)
American-Born Confused Desi (ABCD)
Chinki (Northeast Indians)
Keling (Maritime Southeast Asian-origin Indians)
Limey (English people)
Taffy (Welsh people)
Teuchter (Scottish Highlanders)
Cheese-eating surrender monkeys
Knacker (Irish Travellers)
Pikey (Irish Travellers)
Shoneen (Anglophile Irish)
Taig (Irish Catholics)
Terrone (South Italians)
Bulgarophiles (Macedonians and Serbs)
Serbomans (Macedonians and Bulgarians)
Yestonians (Russified Estonians)
Falasha (Ethiopian Jews)
Jewish-American princess (JAP)
Khazar (Ashkenazi Jews)
Yekke (German Jews)
Zhyd / Zhydovka
Kanaka (Pacific Islander)
Fresh off the boat/F.O.B. (immigrant)
Reffo/Balt (Non-Anglo immigrant to Australia)
Shegetz (non-Jewish boy or man) (pl. Shkutzim)
Shiksa (non-Jewish woman)