The reindeer herders of today look different than the ones long ago, but they still have similar qualities. (AP)

The reindeer herders of today look different than the ones long ago, but they still have similar qualities. (AP)

Long ago, igloos made of carved snow were all that stood between people and freezing nights in the Arctic. (AP)

Long ago, igloos made of carved snow were all that stood between people and freezing nights in the Arctic. (AP)

When they couldn't hunt seals, modern-day Inuit families turned to fishing to support themselves. (AP)

When they couldn't hunt seals, modern-day Inuit families turned to fishing to support themselves. (AP)

An Inuit girl steers her sled down a hill in her hometown in Canada. (AP)

An Inuit girl steers her sled down a hill in her hometown in Canada. (AP)

Arctic Life, Then and Now

Posted: November 1, 2017

Back Then . . .

Miki tugs on his sealskin mittens and boots. He pulls a caribou skin parka close around his face. Snow goggles made from reindeer antlers protect his eyes from the sudden blindness that comes from looking at the bright snow. He and his father step out of their igloo with their bows and spears in hand. It’s time for Miki’s hunting lesson.

In Miki’s “frozen desert” home, no one can rely on plants for food. If he catches a seal, his family will have meat. A walrus will give them ivory and dog food. A beluga whale will mean a supper of muktuk—outer skin and blubber. When he and his father bring home their kill, Miki’s mother and sisters take out the animals’ internal organs and get ready to cook the meat. When the animals move to another part of the tundra, Miki’s family will follow them and build a new home.

Inuit people have made their homes in the Artic for a long time. Miki may have lived as long as thousands of years ago! He and his family would have been hardy people skilled at adapting. No other kind could have lived in a house of snow with no wood for heating.

Today . . .

Alasie lives in a village in the Arctic. In some ways, her people are not so different from ancient Inuits. Her house is built into a hillside using bone, stone, wood, dirt, and animal skins. Some of her people still follow reindeer herds when they migrate. Most use igloos just for hunting trips. Like most kids today, Alasie gets checkups at the doctor’s office. She lives in a larger community than Miki ever did. Some of her relatives have become teachers, doctors, and writers.

Living at the top of the world has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Fast snowmobiles make local winter travel easier. For long distances, airplanes crisscross the region. Today, non-Arctic people can easily reach Alasie’s icy hometown. Because of this, she goes to school and learns different traditions than the ones Miki would have been raised with.