Ask the Eskimo

There were many (1) request for this thread about people living in the Arctic so here it is.
I lived for a while in Kotzebue, Alaska which is just a few miles above the Arctic Circle. My mothers family is from there (and we are legion) so I won’t mention names. I am Inupaq (squigly sign over the n; in-you-PAK) Inupiat (in-YOU-pee-at). This changes depending on who you talk to.

I moved around a lot as a kid and lived in Kotzebue for about a total of 6 years and still live in south central Alaska.

I reserve the right to be wrong and invite any other Arctic abiders to chime in.
I have fat fingers and a small touchscreen so there will be many misspelled words.

Cool. I don’t know much about the far north and have never been so I’m looking forward to this thread.

First question of many from me, probably: In the title, you refer to yourself as Eskimo. In Canada, we’ve been taught to say Inuit. Are Alaskans the same or does it matter to you?

Are there Eskimos who permanently reside on the ice cap? Let’s split this question between the past days of furs, igloos and spear-hunting of seals, with the OP’s present environment of permanent structures, fuel, and electricity.

Do you know a dude named Quin, and does everybody jump for joy when he arrives?

Inuit is an acceptable term but people often refer to us as Native Alaskans. I don’t mind eskimo as a blanket term.

We live in houses but a lot of people have camps that can consist of tents to cabins.
Cell phones are popular in Kotzebue but a lot of people communicate with VHF radios. There is also a local radio station, KOTZ radio, that people can leave messages with.

Fun fact; Native Alaskans don’t have tribes, the Feds have designated our tribes Corporations.

I wrote an Eskimo joke and want to know if you think it is funny.

I follow it up with

I’m no expert but: the PC thing is to say Inuit instead of Eskimo, Roma instead of Gypsy. But the Inupaq aren’t Inuit but related, and some gypsy groups don’t consider themselves Roma (I am not counting Travellers). A bit like calling a Dutch person German?? Like Native Americans and First Nations, the preferred term may vary by individual as some are fine with Indian.

Have you ever considered/thought about moving away from Alaska? Would that be considered odd or frowned upon?

What is your normal diet, now and when growing up? Or that of a typical peer if you eat weird stuff.

I believe that in Canada the PC term is Inuit.
For my family we use eskimo or Native Alaskan for broad brush terms. If you want to get on peoples nerves make a mistake in pronouncing the name of their tribe. My ex is Yupik (you-PIK) and she will correct you if you don’t say it right.

People often leave and I’ve also lived in New Mexico for quite a while. I served in the USMC and have been to a few places in the Pacific. People who have lived in the region for all their life often suffer from culture shock when moving to a big city but with the internet this is growing less.

I am a bachelor so a lot of the time I eat microwave food. When I am with my kids it is normally hamburger or pork with veggies.

Growing up in Kotzebue I ate a lot of fish and cariou. And more fish. Weird stuff…seal oil, fish head soup (WITH EYES LOOKING AT YOU). My first exposure to eskimo ice cream was weird; berries in crisco and sugar to taste.

People often leave the region, mostly for continuing education or work. Nobody frowns on it.

I had heard about the berries in shortening. I have a book about the Yupik titled In Two Worlds, about the change in culture. It’s very “real”, not sentimental. In some other book I read about the dancing the women do (maybe all tribes) where their upper bodies “weave”? Also, about being tossed up in the air on hides. Are these still practiced occasionally?

I like your sense of humor. If you haven’t already read it, you might enjoy Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes by Jack Douglas. Parts of it cracked me up.

I don’t want to speak for all people in the arctic but in our dances the ladies stand and bend at thw knees which can be ‘weave-y’?

The blanket toss; where we launch a person in the air. It was done for fun and for tourists. I haven’t hunted in geoups large enough to actually use the blanket toss though.

Thanks for the boom recommendation, I’ll look for it.

I saw a TV program maybe 20 years ago(i.e before the internet) about the Inuit, and one item it showed was how a universtily (I believe it was the University of Alaska) helps its Eskimo students.
The university gives them a special orientation/introduction to city life–that included lessons on how to shop for groceries and use money.
Are (or were) natives really that isolated and naive?

Now, it’s possible that the program I watched 20 years ago was itself a 20 year old recording…So maybe back in the 1970’s things were still primitive. But did they remain that way till the 1990’s? (obviously, only for a few people in the most remote areas.)
And a second question about education:Is there discrimination at schools between native Inuit and newcomers who move in from elsewhere?
8 years ago,I sailed on a luxury cruise ship in the Alaskan Inside Passage. At one of the stops (in Ketchikan?), a local guide showed us the typical touristy-stuff-for-rich-people, and at one point talked about her family. She was from the lower 48, moved to Alaska and her children were born there. They enjoyed Alaskan-style living, hunting and butchering their own meat, etc. But she sent her kids to a boarding school someplace else because the local schools were not “up to the level” she wanted for her kids. The implication was that they were full of local Eskimos, and therefor not good enough. Was she being racist? Or is there a problem with the local schools system?

(Sorry, my questions are really stupid. I’m super ignorant, 'swhy I’m here!)

The blanket toss is for hunting? How? What kind of hunting have you done? Have you also done traditional kinds of hunting? Do you have any specific traditions that you participate in?

Can I ask about the language? Does the community mostly speak English or mostly Iñupaq? (Is that even right for the name of the language?) What are the community’s attitudes towards the two languages?

Is there a sense of community with the Canadian Inuit, or does the American vs Canadian get in the way?

Do the Inupiat have a clan system?

When you were living in the lower 48, how did people react to you in terms of race? I knew a man who was half Native Alaskan, living in Maryland, and people would either mistake him for Asian or Latino, or would straight up ask him, “What are you?” (Not even "what race are you?"which is marginally more polite – just “what are you?”)

Do you feel you are inherently or genetically more tolerant of cold than people in warmer climates? Does hot weather bother you more than natives of hot regions?

Nitpicks for bienville: while I won’t comment on your joke, “Aleutian” is not a tribe, nor is an Aleut an Eskimo.

and chapachula: An Eskimo in Ketchikan would be a transplant. Southeast Alaska is the province of Indian tribes like the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian.

Interior Alaska and South Central Alaska are primarily Athabascan Indian and other tribes; there are many.

Boogly: Thanks for being good natured about doing this thread. I was born and raised in Alaska (but not Native) and have been fighting stereotypes all my life. I’ve traveled a lot in the Arctic (Kotz, Nome, Barrow, Kaktovik, etc.), but don’t pretend to have a deep cultural knowledge of the people.

Do Alaskans and/or Eskimos joined the armed forces at the same rate as lower-48 kids do, or was it very unique for you to join up?

Thank you for the thread sir.

I hate to admit it but the most exposure I have (recently) had to Alaskan Eskimo culture has been through watching National Geographic’s Alaska State Troopers, which I readily admit does not mean I have been granted great awareness.

However within the myopic scope of that show I do see cultures rubbing up against one another (as one would expect in a law enforcement based series).

So my questions are these:
(1) to what degree has the clash between native & non-native residents hurt Eskimos in Alaska?
(2) do you think there has been meaningful attempts by government & otherwise to improve the situation?
(3) have those attempts (if they exist) worked?
(4) and to what degree are ‘humble and interested’ non-natives accepted or rejected by Eskimo culture, in general?

Sorry if it sounds like an essay question. At least I didn’t ask you to compare and contrast anything.

Greetings Boogly,
Please talk about some of your favorite foods.