3- The Hunt { 25 images } Created 23 May 2012

Traditionally the Inuit supported themselves by hunting fish, sea mammals and land animals for food, heat, light, clothing, tools and shelter. They hunted mainly seal and caribou, but also whales, walrus, polar bear, musk ox, fox and wolf. The animals were used for food and their skin was used for clothing, blankets, tents and boats. Their oil was used for cooking and lamps. Bones, ivory and wood were used to make tools. Little was wasted, there was no pollution and, apart from natural trends, animals and people lived in harmony with a land that most people from the south would find hostile in the extreme.

The good hunters were respected, as was a good work ethic – lazy people or those that did not contribute to the community, were not. They were just another mouth to feed in a place where food could be very hard to come by.

According to Edmund Searles in his article "Food and the Making of Modern Inuit Identities," they consume this type of diet because a mostly meat diet is "effective in keeping the body warm, making the body strong, keeping the body fit, and even making that body healthy".

Today the Inuit have adapted to the changes brought by the “west”. However, the Inuit hunting tradition remains and, particularly as you go further north, it is practised with pride. In many areas the local people still hunt, fish and trap and rely on their environment for food. The President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Greenland, Aqqaluk Lynge, has said: “Eating what we hunt is at the core of what it means to be Inuit. When we can no longer hunt on the sea-ice, and eat what we hunt, we will no longer exist as a people.”

But some elders see a decline in the hunting tradition. The decline of hunting is partially due to the fact that young people lack the skills to survive off the land. They are no longer skilled in hunting like their ancestors and are growing more accustomed to the Qallunaat ("White people") food that they receive from the south. The high costs of hunting equipment—snowmobiles, rifles, sleds, camping gear, gasoline, and oil—is also causing a decline in families who hunt for their meals.

But the biggest threat to the Inuit culture could be climate change. Some Inuit believe climate change could bring about a "cultural genocide" as their hunting way of life melts with the sea ice. With climate change, the physical basis for Inuit culture will disappear. "They won't be able to practise a hunting culture at all" says Franklyn Griffiths, an arctic expert.

A small but strong minority of Inuit is concerned climate change will kill the traditional Inuit way of life - based on hunting and fishing on sea ice - that in turn threatens their identity as a people.

"There's a real worry that the physical basis for the culture will be wiped out," Griffiths said. "Hunting will become the equivalent of picnics. It's all over, that way. No longer are they Inuit."
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