greenland women tribes skin coast western food dress usually seal
ESKIMO, EsKuuros, or ESQUIMAU; the name applied by European ethnologists to a large number of cognate but widely separated tribes, which are scattered along the coasts of the arctic regions of America and Asia. The Danish form of the word has recently supplanted the older French form. The name is a corruption of the Abenaki Indian Eskintat. sic or the Ojiba Askinzeg, both terms meaning " those who eat raw flesh." The native name is lnnuit - a word signifying, as names of savage tribes frequently do, "The people." The Eskimo constitute a very homogeneous race, and are the widest spread aboriginal people in the world. They are entirely unknown in Europe, being confined to the arctic coast of America, and a small portion of the Asiatic shore of Behring Strait. On the American shores they are found, in broken tribes, from East Greenland to the western shores of Alaska, - never far off the coast, or south of the region where the winter ice allows seals to congregate in large numbers. They thus stretch for 3200 miles from S. E. to S.W.; and though in all likelihood they have little intercourse with each other, yet, judging from the traditions, the separate tribes must have maintained their present characteristic language and mode of life for at least 1000 years. Most probably, like the rest of the aborigines of the New World, they came front Asia at some very remote period. The N.W. American Coast Indians, whose modes of life are much the same as the Eskimo, bear a striking resemblance to them in appearance. The Eskimo may thus have been fishing Indians, who formerly lived on the banks of the great rivers which flow into the Polar Ocean, and were gradually driven seaward by the more southern Indians, against whom they to this day maintain a violent enmity. In the course of their migrations they arrived in Grinnell Land, crossed Smith Sound, not further north than Cape Union, according to Nares, then advanced gradually south waid along the west coast of Greenland, doubled Cape Farewell, and spread up the east coast as far north as man has yet reached. They may have rounded, with the musk ox and the lemming, the north end of Greenland, but the probabilities are in the direction indicated. Even on hunting expeditions they rarely withdraw more than 20 miles from the coast, and only in very exceptional cases 30 miles. Save a slight admixture of European settlers, they are the only inhabitants of both sides of Davis Strait and Baffin's Bay. They extend as far south as about 50° N. lat. on the eastern side of America and in the west to 60° on the eastern shore of Behring Strait, while 55° to 60° are their southern limits on the shore of Hudson's Bay. Throughout all this range no other tribes intervene, except in two small spots on the coast of Western America, where the Kennayan and Ugalenze Indians come down to the shore for the purpose of fishing. The Aleutians are closely allied to the Eskimo in habits and language, though their culture is somewhat more highly developed. Rink divides them into the following groups, the most eastern of which would have to travel nearly 5000 miles to reach the most western. 1. The East Greenland Eskimo, few in number, every year advancing further south, and having intercourse with the next section. 2. The West Greenlanders, civilized, living under the Danish crown, and extending from Cape Farewell to 74° N. lat. 3. The Northernmost Greenlanders - the Arctic Highlanders of Ross - confined to Smith, Whale, Murchison, and Wolstenholme Sounds, north of the Melville Bay glaciers, not extending to the western shores of the former strait, nor within the memory of man having any intercourse with those south of them. They are very isolated, have greatly decreased of late years, did not until recently possess the kayak or skin-covered canoe, the umiak or open skin boat, or the bow and arrow, are bold hunters, pagans, and are perhaps the most typical of the Eskimo in Greenland ; they have not of recent years greatly decreased, though at present they do not number more than 200.1 4. The Labrador Eskimo, mostly civilized. 5. The Eskimo of the middle regions, occupying the coasts from fludson's Bay to Barter Island, beyond Mackenzie River - perhaps comparativelya rather heterogeneous group, inhabiting a stretch of country 2000 miles in length and 800 in breadth. 6. The Western Eskimo, from Barter Island to the western limits in America. They differ somewhat from the other groups in various habits, such as the use of the baidar or double-manned skin-covered canoe, in the clothing of the men, in their labrets, and in the head-dress of the women. They are allied to the Aleutians and the Indians of Alaska. 7. The Asiatic Eskimo or Tuski, who are again nearly allied to the Namollo and Itelmes. None of the Arctic tribes of Europe or Asia have the slightest connexion with them. Of all the Eskimo those of Greenland and Labrador are the best known ; the others are known but partially.
Appearance and Dress. - The Eskimo are not so small as they are usually represented, their height-5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 10 inches, and in rare cases even 6 feet - being quite up to the average of the coast Indians. Their dress, however, gives them a dwarfish appearance. Both men and women are muscular and active, the former often inclining to embonpoint, and both having a pleasing, good-humoured, and not unfrequently, even handsome cast of countenance, apt to break into a " grin " on very small provocation. The face is broadly oval, flat, with fat cheeks ; forehead not high, and rather retreating ; teeth good, though, owing to the character of the food, worn down to the gums in old age; nose very flat ; eyes rather obliquely set, small, black, and bright ; head largish, and covered with coarse black hair, which the women fasten up into a top knot on their crown, and the men clip in front and allow to hang loose and unkempt behind. Their skulls are of the mesecephalic type, the height being greater than the breadth ; according to Davis, 75 is the index of the latter and 77 of the former. Some of the tribes slightly compress the skulls of their new-born children laterally (Hall), but this practice is a very local one. The men have usually a slight moustache, but no whiskers, and rarely any beard. The skin has generally a " bacony " feel, and when cleaned of the smoke, grease, and other dirt - the accumulation of which varies according to the age of the individual - is only so slightly brown that red shows in the cheeks of the children and young women. The people soon age, however. Their hands and feet are small and well formed, and, as a rule, they have a more pleasing appearance than all except the best-looking Indian tribes. The women and children dress entirely in skins of the seal, reindeer, bear, dog, or even fox, the first two being, however, the most common. The men and women's dress is much the same, The jacket of the men has a hood, which in cold weather is used to cover the head, leaving only the face exposed; it must be drawn over the head, as it has no opening in front or behind. The women's jacket has a fur-lined " amowt " or large hood for carrying a child, and an absurd looking tail behind, which is, however, usually tucked up. The trousers are either tight or loose, and are fastened into boots made of prepared seal skin, very ingeniously and neatly made. The women's trousers are usually ornamented with eider duck necks, or embroidery of native dyed leather ; their boots, which are of white leather, or (in Greenland) dyed of various colours, reach over the knees, and in some tribes are very wide at the top, thus giving them an awkward appearance and a clumsy waddling walk. In winter there are two suits of clothes of this description, one with the hair inside, the other with it outside. They also sometimes wear shirts of bird-skins, and stockings of dog or young reindeer skins. The boots require to be changed when wet, otherwise they would freeze hard in cold weather. Their clothes are, like all the Eskimo articles of dress or tools, very neatly made, fit beautifully, and are sewn with " sinew-thread," with a bone needle if a steel one cannot be had. in person the Eskimo are usually filthy, water not often coming in contact with them unless accidentally. The children when very young are, however, sometimes cleaned by being licked with their mother's tongue before being put into the bag of ieathers which serves as their bed, cradle, and blankets.
Dwellings, Occupations, Characteristic implements, and Food. - In summer the Eskimo live in conical skin tents, and in winter usually in half-underground huts (igloos) built of stone, turf, earth, and bones, entered by a long tunnel-like passage, which can only be traversed on all fours. Sometimes, if residing temporarily at a place, they will erect neat round huts of blocks of snow with a sheet of ice for a window. These, however, though comfortable in the winter, become damp and dripping in the spring, and are then deserted. In the roof are deposited their spare harpoons, &c.; and from it is suspended the steatite basin-like lamp, the flames of which, the wick being of moss, serves as fire and light. On one side of the hut is the bench which is used as sofa, seats, and common sleeping place. The floor is usually very filthy, a pool of blood or a dead seal being often to be seen there. Ventilation is almost non-existent ; and after the lamp has blazed for some time, the family having assembled, the heat is all but unbearable : the upper garment must be taken off, and the unaccustomed visitor gasps half asphyxiated in the mephitic atmosphere. In the summer the wolfish-looking dogs lie outside on the roof of the huts, in the winter in the tunnel-like passage just outside the family apartment. The Western Eskimo build their houses chiefly of planks, merely covered on the outside with green turf. The same Eskimo have in the more populous places, a public room for meetings. " Council chambers " are also said to exist in Labrador, but are only known in Greenland by tradition. Sometimes in South Greenland and in the Western Eskimo country the houses are made to accommodate several families, but as a rule each family has a house to itself.
The Eskimo are solely hunters and fishers, and derive most of their subsistence from the sea. Their country will allow of no cultivation worth attending to ; and beyond a few berries, roots, &c., they use no vegetable food. They are essentially sarcophagous. The seal, the reindeer when obtainable, and various cetaceous animals supply the bulk of their food, as well as their clothing, tight, fuel, and frequently also, when driftwood is scarce or unavailable, the material for various articles of domestic economy. The shuttle-shaped canoe or kayak, covered with hairless seal-skin -stretched on a wooden or whalebone frame, with only a hole in the centre for the paddler, is one of the most characteristic Eskimo implements. The paddler propels it with a bone-tipped double-bladed paddle, like that used in the "canoes" familiar as aquatic playthings in England. He is covered with a waterproof skin or entrail dress, tightly fastened round the mouth of the hole in which he sits, so that, should the canoe overturn, nut a drop of water may enter. A skilful kayaker can turn a complete somersault, boat and all, through the water. The nnaak, or flat-bottomed skin luggage-boat, rowed by the women, is another, though less interesting, Eskimo vessel. The sledge, made of two runners of wood or bone, - even, in one case on record, of frozen salmon (Nfaclure), - united by cross bars tied to the runners by hide thongs, and drawn by from 4 to S dogs harnessed abreast, is another article of Eskimo domestic economy which no European ingenuity has ever been able to improve. Some of their weapons afford remarkable evidence of inventive skill, - in particular, the harpoon, with the point detachable after it has struck the seal, narwhal, or white whale ; the line to which the harpoon is fastened, with the inflated sealskin at the end, which tires out the prey, besides marking its course, and buoys it tip when dead; the bird-spears, with bladder attached, and the adventitious side-points which strike the animal should the main one miss it; the rib bow of the wild Eskimo, &c. Although they have to maintain a severe struggle for existence against the elements, the Eskimo have been able, in the manufacture of their tools, to develop artistic and mechanical skill far surpassing that of savages more favourably situated, but less endowed with brain power. They sometimes cook their food by boiling, but, when it is frozen, never hesitate to devour it raw. Blood, and the half-digested contents of the reindeer's paunch, are also eagerly consumed by them; but it is a mistake to suppose that they habitually eat blubber. Fat they are no doubt fond of, but blubber is too precious: it must be kept for winter fuel and light. They are enormous eaters; two Eskimo will easily dispose of a seal at a sitting; and in Greenland, for instance, each individual has for his daily consumption, on an average, 2i lb of flesh with blubber, and 1 lb of fish, besides mussels, berries, sea-weed, &c., to which in the Danish settlements may be added 2 oz. of imported food. Ten pounds of flesh, in addition to other food, is not uncommonly consumed in a day in time of plenty. A man will lie on his back and allow his wife to feed him with tit-bits of blubber and flesh until he is unable to move.
The Eskimo cannot be strictly called a wandering race. They are nomadic only in so far that they have to move about from place to place during the fishing and shooting season, following the game in its migrations. They have, however, no regular property. They possess only the most necessary utensils and furniture, with a stock of provisions for less than one year ; and these possessions never exceed certain limits fixed upon by tradition or custom (Rink). Long habit and the necessities of their life have also compelled those having food to share with those having none, - a custom which, with others, has conduced to the stagnant condition of Eskimo society and to their utter improvidence.
Moral and Mental Character. - So far as a nation can be characterized in a few words, it may be said that the Eskimo are, if not in the first rank of barbarous races, not in the last, and that, though they want some of the mental endowments of races like the Polynesians, they are equally free from many of their vicious traits. Their intelligence is considerable, as their implements and folk-tales abundantly prove. They display a taste for music, chartography, and drawing, display no small amount of humour, are quick at picking up peculiar traits in strangers, and are painfully acute in detecting the weak points or ludicrous sides of their character. They are excellent mimics, and easily learn the dances and songs of the Europeans, as well as their games, such as chess and draughts. They gamble a little, - but in moderation, for the Eskimo, though keen traders, have a deep-rooted antipathy to speculation. When they offer anything for sale - say at a Danish settlement in Greenland - they always leave it to the buyer to settle the price. They have also a dislike to bind themselves by contract. Hence it was long before the Eskimo in Greenland could be induced to enter into European service, though when they do so now-a-days they pass to almost the opposite extreme - they have no will of their own. It is affirmed by those who ought to know that any sort of licentiousness or indecency which might give rise to public offence is rare among them. In their private life their morality is, however, not high. The women are especially erring ; and in Greenland, at places where strangers visit, their extreme laxity of morals, and their utter want of shame, are not more remarkable than the entire absence of jealousy or self-respect on the part of their countrymen and relatives. Theft in Greenland is almost unknown; but the wild Eskimo make very free with strangers' goods - though it must be allowed that the value they attach to the articles stolen is some excuse for the thieves. Among themselves, on the other band, they are very honest, - a result of their being so much under the control of public opinion. Lying is said to be as common a trait of the Eskimo as of other savages in their dealings with Europeans. They have naturally not made any figure in literature. Their folk-lore is, however, extensive, and that collected by Dr Rink shows considerable imagination and no mean talent on the part of the story-tellers. In Greenland and Labrador most of the natives have been taught by the missionaries to read and write in their own language. Altogether, the literature published in the Eskimo tongue is considerable. Most of it has been printed in Denmark,