Group of peoples who, with the closely related Aleuts, constitute the native population of the Arctic as well as some of the subarctic regions of Greenland, Alaska (U.S.), Canada, and far eastern Russia (Siberia). Self-designations include such names as Inuit, Inupiat, Yupik, and Alutiit, each being a more or less local variant meaning the people. The name Eskimo, first applied by Europeans, may derive from an Innu (Montagnais) word for snowshoes; it is favoured by Arctic peoples in Alaska, while those in Canada and Greenland prefer Inuit. The Eskimo are of Asian origin, like the American Indians, but they are distinguishable from the latter by their climatic adaptations, the presence of the B blood type, and their languages (Eskimo-Aleut), all of which suggest that they are of distinctive origin. Traditional Eskimo culture was totally adapted to an extremely cold, snow- and icebound environment in which vegetable foods were almost nonexistent and caribou, fish, and marine mammals were the major food source. Harpoons and one-person kayaks or larger umiaks were used for hunting on the sea. Clothing was fashioned of caribou furs and sealskins. Snow-block igloos or semisubterranean sod-and-stone houses were used in winter, while in summer animal-skin tents were erected. Dogsleds were the basic means of land transport. Religion centred on shamans and the unseen world of spirits. By the late 20th century, snowmobiles and rifles had replaced dogsleds and harpoons. Many Eskimo abandoned their nomadic hunting pursuits and moved into northern towns and cities. Some formed cooperatives to market their handicrafts and other wares. Early 21st-century population estimates indicated more than 135,000 individuals of Eskimo descent, with approximately 85,000 living in North America, 50,000 in Greenland, and the remainder in Siberia.
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