“So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”  (Genesis 11:8-9)

Icy winter winds whipped past Kirima’s face as she emerged from her home. Swirling snow, little pellets of ice, stung her face. Shielding her eyes with her hands, she pulled the heavy caribou hide closer around her and hurried to do her mother’s bidding.

When the sled dogs saw her struggle through the knee-deep snow, they yapped and strained at their harnesses. She wished she might have had a few extra minutes to tend to them, assuring them that she had not forgotten their scraps of food and maybe even stealing a second or two to bury her face in their thick coats. Kirima whistled a signal for them to quiet. She glanced over her shoulder at the doorway and slowed her steps.

But no. She couldn’t stop. Mother had asked her to go to the shore for the first time today. She was singled out from the rest of her brothers and sisters because of her quick feet and because she did not wander from her duty. Today was a privilege. She would not disappoint her mother on such a day.

When Kirima reached the shore, she forgot about the cold bitter wind and the icy snow. There, in the family’s small trap, lay an otter. His small body was stiff from the cold, and his soft white fur moved in the wind. Ever so carefully, she removed the little otter and placed him in her pouch. Then she reset the trap and placed it in the snow again.

For the rest of the morning Kirima battled the wind and the deepening snow. She carefully checked the other traps her mother had hidden in the snow, trying to remember all she’d been taught on their numerous trips to the shore. She discovered two more otters, both larger than the first one she’d found. Their coats would warm her family this winter.

She could hardly contain her excitement as she laid the last trap down and turned her face toward home. Mother would be so happy. She, Kirima, was finally helping provide for her family, just like her mother and grandmother had taught her to. Oh, what a wonderful day!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an Inuit like Kirima? Do you picture yourself in a small round igloo made of ice? Are you on a sled with dogs pulling you swiftly across the snow? What would you eat? What games would you play? Would you always be cold?

Inuit are sometimes called Eskimos. The word eskimo comes from a Mi’kmaq word meaning “she laces a snowshoe.” They live in some of the coldest parts of the world. Not Minnesota, but in much colder, northern areas like Greenland, Alaska, and most of the Arctic Circle. They are not Native Americans but their own distinct group, more closely related to the Mongolians of eastern Asia. However, they do have several similarities to the Native Americans as they are a nomadic group, which means that most of them don’t live in just one place, but travel between several locations.

Inuit homes are not igloos, as most people think. Their homes are tents of caribou skins or sealskins in the summer months and structures dug into the ground and covered with sod, driftwood, and sometimes stone in the cold winter months. Although some Inuit groups used igloos as a winter home, they were usually built as a temporary shelter when hunting or traveling.

If you asked an Inuit what his favorite food was, he probably wouldn’t say pizza. Inuit eat foods that most of us have never even tried. Fish, seals, whales, and the other sea mammals are the majority of what they eat. Other animals they hunt on land are polar bear, fox, and the Arctic bird. But did you know that they don’t even see penguins? That’s because penguins and Inuit do not live in the same parts of the world.