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Paula J. Miller - Christian Homeschooling, Home Education

The Inuit: A Complete Unit Study

  • Paula J. Miller Contributing Writer
  • 2008 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
The Inuit: A Complete Unit Study

“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.

Like anyone, Inuit enjoy games. One game they like is called blanket toss. Several people hold a large blanket made of seal and caribou skins. One person bounces in the middle of the blanket, similar to a trampoline. The person jumping can sometimes jump more than 23 feet into the air. Another game they play is called Nuglugaqtug Left. In this game the players try to poke a pointed stick through a bone hanging from the ceiling. The first player to do so wins.

Travel in snow-covered land isn’t always easy. Dogsleds are the fastest and most reliable way to travel over snow. Inuit and many people living in the Arctic Circle still use dogsleds everyday, even when there are snowmobiles and other vehicles available. If they want to travel on the water, these resourceful people build kayaks out of seal or walrus skins. Kayaks are one of the most highly maneuverable small crafts constructed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the Inuit and their way of life; I know I did. Let’s use some of our new knowledge in the activities below.

Math

•   Inuit used math when they built their igloos. Igloos are made of blocks of ice and are dome-shaped. Geometry comes in handy here: volume, scale and surface area are some mathematical skills you might want to be familiar with before building your own igloo. Try it yourself. Visit the Web site below for step by step instructions on building your own igloo and see if you use math: www.benmeadows.com/refinfo/ Tips/Article1.htm

•   If you’d rather stay indoors where it is nice and warm, you can build your own igloo using sugar cubes, glue, cardboard, and a ruler. The igloo should fit on the piece of cardboard and should be rounded and able to stand on its own. (Parents can visit this site for help: www.youthonline.ca/crafts/ sugarcubeigloo.shtml)

•   Did you know that the world’s most famous dogsled race is called the Iditarod? It covers over 1,150 miles of Alaska’s beautiful land. Draw a map covering the route and mark the elevation of each town you pass through. How many miles could a person travel in one day? How many days would it take to finish the race?

Activities

Make ice cream with this authentic recipe taken from a 1952 Eskimo cookbook:

Inuit Ice Cream

1. Grate reindeer tallow into small pieces.

2. Add seal oil slowly while beating with hand.

3. After some seal oil has been used, add a little water while whipping.

4. Continue adding seal oil and water until white and fluffy.

5. Any berries may be added to it.

If you’d rather try a different version, here is one of my favorites:

Sno Cream

2 c. milk

3/4 c. sugar

1T. vanilla extract

1 gallon snow (make sure it’s white!)

Mix the milk, sugar and vanilla extract together until sugar is dissolved. Add the snow and stir. Enjoy!

Bible  

•   Copy the following passage into a notebook: And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to d and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 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 11:1-9) 

•   Memorize verses 6-9      

•   Memorize Psalm 22:27 &28       

•   Copy Psalms 33:10-15 and Psalms 67:2-7 into your notebook

Reading

•   The Inuit (True Books: American Indians) by Andrew Santella

•   Eskimo Boy: Life in an Inupiaq Eskimo Village by Russ Kendall

•   The Year of Miss Anges by Kirkpatrick Hill (used in Sonlight curriculum)

•   The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford (Step Into Reading - 3)

•   Gentle Ben by Walt Morey

•   The Eskimo Twins (Yesterday’s Classics) by Lucy Fitch Perkins

•   Snow Bear by Jean Craighead George

Science

•   Study some of the animals you might find in Alaska and other parts of the Arctic Circle like moose, wolves, and caribou. How do they survive the cold? What do they eat? What are their predators and what is their prey? What are their homes like?

•   One of your vocabulary words below is permafrost. Find out what it is and what obstacles it presents for people living near it. How does it form? What temperature does it need to be to create permafrost? How do you remove it?

Vocabulary  

tundra, kayak, subsistence, nomadic, harpoon, parka, weirs, tallow, mukluk, ptarmigan, gee, haw, ulu, umiak, tallow, cheechako, permafrost, quiviut

God made so many different kinds of people with their own unique skills, language, activities, and lifestyle. When He scattered the people who built the Tower of Babel, He knew where they would go. He knew the hardships they would face, and He placed them around the world for His specific purposes.

You must never forget that no matter how big the world seems, and no matter how small you feel, God is bigger and He has everything under control. He made you for a specific purpose and put you exactly where you are for a reason. 


Paula Miller is a children’s author, freelance writer, and homeschooling mom. She and her husband Travis live in south central Minnesota with their 4 sons. You can read more about Paula’s Faces in History Series for children 7 and up by visiting http://www.paulajmiller.com/ 

This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec ’07 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/