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This photo was taken in November 2006 near a town called Nes in the Nenets Autonomous District in Northwest Russia. The Nenets people are indigenous people in Russia that live in the Arctic region. Think of what it would be like to open your door to spy a reindeer in the morning!
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Image courtesy of Julia Vishnevets

Arctic Cultures

There are people of different cultures and backgrounds who live in the Arctic region. Read on to learn more about two of these cultures.

Inuit

The Inuit are the native cultures that continue to live on coastal areas of Arctic tundra in Canada, Alaska (USA), Siberia (Russia), and Greenland. Over this broad area there are many different groups of people. Some share common ancestors, others probably do not, but most have similar ways of living in the Arctic. Inuit traditionally hunted for seals, whales, polar bears, caribou, birds and other animals from the ocean and the tundra. Inuit people invented the kayak and used these small boats to hunt for Arctic marine animals. Because of a great respect for these animals, Inuit have traditional customs that must be followed during a hunt. Inuit myths were inspired by the environment that they lived within including the magical appearance of the aurora in the night sky, the long dark winters, and the icy Arctic Ocean. Explore more about Inuit culture by visiting the links below.

Norse

Norse people were originally from Scandinavian countries. During the Middle Ages, between approximately 850 and 1066 AD, groups of Norse explorers and warriors called Vikings raided and colonized other regions within and near the Arctic such as Greenland, Iceland, and northern Russia (as well as warmer, lower latitude locations too). Today, many people living in these countries are descendants of the Norse people.

The Norse were excellent boat builders, crafting vessels out of wood called longships, which could travel across large expanses of ocean. There were many oars along the sides of the boat and often one square sail. Vikings would row the oars and wind would fill the sail, propelling the boat. The Norse people, including the Vikings, were known to be excellent storytellers. Explore some of the myths from the Norse people in the links below.

Norse Myths

The Earth: Midgard
The Sea: Aegir
The winds: Njord
The Thunder: Thor
The sky: Tyr
The Sky: Odin
The Aurora: Freya
The Northern Lights: The Valkiries
The Sun: Freyr
The Planet Venus: Sif
The Milky Way: Bifrost
The Norse Family Tree

Inuit Myths

The Sun: Malina
The Moon: Anningan
The Sea: Sedna

Last modified June 18, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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