Dienstag, 17. April 2012

Indigenous people of the Arctic

The Arctic region encompass eight nation states: Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The geography and climate condition of the region can be described as foreboding, invoking an imagery of a cold and bitter landscape. Yet, people not only inhabit in this area, they thrive – contributing to a rich culture built on the relative isolation of the cold climate.
Late 9th century photo of Saami villagers 

The Saami people are traditionally nomadic herders who lived in the northern reaches of Scandinavia. Having been traditionally isolated from the affairs of the rest of Europe, major attempts to include assimilate them occurred in the 17th century – comparatively late in regards to other European groups. Historically, Saami lands contained scattered ritual objects and sacrificial sites symbolizing a connection between the people and the landscape. Most of these sites fell into obscurity upon efforts to convert the Saami people into Lutheranism. Even so, the symbolism of these sites isn’t completely.
Photo of Nivkh men 

The Nivkhs lives in the far east of Russia. They speak a paleosiberian language – a group of languages not related to each other than being influenced by Tungusic and Turkic languages. It is theorized that they have been influential in the peopling of Manchuria, Korea and Japan as evidence of their cultural settlements have been found in those region. It is quite possible they had extensive interactions with the Ainu, another isolate group from Japan, though much of the data for that is lost. Like the Saami they are semi-nomadic, having settlements for winter and summer.
Aleut dancers

Aleuts are a significant group archaeologically, because they provide the model to how the peopling of the Americas occurred. The Aleuts are indigenous to Russia and Alaska share the same language family as the Inuit of the Americas and the Yupik that inhabits similar territories. Along with increased archaeological data, it helps supports the theory that the first people who arrived in the America did so from Asia during the last ice age. One interesting aspect of the cultures of these groups is that gender roles were permeable. Depending on conditions, it is not uncommon for the people to switch gender roles to favor their survival.
Turf houses in Iceland 

Icelanders are the indigenous people of Iceland and its main ethnic group. They are a Germanic people who speak the Nordic branch of the Germanic language. Due to their relative isolation from other Germanic groups, Icelandic reverted some of its Germanic sounds back to its Indo-European roots. Iceland provides us with the most complete source of Nordic Mythology written by Christian monks after the conversion of the islander. Despite conversion, there are still strong aspects of Norse belief in Iceland. It is estimated that half of all Icelanders still consider that elves might exists, for examples. Being short on biodiversity did not stop Icelander from expanding into agriculture and fishing. Indeed all but one mammal in Iceland were introduced by humans for agricultural purposes.

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