For more than four thousand years, Inuit have occupied the vast land, marine waters and islands which stretch from the Mackenzie Delta in the west to the Labrador coast in the east, and from the southern reaches of Hudson Bay to the High Arctic islands in the north. Inuit call this large and diverse geographic region home, but it is also known as the Arctic. Here, based on a unique adaptation to the climate, landscapes, seascapes and ecological systems our culture has developed, our history has unfolded, and our healthy diet has been maintained.
There are over 36 different mammals that live in the arctic environment, 17 of which are marine species. This website provides a general overview of some land and sea animals that make up a large portion of the Inuit diet. Not included are the myriad of other species of plants and animals that Inuit use, such as geese, ducks, rabbits, ptarmigan, swans, halibut, clams, mussels, cod, berries and seaweed. These species are no less important and are key elements of the traditional diet, particularly during the transitional periods of ice freeze-up and break-up when other food sources are difficult to access.
The availability of animals and birds still dictates our seasonal activities of hunting and fishing in order to ensure a well-balanced and nutritious diet. This annual cycle is evident in our land use and dietary patterns: from hunting seal, narwhal and walrus at the ice edge in spring, to fishing for arctic char in lakes and picking berries during the brief summer months, to hunting geese and particularly caribou in the fall when their hides are perfect for clothing and their bodies rich with nutritious fat, to hunting polar bear on the winter pack ice and seal at their breathing holes during the long winter. Our life follows this seasonal variation for we have learned from and lived with the rich bounty that the arctic provides.