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Top 10 Arctic Indigenous Peoples

The Arctic gives home to people for thousands of years. Today, the population is approximately four million, spread out more than one-sixth of the Earth’s landmass.

There are over 40 different indigenous ethnic groups and dozens of languages.

This diverse population is divided between the eight Arctic countries: Canada, United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Greenland (Denmark).

The connection to the land they have inhabited, the language, culture, and the traditional way of living is a common feature of these populations.

Reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, wild plant gathering, and traditional industries are a significant part of their lives. The northern peoples lead a nomadic, semi-nomadic, or settled lifestyle.

In the past years, the Arctic Indigenous Peoples have been facing some issues and dramatic changes. Industrialization, social change, and environmental problems such as climate change are the major difficulties to the polar region’s people.

In 1991 the Arctic Council was created to address the “common threats to the Arctic environment and the impact of pollution on the fragile Arctic ecosystems.”

A slow process of improvement shown in the last years, as the world is turning its attention to this region.

There is still a long way to go. However, with the people of the North continue expressing their opinions and get included in the discussions, there is a chance to find solutions and preserve their rich culture and homes.



Source: Wikipedia

The Sami people (or Lapps as known in English) are Arctic indigenous people living in the north of Europe, in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

The rights and general situation of these people are different in every country within which they live. They were suppressed in the past, but today the authorities make an effort to create cultural institutions, promote their culture and language.

The Sami people traditionally lived from coastal fishing, fur trapping, reindeer herding, and sheep herding.



Photograph taken by Steve Morgan

The Nenets are Arctic indigenous reindeer-herding people in northwest Siberia, on the Yamal Peninsula, which has been their home for more than a thousand years. They lead a nomadic lifestyle, moving seasonally with the reindeer along ancient routes.

Sadly these routes today are affected by the gas and oil industry.  The newly built roads are difficult for the reindeer to cross, and the reindeer pastures are shrinking. Reindeer means to them home, food, warmth, and transportation.

The survival of the people depends on the herd.



Photograph shared by Glenbow Museum

Inuit communities are found in Canada, Northern Alaska, and Greenland. Inuit lived in roundhouses made from blocks of snow during the winter months, called ‘igloos.’ They move between summer and winter camps depending on where were animals to hunt. Even though many families today live in permanent settlements, they leave these communities during the spring and summer to set up camps.

They continue to maintain their unique culture and thousands of years old tradition despite modern influences and conveniences.

Scroll down to read more about the Inuit of Greenland.



Photograph taken by Jimmy Nelson

The Chukchi people live on the Chukchi Peninsula in northeastern Siberia, Russia. Like other Arctic nations, they are also well adapted to the harsh environment, with winter temperatures dropping as low as -65° F (-54° C).

Traditionally they lived in tent-like houses called ‘yaranga,‘ and they have been herdsmen and hunters of reindeer. Those who lived along the coasts have hunted sea mammals.

The Sovietera caused major damage to the culture and environment of the Chukchi people.

Since the 1980s native-rights organisations have begun to expand Chukchi-language teaching and publishing.



Photograph found on

The Yukaghir are Arctic indigenous people, also known as reindeer people living in East Siberia. They lead a nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle, hunting for deer, breeding reindeer as well as fishing.

Their culture was based on ancient beliefs: ancestor worship and shamanism.

These days the Yukaghir language is spoken by just a few dozen older men; the people and their language are close to being obsolete.



Photograph taken by Bryan & Cherry Alexander

The Komi are Arctic indigenous peoples in northeastern Russia. The name “Komi” comes from the word “Kam,” meaning “large river,” referring to the fact that they live around the basins of the Vychegda, Pechora, and Kama rivers.

They are the native inhabitants of the Komi Republic, which was established in 1992. There are many lakes and rivers in the region. Therefore the waterways were the main routes of transportation and communication.



Photograph found on

The Yakuts are the indigenous people of the Republic of Sakha in Siberia, Russia. Yakut is the only language among the indigenous languages in Siberia that is not declining. Every Yakut speaks the native language; there are magazines, newspapers, books published in it, even TV and radio programmes.

The people’s main traditional occupations were, and in some rural areas still are, cattle and horse breeding. However, today’s people are involved in a wide range of occupations in government, finance, economics, forestry, and diamond mining.



Photograph taken by Bryan & Cherry Alexander

The Nganasans are indigenous people of Siberia. Living on the Taymyr Peninsula by the Arctic Ocean, they are the northernmost of the Samoyedic peoples.

There are signs of early Nganasans from around 500 AD. Traditionally they led a nomadic existence following the herds of wild reindeer on their seasonal migrations up and down the Taymyr Peninsula.

Today the population of the is only about 830 but most of the traditional life of the people has disappeared.

Inuit of North Greenland



Greenland is a large island, much of it is icecap, and nearly 90 percent of the island’s population is Inuit. The remote community of Qaanaaq is the most northerly indigenous group in the world.

On this latitude, the conditions are extreme. The sunsets every October and doesn’t appear again until the following February. During these four months, the polar light can be seen, and the following four months is the period of the Midnight Sun when the sun doesn’t set.

The main occupation of the Inuit people is fishing and sea mammal hunting. They also hunt for polar bears and walrus as the main food are sea mammals and fat such as seal, walrus, whale and sometimes polar bear.

Sadly, unemployment remains high in the area. Many young people look for jobs in the south of Greenland, but settling outside of their own community causes difficulties, and they often return to Qaanaaq.

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