People inhabiting the Arctic coasts of North America, the E islands of the Canadian Arctic, and the ice-free coasts of Greenland. The total number of Inuit (1993 est) is 125,000. There are 3 languages, all of the same family: Yupik, spoken in Siberia and SW Alaska; Aleut, spoken in SW Alaska; and Inuktitut spoken from N Alaska to Greenland. The traditional way of life was as seminomadic hunters of marine animals. The Inuit object to the name Eskimos (“eaters of raw meat”) given them by the Algonquin Indians.
In 1989 the Canadian government agreed to transfer to the 17,000 Inuit of the E Arctic an area in Northwest Territories about half the size of France (see Nunavut), including rights to hunt and fish; their right to levy royalties from the exploitation of mineral resources was restricted to a limited area. A cash payment was also agreed in compensation for the Inuit's renunciation of other areas where they formerly lived. Creation of the homeland was approved in a regional plebiscite 1992. A final land claims agreement, signed May 1993 on Baffin Island (proposed capital of Nunavut), gave the Inuit outright ownership of 353,610 sq km/136,493 sq mi of the land, and mineral rights to 36,257 sq km/13,995 sq mi.
An Inuit Circumpolar Conference was formed 1977 to promote Inuit interests throughout the Arctic. It was granted nongovernmental-organization status at the United Nations 1983.