Only a few thousands people live in the tundra regions. The Inuit live in northern Canada, Greenland and Alaska. The Lapps (or Sami) herd reindeer in northern Scandinavia in an area nicknamed Lapland.

Saami Family 1900

Traditionally, the Inuit were hunters and fishermen: in winter they fished for seals below the ice and in summer they hunted for caribou on the land. They travelled by sledge and built temporary ice shelters called igloos.


To help them survive in the cold, stormy weather, they had to wear thick, warm clothes like coats and salopettes (trousers) which are waterproof and have fur inside to insulate them.

Their boots had special tennis racket-like soles so their body weight was spread out and they didn't sink in the soft snow.

Despite it being freezing, the sun is always shining so the Inuits had to wear tinted goggles and a mask to stop them going snow blind.

Greenland kayak seal hunter 2006

Today, many Inuit dress in modern clothes. Some have motor-powered snowmobiles and live in homes made of modern materials. Some homes have: electricity, double-glazed windows and telephones. Heated houses have to be built on stilts so that the permafrost does not thaw. If it did, the ground would give way. Water pipes are insulated and run above ground to stop them freezing.

Modern foods and other goods are flown into the towns to be sold in supermarkets so living costs are now high. Imported food has created health problems for the Inuit as it is rich in carbohydrates and sugar not found in their traditional diet.