Culture and climate change in the Arctic Ski boots worn by the Arctic Sami people of northern Norway. ( Don Hurlbert)
Culture and climate change in the Arctic
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It's hard to believe that people have been living in the Arctic for 40,000 years. How can people survive in such a harsh environment, and what would motivate them to stay?
 
Anthropologists who study Arctic cultures have discovered that it's quite a hospitable place for those who figure out how to get by. Hundreds of cultures have occupied the Arctic over time. These communities have adapted to life on the ice, inventing a variety of ways to get around and find the resources they need. Skis, dogsleds, reindeer, kayaks and snowmobiles have helped Arctic people connect with each other and the natural resources.
 
Natural resources that sustain Arctic life include huge concentrations of marine mammals such as bowhead whales and ringed seals and massive herds of land animals such as caribou. An Arctic mammal offers a full set of essential supplies, from clothing to food to cooking oils, plus bones to make tools or boat frames.
 
Both people and the wildlife they depend on are intimately connected to Arctic conditions. Small changes in temperature lead to large changes in sea ice, spurring migrations and adaptations of animals and people. For thousands of years, Arctic people have been adjusting to seasonal fluctuations and longer-term climate changes.
 
Find out more about how people in the Arctic adapt to changing conditions. Join us on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast on Culture and Climate Change in the Arctic, airing at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST on the Q?rius website. Archaeologist Dr. Bill Fitzhugh from the National Museum of Natural History will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Anthropologists who study Arctic cultures have discovered that it is quite a hospitable place for those who figure out how to get by. But that doesn't answer this question: What motivates them to stay?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (37)
  • mathewb-day
    10/30/2015 - 04:32 p.m.

    It's interesting that people choose to be so secluded and off the grid that they'd go to the arctic. With today's challenges it must be even harder. I wonder if it will become so difficult that no one will be able to do it.

  • erind-day
    10/30/2015 - 11:01 p.m.

    I think the people stay there as a promise and respect to their ancestors who have survived there. This specific climate and life style is also something these people are used to and all they know so they lack a sense of wanting to leave and find more. These natives also know how to use their resources very well so they dont think of themselves as struggling but succeeding unlike how most Americans would think. Everything about the arctic people revolve around their environment and I believe that they stay because they could never live normally in any other place and appreciate the pureness of their land.

  • jaredp-lam
    11/02/2015 - 09:42 a.m.

    Fairly impressive that 40,000 years ago people lived off the bare resources in the arctic.

  • haylieh-bow
    11/03/2015 - 03:11 p.m.

    The fact that they can learn more, and more each day by living in the environment, could possibly help the process, and give them a better understanding.

  • katier2-bow
    11/05/2015 - 07:45 a.m.

    I would say the curiosity and adventures that await them would urge them to stay.

  • mattv-fel
    11/11/2015 - 02:13 p.m.

    I think that the fact that they are living on the land that was once lived on by their ancestors motivates them to stay, carrying on the legacy of their ancestors.

  • travisb-fel
    11/11/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    People who live in the arctic are motivated to stay because it might be part of their culture.

  • elizabetht-fel
    11/11/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    I believe that the reason they decide to stay is that it is their culture and they've been living that way in said environment for 40,000 years.

  • ethanb-1-fel
    11/11/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    Probably the only reasons for all of these cultures to be still going on today because the arctic life is the only thing these people know.

  • garretta-fel
    11/11/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    The thing that motivates people to stay in the Arctic is that their ancestors have adapted to stay there and they want to carry on what their family has done.

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