(In[n]uit). Ca. 45,000 native inhabitants of N coast of N. Am. and neighboring islands, esp. Greenland.* Usually live close to seashore; language is polysynthetic (word elements combine into single words equivalent to a sentence); soc. structure communistic anarchistic (raw material and some manufactured items common property; govt. structure usually absent; soc. action controlled by pub. opinion); cheerful, lighthearted people. According to native religion, all things, animate and inanimate, have a spirit. Men and animals have souls that continue after this life. A sky god and sea goddess are most important deities. There is also a cult of game animals.
H. Egede* began Christian missions among Eskimos of Greenland 1721. His son Paul completed tr. of the NT into Innuit. The Moravian Ch. began work in Greenland 1733 (this miss. given to Dan. Luths. 1899), Labrador 1764. Oblates of Mary Immaculate have worked among Eskimos near Hudson Bay since ca. 1860. The CMS worked till 1920 on the continent. The E Orthodox Ch. pioneered among Eskimos in Alaska.* The Am. branch of the Moravian Ch. began in Alaska 1885, the Am. branch of the Swed. Miss. Soc. 1897. Jesuits have worked among Eskimos since 1786.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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