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Eskimo Land

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The far north counterpart to Injun Country, and part of the Hollywood Atlas. Expect any Inuit villages to be a mishmash of outdated stereotypes. Polar Bears and Penguins are the only wildlife features in the otherwise blank white landscape. The plant life is non-existent, the snow never ever thaws. The only people around are Inuit who never, ever take off their parkas, and they spend each and every day dog sledding, ice fishing, and seal hunting. They eat nothing but blubber, their ice igloos are their permanent residences (rather than their actual use as temporary shelter), and they know nothing about the modern world. And, of course, they send their old people off to die on ice floes, either from exposure, starvation, or simply as polar bear food.

A note on terminology: Many people nowadays consider the word "Eskimo" derogatory (it doesn't help that the term is sometimes thought to derive from expressions meaning "eaters of raw meat" in other Indigenous languages, though less pejorative etymologies have also been proposed). The most common alternative, especially in Canada and Greenland, is "Inuit" (meaning "the people" in the Inuit language Inuktitut). Note that "Inuit" is plural when used as a noun, while the singular form "Inuk" refers to an individual of Inuit origin. Complicating matters further, the Inuit aren't the only ethnicity that's historically been lumped as "Eskimo", so the proper terminology varies depending on where you go:

  • Greenland's only Indigenous inhabitants are Inuit, so that name is a safe bet there.
  • Canada has a much more diverse array of Indigenous groups than Greenland, divided into three categories: Inuit, First Nations (formerly called "Indians"), and Métis (a distinct ethnic group that arose from mixed European and Indigenous lineages). You shouldn't mix these groups up with each other, but the Inuit are the only Canadians who used to be called "Eskimos".
  • In Alaska, the Inuit (specifically the Iñupiat subgroup) are one of multiple Alaska Native cultures, who are officially categorized separately from the "American Indians" of the lower 48. Other Alaska Natives like the Yupik and Aleut peoples often resent being misclassified as "Inuit", and some (especially older individuals) prefer "Eskimo-Aleut" as a catch-all, but "Alaska Native" is a less thorny term that works just as well to encompass all these groups along with others in Alaska. When possible, referring to the specific Native community is the safest option.
  • Russia has its own Yupik inhabitants, along with the related Chaplino, Naukan and Sirenik peoples, located in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as well as Aleuts in Kamchatka Krai.

Note that while the Arctic regions of Northern Europe and European Russia don't have any Inuit, Yupik, Aleut, or related peoples, they do have an equivalent in the Sámi (older name: Lapp) people of Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula, who, while not being a related ethnolinguistic group (they are ethnically European and speak a language that is related to Finnish), are very similar in their culture and their perception and treatment by the rest of the Europeans that make up their countries, and are included with them as Arctic peoples.

Asian Russia, on the other hand, has a much more diverse plethora of indigenous Arctic peoples than the Americas, some (including the Yupik and Aleut peoples mentioned above) related to the Inuit, some not. This makes sense when you consider that all indigenous peoples of the Americas, from the Inuit in the far north to the Selk'nam of the Tierra del Fuego, are all descended from North Asians (they migrated there when the continents were connected during the Late Pleistocene). In addition to Yupik and Aleut peoples, the Russian Far East has the related Chukchi, Koryaks and Itelmen, the Evens and the Nanai (both being nomadic cousins of the Manchu of Northeast China), the Yukaghirs, the Nivkh, and even a brand of Turks (the Yakuts). Many Russians also lump non-Far Eastern peoples, such as the Siberian Nenets and the aforementioned Sami, under the generic label of "Arctic peoples" as well, since, numerically, they are completely dwarfed by ethnic Russians even when taken together (yes, Russia did have its own version of Manifest Destiny).

As another side note, this stereotype has even less basis in reality than most—they have a cultural tendency towards Hot Bloodedness (and, in common with other First Nations/Native peoples, an unfortunate propensity to alcoholism), have had a very bloody history with intertribal warfare, and will quite cheerfully use modern technology to make their lives a bit easier. Snowmachines are very popular, and rifle hunting is a favorite pastime. And Elders (at least in Canada), especially those who actually grew up in a more traditional lifestyle, generally tend to think that anyone pining for the "Good Old Days" before modern conveniences, technology, and medicine is utterly insane.


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    Comic Strips 
  • This trope is a staple of many classic comic strips of the 1900s until the 1970s.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The first major documentary film, Nanook of the North, helped perpetuate a lot of these stereotypes, as exact realism was not a major concern for documentarians in those days. For instance, Flaherty asked the local Inuit to hunt down a walrus with harpoons instead of the guns that they ordinarliy used.
  • Rob Reiner's North abuses this trope horribly, giving the film's title two meanings.
  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is different considering it's a feature film made by an Inuit director and cast.
  • Sannikov Land is set on an island in the far north populated by a tribe called the Onkilon.
  • Big Miracle is better than most considering it's based on a true story and depicts the Inupiat community realistically having to deal with the political implications of the whale rescue.
  • Eskimo was the first film in the US to have been scripted in a Native Alaskan language. While it deals with Noble Savage stereotypes, it was interesting in certain details: the lead actor was actually a half-Russian Jewish, half-Alaska Native, and some of the hunting scenes are not faked at all, they are real.
  • In The Last Airbender, the Southern Water Tribe is portrayed as an Inuit village quite accurately, the shops, clothing, and even utensils look authentic, and even the extras (which have no dialogue) are really Inuit, but the protagonists are white.

  • In H. P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu", there's a branch of the Cthulhu cult in a small native tribe in Greenland. Notably, Lovecraft, true to form, uses the archaic spelling "Esquimeaux".
  • The Incomparable Atuk, a novel about a Fish out of Water Eskimo transplanted to Toronto whose movie script adaptation is reputed to be cursed.
  • This trope is utterly subverted in Lands of Ice and Mice. The Thule (an Inuit culture that developed agriculture) are generally quite aggressive. And while they do build igloos, they are used almost exclusively for food storage.
  • Mark Twain wrote "The Esquimaux Maiden's Romance", a comedic short tale that hits all the usual points of this trope, with the eponymous lass's father being the richest man in their village because he owns several iron fish hooks.
  • The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: The Ice Clans of the Far North are based on real-life Inuits. The Chukchi people's traditional ways also gave the author ideas for the Narwal Clan's lifestyle.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Frank Zappa's "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" and "Nanook Rubs It" (and by extension, "St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast" and "Father O'Blivion") from Apostrophe (') tell the story of the singer having a dream about being an Eskimo boy named Nanook who's protecting his favorite baby seal from a fur trapper.
  • Zigzagged with the album Eskimo by The Residents, which is a Concept Album about Inuit culture set on the North Pole. The whole album focuses on a group of Inuits. Although it's all made up and not well researched at all...
  • "Quinn the Eskimo" ("The Mighty Quinn") from Self Portrait by Bob Dylan, which was Covered Up in the UK by Manfred Mann. Zig-zags... or maybe subverts, or... Well, it does something unconventional with the trope by making the titular Inuk some kind of messianic figure.
  • The 1928 hit song "I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ice Cream," written by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert A.K. King, describes a fictional college in 'Eskimo-land' called "Oogie-wawa," where football games involve "gore and flying fur" and where the school cheer involves shouting nonsense words and demanding frozen treats. That was probably pushing the boundaries of good taste even for the 1920s.
  • "I'm the only gay Eskimo" by Corky and the Juice Pigs.
  • The Chukchi ensemble Ergyron performs both traditional Chukchi dances and modern songs about Chukchi life, and hopes to subvert some of the stereotypes people may have about the natives of the Far North.
  • The "Ben Colder" (Sheb Wooley) song "Don't Go Near the Eskimos" is absolutely chock-full of stereotypes about Eskimos and Eskimo Land.
  • The final verse of the Christmas carol Winter Wonderland evokes this: "When it snows, ain't it thrilling / Though your nose gets a chilling / We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way / Walking in a winter wonderland."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side made a lot of gags based on this trope, such as "Eskimo Rescue Units" (in which Inuit use flamethrowers to rescue people trapped under collapsed igloos) and "Hibernating Eskimos" (which has an Inuit tribe hibernating underground in a desert).

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Ice Climber is definitely set here, with yetis added in. There are no penguins though, keeping the theme strictly "North Pole."
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Zunari is a shopkeeper who is from "a very cold place" who looks the stereotype to a T. He wears his parka 24/7 even on the rather temperate island he lives on in the present. In its direct sequel Phantom Hourglass we find his apparent hometown and the people he was raised among. The Anouki (Humanoid penguins with reindeer antlers) are ice igloo-dwelling denizens of Slippy-Slidey Ice World and all wear nothing but blue parkas (okay, there are two with yellow ones as part of a sidequest.)
  • Never Alone is a puzzle-platformer about a Iñupiaq girl who, with the help of an arctic fox companion, goes on a quest to stop a seemingly-endless blizzard threatening her village. The developers made efforts to avoid as many Eskimo Land stereotypes as possible; Never Alone was developed with plenty of consultation from actual members of the I&ntidle;upiat tribe, and even features "Cultural Insight" videos unlocked by in-game collectibles.
  • Holoska from Sonic Unleashed, the northern polar ice cap of Sonic's world and its own country.
  • Spyro: A Hero's Tail has Icy Wilderness/Frostbite Village, which is inhabited by hostile native Eskimoles.
  • The Tuskarr from World of Warcraft are a neutral race of walrus people introduced in Wrath Of The Lich King. They're based on a mishmash of northern cultures and, oddly enough, a little bit of Polynesian influence for good measure.

  • Riff and Torg from Sluggy Freelance seem to believe the entire state of Alaska is like this when Riff moves there.
    Torg: Snowshoes?
    Riff: Check.
    Torg: Parka?
    Riff: Check.
    Torg: Dogsled operational manual?
    Riff: Check.
    Torg: Polar bear repellant? Igloo-building kit? Penguin-bait, with included penguin cook-book?
    Riff: Check, check, and checkity-check.
    Torg: Send me back some walrus blubber?
    Riff: Just as soon as I get settled.
  • Possibly lampshaded in Friendly Hostility when Fox visits Fatima in Alaska.

    Western Animation 
  • Cartoon Network's What a Cartoon! featured an episode called "Pizza Boy," where the title character has to deliver a pizza in "five minutes" to Eskimos at the North Pole, who ordered pizza because they were sick of whale blubber.
    • The joke was based on a true story. In the early 1990s a McDonald's franchise was opened in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the first one in northern Canada. Within a few months it became trendy for Inuit living in the far north to have McDonald's ship pizza and burger orders up via air cargo on the weekly transport. Even after the national office discontinued the McPizza, the Yellowknife franchise still carried them because the demand was so high. In 2000 the franchise earned more profit per square foot than any other franchise in Canada, and 20% of their income was from pizza.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, with their shared Far East fantasy setting, have the Southern and Northern Water Tribes, Fantasy Counterpart Cultures that draw primarily from Inuit culture with a smattering of other influences. Its presentation combines stereotypical elements (Polar Bears and Penguins via Mix-and-Match Critters yields Polar-Bear Dogs and four-winged Penguin Otters, as well as Tiger-Seals, Koala Seals and Sea Ravens) with more accurate and original details in costume and setting design (they live in tents, have outfits other than parkas, unique and varied beaded hairstyles, and so on).
    • Additionally, they're much more urbanized and technologically developed than most examples of this trope, particularly by the time Korra takes place, where they not only have at least two major cities, but also snowmobiles, jet skis, and even battleships. The Southern Water Tribe even has one of the world's biggest companies (one that invented film, at that).
  • Nanook's Great Hunt, a fairly obscure animated series about an Inuit boy on a quest to save his father, who has been captured by a malevolent Polar Bear god. Set in the late 19th century or thereabouts, many episodes revolved around the culture clash between the traditional Inuit ways & the encroaching modern world.
  • Averted in the Greenland episode of Kika And Bob (which is kinda surprising, considering that this animated series often embraces ethnic stereotypes): The Inuits of Greenland live in houses and resent being called "eskimos".
  • An episode of Hey Arnold! ends with Helga's sister Olga going to Alaska "to teach desperate and underprivileged Inuit children". While they did at least update the terminology, the school building is a lone igloo without electricity in the middle of a frozen wasteland.
  • In the Looney Tunes short Polar Pals, Porky Pig lives in an igloo, uses polar bears as blankets, and defends the local wildlife from a fur trapper named I. Killem.
  • Yvon of the Yukon: The show is set in the small town of Upyermukluk, set in the far north. It has a large Inuit population, but unlike many examples of this trope, the town is not made of igloos, but is a permanent settlement with proper wooden buildings. The locals, while quirky, are also not particularly stereotypical of Natives, and there are many non-native characters.

  • This is the usual setting for Russian "Chukchi" joke stories about natives of Chukotka, who are basically the same people as Eskimos, except they live on the Siberian side of the Bering Strait.