The Arctic is one of the world's most sparsely populated areas. Its inhabitants, basically of Mongolic stock, are thought to be descendants of a people who migrated northward from central Asia after the ice age and subsequently spread W into Europe and E into North America. The chief groups are now the Sami (Lapps) of Europe; the Samoyedes (Nentsy) of W Russia; the Yakuts, Tungus, Yukaghirs, and Chukchis of E Russia; and the Eskimo of North America. There is a sizable Caucasian population in Siberia, and the people of Iceland are nearly all Caucasian. In Greenland, the Greenlanders, a mixture of Eskimos and northern Europeans, predominate.
Because of their common background and the general lack of contact with other peoples, indigenous arctic peoples have strikingly similar physical characteristics and cultures, especially in such things as clothing, tools, techniques, and social organization. The arctic peoples, once totally nomadic, are now largely sedentary or seminomadic. Hunting, fishing, reindeer herding, and indigenous arts and crafts are the chief activities. The arctic peoples are slowly being incorporated into the society of the country in which they are located. With the Arctic's increased economic and political role in world affairs, the regions have experienced an influx of personnel charged with building and maintaining such things as roads, mineral extraction sites, weather stations, and military installations.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.