Caribou (Tuttu)

Overview and Learning Activities

Using Internet and print resources (and, if available, local elders), students learn about the cultural and nutritional importance of the caribou (tuttu) in Iñupiaq life.

Enduring Understandings:

  • There are different regional herds of caribou in Alaska.
  • There are many parts of the caribou that are edible.
  • Caribou give us food, clothing, tools, weapons and utensils.
  • Caribou is a major source of food for many Alaska Natives.


  • Students will become aware that caribou is part of Iñupiaq lives.
  • Students will learn to be respectful of the caribou.
  • Students will become aware that the people use the entire animal.


Activities for Elementary Schools

Students explore the questions, “What is caribou, where are they, and why are they important to the Inupiaq people?” Using Internet and print resources, students will:


  • Learn the caribou parts.
  • Name some parts that the Inupiaq people eat.
  • Learn which parts are used for making clothes, tools, utensils and weapons.
  • Discover where Alaska’s caribou herds are located.
  • Know what groups of Alaska Natives eat the caribou.
  • Learn what caribou fat is used for.
  • Learn what sinew is, what people use it for, and which part of the caribou produces sinew. Click here for a Learning Center about the production of sinew.




Activities for Middle School

Students look at the ways caribou is used. First, they explore the nutritional value of caribou meat by researching Internet and print materials and comparing caribou to beef and other animals in terms of:


  • calories
  • proteins
  • fat
  • iron
  • vitamins


Second, they look at the use of caribou fur and hides:


  • How do we care for fur?
  • What kind of clothing is made from it?
  • How did Inupiat make tents long ago?




Activities for High School

Students learn more about caribou by conducting library research and, if available, interviewing elders and hunters to learn:

  • What does protein do for our body?
  • What do caribou eat?
  • What other caribou parts beside meat are nutritional and used as food by Alaska Natives? Click here for a Learning Center about puiñiq, or bone grease from the caribou.
  • What is the caribou life history?
  • How do the Iñupiaq people preserve the meat?
  • What predators and other dangers threaten the lives of the caribou?
  • How can sinew be made into thread? (Click here for a Learning Center about making thread from sinew.)





Students can make a favorite dish, akutuq (sometimes called “Eskimo ice cream”), using the following recipe:



  • Caribou fat
  • Caribou broth/puiñiq (fat from broth)
  • Salt
  • Caribou meat, ground into small and slightly bigger bits




  • Large bowl
  • Meat grinder
  • Skillet
  • Large pan


Melt the cut-up fat in skillet; the amount melted depends on how much akutuq you want.

Cool and let stand.

Using meat grinder, grind meat (the amount you use depends on your personal preference).

When fat is cool enough start stirring it in the large bowl with your hand. Add in broth as you go.

And pinches of salt to your taste and smaller bits of meat and before it thickens add the bigger bits of meat.

Place in a large pan and let it stand till it hardens.

Cut in pieces and store in tin foil. Enjoy!

Recipe from Molly Adams Tremble (2008).