The End of My Research – But the Inuit Live On

Before I started this blog assignment, I knew close to nothing about the Inuit. I knew they ate lots of meat, they lived in the coldest regions of North America and on some other lands, and I called them Eskimos. Aside from that, I didn’t know anything about their culture.

When I was asked to discover two articles related to the Inuit, one of the articles I had come across was written by who I presume to be the executive editors of the newspaper. The article covered many different regions, as it was titled as an update on Canadian societal controversies, but there was a large section writing about how the Inuit were in a tough battle between the government of Quebec about the repossession of Native land for modern construction of dams, roads, etc. This surprised me because whenever I had thought of the regions where the Inuit would inhabit, I pictures large oceans, frozen lakes, hardly passable terrain – basically nothing that would be potentially modernized/utilized by a government. That was my single story, but then here I was being presented an example that resonated strongly with United States natives, a strong and current example being the Dakota Pipeline controversy. I don’t know why I was not conscious of the correlation, but it became obvious after reading.

From what I can conclude from my research, the effect of tourism has been relatively harmless. Multiple articles I read spoke about the majority of Inuit people abandoning the culture’s heritage due to the recognition that modernization made life easier, and prospected a better life for many people. But after the arrival of tourists who wanted to know more about the Inuit culture while demonstrating critical cultural relativism, many of the Inuit people embarked on a rediscovery of their own culture, which is now celebrated through festivals and demonstrations for curious tourists. There were some obvious ethnocentric ideologies, but almost entirely based on their traditional diet of seal, and on the government sanctioned allowance for Inuit to hunt polar bears.

The research I conducted was as ethnographic as it possibly could be without actually being immersed in the Inuit culture. This research has deepened my knowledge on others but showing me that you cannot make either conclusions, or even determinations about a group of people without some degree of research on the group themselves. Before researching the Inuit, as I described, I had absolutely no idea about the substance of the culture. Having researched them now, I realize how important the evolution of ethnography really was, protecting the groups of people who cannot speak for themselves from inaccuracy and biased opinions of others.

Conclusively, without the digital research available to us for this project, there is no possible way this could have ever been completed. That isn’t to sat technology is flawless, but more that it is a double-edged sword; in order to reap the benefits, you must be aware of the negatives and possibility of inaccuracy or untrue information.

Inuit in Action: A Brief Look

inuit_fishing_for_sheefish_at_selawik_nwr
A group of Inuit ice fishing at Selawik. Traditionally, Inuit eat almost only meat in their diets.
inuit_dance_near_nome_1900
A group of Inuit performing traditional dance near Nome.
u-s-_secretary_of_state_john_kerry_canadian_foreign_minister_robert_nicholson_with_aboriginal_northerners_at_a_replica_inuit_village_in_aglukkaqs_hometown_of_inaquit_canada
John Kerry (Secretary of State) and Robert Nicholson (Canadian Foreign Minster), pose with an aboriginal family.

Works Cited:

U. (2015, April 24). [U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Canadian Member of Parliament Leona Aglukkaq of Canada and Canadian Foreign Minister Robert Nicholson, poses with aboriginal northerners at a replica Inuit village in Aglukkaq’s hometown of Inaquit, Canada, just below the Arctic Circle, after the United States assumed a two-year chairmanship of the body during a meeting of its eight member nations and seven Permanent Representatives on April 24, 2015.]. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Secretary_of_State_John_Kerry,_Canadian_Foreign_Minister_Robert_Nicholson_with_aboriginal_northerners_at_a_replica_Inuit_village_in_Aglukkaq’s_hometown_of_Inaquit,_Canada.jpg

Inuit dance near Nome 1900 [“(…) An Eskimo dance near Nome. It was made in 1900.”]. (1900). Retrieved February 28, 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_dance_near_Nome_1900.jpg

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Inuit fishing for sheefish at Selawik NWR [ Inupiat fishing for sheefish at Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska]. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_fishing_for_sheefish_at_Selawik_NWR.jpg

The Inuit; In the Flesh

This first video is a recap of the photographer Matthieu Paley as he lives among the Inuit in South Greenland for a period of time. He describes their lifestyle and primarily their eating habits during the video. The video was uploaded May 26, 2015, so it is fairly recent. The uploader of the video is National Geographic (verified) , so obviously the level of intent and quality is more than adequate. The purpose of the video is to bring a more than isolated and quite group of people to the spotlight, using the subjects of food and photography. The video has a Standard YouTube License.

We Are What We Eat: Greenland | Nat Geo Live [Video file]. (2015, May 26). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohskrSuq8Mo&t=2s

The second video is a multi-perspective “trailer” of what Gjoa Haven, Canada is like in terms of Inuit culture and influence. The video was uploaded Jan 29, 2010 so it is a little less recent, but likely still applicable. The uploader of this video is CANADA Explore, and although I have not heard of this channel before, the video contains interview material from the likes of Shoshanah Jacobs, a professor at the University of Guelph, and Jason Annahatak, the director of Post-Secondary student services on the Kativik School Board so it is at the very least collaborated in part by qualified individuals. The purpose of the video was to demonstrate the ways in which Inuit culture has been almost rediscovered with the surge in tourism. The video has a Standard YouTube License.

Inuit Culture in Gjoa Haven – Nunavut, Canada [Video file]. (2010, January 29). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWM3qDi1JVI

So, What Do The Columnists Think of the Inuit?

The first article, written by Smith and Valene, addresses how Greenland and the Inuit people had very little contact and encounters with other cultures, such as the Vikings, and even its discovery in the 17th century by European whalers and missionaries invoked little change. It wasn’t until Danish occupation post-WWII that brought a large cultural shift, that now isolates traditional Inuit customs and lifestyles to remote regions. Because of the modern increase in tourism, there has been  a stronger push for other members of the Inuit culture to rediscover tradition for the sake of a profitable business.

The second article, written by seemingly admin of the website, writes about the the hostile environment between the Cree and Inuit people, and the government of Quebec. The Cree and Inuit are the First Nations of Quebec, and are fighting against the proposition to destroy and redirect multiple natural rivers, and build hundreds of roads and airstrips to support the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Smith, and author of the first article has co-authored a number of articles all related to anthropology and indigenous people. The only bit of information lacking is a clear way to access the authors information and background, so aside from this article also being written in the same genre, there is no way to tell how credible the article truly is. There are no mentions of institutional affiliation, aside from Cultural Survival. Valene, the second author also has no information accessible and has only co-authored one other article on the website, also written with Smith. The article was published in 1982, and is obviously outdated.

The second article was interestingly authored by what seems to be the executives of the newspaper itself. There is no listed author, and the information is titled as an update. The credibility is really determined by the amount of credit given to the publication by other scholars, editors, executives, etc. The article was published in 1991, and is also outdated at this point.

To culminate, both articles, although lacking readily available access to credibility, are written with enough unbiased information, that one can presume the information to be credible, at least in it’s era of publication. Both articles are written in starkly objective format, and not emotionally charged or exclusive. The point of these articles is clearly to provide information and insight into a remote and perhaps underrepresented area of the world.

Works Cited

Smith, Valene L. (1982, September). Tourism to Greenland: Renewed Ethnicity? Cultural Survival. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/tourism-greenland-renewed-ethnicity

(1991, March). Update From CS Canada – 15.1. Cultural Survival. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/update-cs-canada-151