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View Diary: Yesterday Idle No More's mass protest rocked Canada from coast to coast (78 comments)

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  •  Richard Harrington (0+ / 0-)

    Are you familiar with the Toronto Star photographs by Richard Harrington of the starvation and death that took place on the shores of Hudson's Bay in the 1950s? While Canada was relocating Inuit next to Greenland to press its sovereignty issues in midst of the Cold War. How much has changed in 60 years?

    Approximately 70% of the people in Nunavut still have food security issues, and I assume i don't need to provide you with statistics on the suicide epidemic in northern Canada. Nor should I need to mention the impact of residential schools, the TB epidemic that forced the hunters off their lands and into institutions throughout Canada.

    But let us speak of your comment: "As one of my bosses was fond of saying, if you don't have a modern claim you have no interest in allowing anything to happen in your area because you really don't have a say over it. Once you have a modern claim, the attitude changes from "No! We don't want anything to happen!" to "Let's make a deal, with these conditions."

    Not everything is about resource claims, modern or treaty, but sometimes about life and staying alive, and preserving a way of life that survived millennia. You appear to have had the privilege of living among the Inuit, but it appears from your comments you are most concerned about developing the resources in Northern Canada.

    •  Yeah, okay, a few things (0+ / 0-)

      Number one, that "way of life that has survived thousands of years"? You might want to inquire as to how people actually live up here as opposed to some romantic version of Nanook of the North.

      Walk into any community in the territory and you'll see going to work like anyone anywhere else in Canada, living in houses like anywhere else in Canada, watching hockey and movies, playing video games, using the internet. In the entire territory the number of people living the way people have "done for millennia" (by which I assume you mean "living a lot like someone did a century ago") can be on one hand. By someone who has lost all their fingers. Hunting and going on the land is something you do on the weekend, or on vacation, because you can't afford the snowmobile and the sled with the plastic or metal runners, or the ATV for the summer, or the rifle and ammunition, or the stove and its fuel, or the tent, without having some form of income.

      Anyone who hunts the 'traditional' way, such as one of my co-workers who hunts seal by standing over a seal hole with a harpoon only hunts that way because they don't have to. It's a hobby. Anyone who needs to hunt does so with a firearm, and there's actually very few of them. There used to be more people who could live of hunting, but someone, no doubt well-meaning people, destroyed that way of life when they sought the banning of seal skin, and cutting down on furs, and protest people making a living guiding hunters. And since people up here don't live on reservations, and aren't covered by the Indian Act, they pay the same taxes other Canadians do, which means they need to work, which given the reality of the territory gives very few options.

      Second, the very idea of "preserving a way of life of life that has survived millennia"? No. Modern Canadian Inuit are descendants of the Thule People, who started spreading out from Alaska around the year 1000 and replaced (quite likely violently) the Dorset, the last tiny remnant group (the Sadlermiut) dying out in 1902-03.

      (Yes, this means that the Norse were actually in Greenland before Inuit).

      The Thule coming east were primarily whale hunters, and adopted seal hunting techniques from the Dorset, just like they adopted firearms as soon as they became available, and snowmobiles as soon as they became available, and radio as soon as it became available...

      (There's one traditional Inuit drum dance called "Muzzle Loader" and the dance imitates the motions of loading and firing a black-powder musket.)

      The traditional Inuit way of life can be summed up with three words: "Adaptation and Change". And that means you don't "preserve" a way of life just because it's traditional, you preserve it because it works, and if it doesn't work any more you develop something that does.

      •  Some links to help you understand the timelines (0+ / 0-)

        You might want to inquire about why Inuit life was changed so dramatically in two generations. You mentioned Nanook of the North, and your view that my opinion of the Inuit is some sort of romantic version of that 1922 film made by Robert Flaherty. So a few points about Flaherty and his family.

        As I wrote in my original answer to you, in the 1950s Canada was forcibly relocating Inuit from northern Quebec, where Flaherty filmed Nanook, 2000 km north into a vastly different ecosystem to demonstrate in the midst of the Cold War that Canadians were already living in disputed territories, particularly to Grise Fiord on the southern tip of Ellesmere Island and to Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, both near  Greenland.

        The relocatees included Inuit who had been involved in the filming of Nanook. Two of the Inuit thus deported were Flaherty's son Josephie (his mother was the female star of the globally acclaimed film) and his 5-year-old granddaughter Martha Flaherty who I believe is still alive. This point to rebut your timeline comment that all this destruction of traditional skills and knowledge happened well over a century ago.

        Their relocated life was not some romantic version of Nanook, but the brilliance of that traditional culture you seem to disparage is demonstrated by the fact that in their high Arctic conditions the Inuit observed the local beluga whale migration routes and were able to survive in this entirely new area, hunting over a range of 18,000 km2 each year. This was less than 60 years ago. Since you brought Flaherty into the discussion, I suggest you read The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic.

        Yes, you are correct the Thule displaced the Dorset - from whom they also learnt more localized hunting techniques as you mention. Both Thule and Dorset do represent cultures with millennia of tradition. You are also quite correct the Thule did not arrive in Greenland until after the Norse, although the Dorset were quite active there in the centuries prior so you seem to suggest that since it wasn't the Thule the reality that Greenland already had non-European residents is not relevant.

        In fact, after the Mongolian invasion of China, Thule sources of iron in Asia dried up and they rapidly moved east towards the Norse sources of iron, including to Greenland. You can learn more at this excellent documentary from the Nature of Things. For millennia, there was a vast trading network around the Arctic, including the walrus tusks providing the ivory for the carvings in mediaeval churches.

        You did not address my issues of 50-70% food insecurity among the Inuit, nor the suicide rate among Inuit youth last decade that was 30% higher than for other Canadians in the same age group. What did you write:

        The traditional Inuit way of life can be summed up with three words: "Adaptation and Change". And that means you don't "preserve" a way of life just because it's traditional, you preserve it because it works, and if it doesn't work any more you develop something that does.
        Your "adaptation and change" route sure "works" for Inuit youth with their suicide rate, doesn't it. Contrary to your strange timelines, they still have grandparents - living or dead - who were relocated, or shipped to TB institutions or residential schools in living memory. And they also have grandparents who took joy in their traditional life guided by millennia of successful adaption to that environment only two generations ago.

        The fur trade - a bit like the tulip market, the DEW line, the resources companies had a hell of a lot more to do with the destruction of Inuit survival than your repeated blaming of environmental groups.

        On a final note and further reading recommendation, you need to educate yourself on the culture among which you live, and the story of Sedna.

        In the entire territory the number of people living the way people have "done for millennia" (by which I assume you mean "living a lot like someone did a century ago") can be on one hand. By someone who has lost all their fingers.
        I assume you are entirely unaware of the most prevalent story among the Inuit and many other Arctic peoples on the source of their food from the sea, or you would never have made such an insulting comment. It relates to losing all fingers.

        There are various versions of the Sedna myth that you can find online. But all relate to Sedna who was thrown out of a boat after her father rescued her from her deceitful husband. Her husband set out to overturn the boat, and her father was forced to cut off all her fingers as she clung to the vessel. One by one they dropped and became the fish, seals, walruses, and whale that nourish the Inuit.

        Killing off an entire culture, and then using that culture's most prevalent and enduring story of survival and hope to mock its death, with your ill-fated reference to losing all fingers, finally leaves me at a loss for words.  

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