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The Origin and Practices of the Inuit
Every part of the globe irrespective of diversity of ecosystem features bears a group of peoples known to have inhabited lands prior to encounters with early European explorers. Canada, the U.S, and the South American subcontinent were the original homes of the First Peoples (Whitridge, 2016). The Inuit group resided and continue to identify with the northern areas of Canada in very close proximity to the Artic as their ancestral home thus making it a very significant component of Canada’s pre-colonial history (see figure. 1). They resided in a place where other indigenous groups avoided due to harsh geographical settings. The Inuit are the last aboriginal people in Canada who emerged from Alaska and settled in the Arctic after being forced by the Native Indians from the South way before the Europeans learned about the New Lands. As the Canadian society has continued to thrive, it has emerged that colonial injustices as well as governance practices beginning the 1950’s have served to undermine this people group as a legitimate component of Canada’s peoples. It is imperative that the current administration acknowledges and actively seeks to redress previous social injustices and involve the Inuit leadership in political decision making towards safeguarding the country’s history for posterity. The discourse attempts to appreciate the historical significance of the Inuit relative to Canada’s multiethnic populace by investigating the social, political, lifestyle, cultural, and interactive practices of these marginalized people towards ensuring greater involvement in political decision making towards protecting the nation’s indigenous heritage.
Figure 1. Origin and continuity of Inuit (Map borrowed from William Fitzhugh’s work)
History of the Inuit
Canada borders the ice cold arctic to the North. According to Whitridge (2016), this particular people group inhabited the Bering Strait and extended to the East of Greenland. Other than having a presence in the Canadian Arctic, these aboriginal peoples also boast close relatives to a Russian people to the North also bearing the commonality in language and culture. The Native Americans referred them as Eskimos though they are presently termed as Inuit which simply means people.
Like many ancient peoples, the Inuit passed down historical data from one generation to the next via storytellers. However, archeological findings point their origins to the North West of Alaska where they subsisted on hunting caribou, walrus, seals, and whales (Whitridge, 2016). The ancestors mastered hunting huge marine seam creatures like whales ensuring that the people enjoyed a rich way of life stemming from abundance of food. They are believed to have moved to other region as small hunting expeditions moving to either a healthy whaling ground or a region in close proximity to seals, fish, and caribou. Though these groups have encountered significant influences from explorers, traders, whaling expeditions, scientists, as well as missionaries in increasing numbers over the past three hundred years, the Inuit conserved their traditional ways of life (Whitridge, 2016). For instance, much of the people group’s culture has remained ensuring a distinctive identity by keeping to original language, cultural laws, family, behaviors, attitude and distinctive artworks and artisanship.
Lifestyle, Social, Cultural, and Political Attributes
Since the British and French took Canada as a colonial enclave, the Inuit were treated as an isolated group. As Waddell and Robinson (2017) provide, these communities experienced profound change since the 1950’s as their traditional lifestyles which involved nomadic camping began suffering political interference from the Canadian government. Some were coerced into establishing sedentary communities while other groups were enticed through the use of government policies that championed for social welfare provisions. The conventional Inuit form of justice system was replaced with the Canadian judicial mechanism thus, undermining traditional ways of life. Other challenges on Inuit cultural belief systems resulting from a sedentary form of life included the induction of the wage based economy, and the introduction of residential schools. Persons suffering ailments like tuberculosis were also relocated to healthcare institutions to the south of communal areas of residence (Waddell & Robinson, 2017). These foreign interferences inadvertently led to diminished abilities for self-sufficiency and autonomy. It also translated to loss of traditional skills, proficiency in different indigenous dialects as well as a loss of a distinctive aborigine culture.
The degree of social justice accorded to the indigenous people inadvertently resulted in the desertion of ancestral habitations and hunting grounds. As Grimwood (2015) provides, the Inuit are a profoundly cooperative people regardless of previous as well as current social injustices. The Canadian Aborigine enjoy taking tourists for trips into what contemporary Canadians term as uninhabitable lands given that it accords the Inuit an opportunity to venture into the past and experience the undisturbed natural serenity that ancestors gladly considered home. As an eco-centric people, the Inuit’s social interactions are closely associated with surrounding lands as well as animals (Grimwood 2015). The sense of belonging within the family group and by extension, the community is highly regarded with elderly persons wielding power over the state of social bonds (Waddell & Robinson, 2017). They are accorded unrivaled respect, offer leadership and guidance relative to family connections, dispersion of cultural knowledge, togetherness, resilience, and traditional means of healing as well as spiritual aspects of Inuit life.
Contact of the Inuit in Canada
In present times, Inuit encampments encompass a greater degree of permanency relative to site experience and physical construction. They are able to withstand seasonal changes as well as support a family from one generation to the next. However, these people still place considerable emphasis on ancestral practices relative to community establishments. For instance, residential settings are still set up in close proximity to fishing or hunting grounds (Grimwood 2015). These are areas of primary cultural and social activity intersecting various human, ancestral, and non-human trails. Food sharing remains a commonplace occurrence among Inuit community members thus, creating nurturing environments for cultural oneness and robust social bonds among themselves and with visiting out-group persons like tourists.
Unfortunately, the relationship between the Canadian government and the aborigines’ remains constricted within settler-colonial tenets. This implies that the political inclusion of Inuit leaders into governance agendas propagated by the formal administrative structures is limited (Greaves, 2016). The outcome is these peoples bearing no power to challenge actions, policies, or political directions that have the capacity to undermine a collective future. This include such issues as environmental security relative to ancestral lands, social security through the provision of educational, healthcare, and housing as well as the cultural and economic standing of future generations.
The Inuit refer to a group of individuals living in the Canadian Arctic. The Inuit arrived in North America last among the native individuals; thus, the Indians forced them to settle in the Arctic. People did not want to settle in the Arctic, but the Inuit managed to adapt in the region. The arrival of the Europeans damaged the Inuit’s way of life greatly through mass death and social disruptions. However, those in the highlands remained largely undisturbed but recently there has developed a personality battle among the young generations.
Fitzhugh, W. (2014). Origins of Arctic peoples revealed through study of ancient DNA. National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved from http://nmnh.typepad.com/100years/2014/08/origins-of-arctic-peoples-revealed-through-study-of-ancient-dna.html.
Greaves, W. (2016). Arctic (in) security and indigenous peoples: Comparing Inuit in Canada and Sámi in Norway. Security Dialogue, 47(6), 461-480.
Grimwood, B. S. (2015). Advancing tourism’s moral morphology: Relational metaphors for just and sustainable arctic tourism. Tourist Studies, 15(1), 3-26.
Waddell, C. M., Robinson, R., & Crawford, A. (2017). Decolonizing approaches to Inuit community wellness: Conversations with elders in a Nunavut community. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 36(1), 1-13.
Whitridge, P. (2016). Classic Thule [classic Precontact Inuit]. In T. M. Friesen & O. K. Mason (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Prehistoric Arctic (pp. 827-849). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Figure 1. Origin and continuity of Inuit (Map borrowed from William Fitzhugh’s work)