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Who killed the Arctic Inuit people ?

vendredi 12 janvier 2024, par Robert Paris

Who killed the Arctic Inuit people ?

Read here :

It is not the cold, it is not the harshness of existence, it is not an internal limit of their own communist system of life. No, it is the capitalist world that killed and continues to kill the Inuit world !!!!

“In 2004, it was discovered that the World Health Organization had for years administered sterilizing substances along with flu and polio vaccines to indigenous women in the Philippines and many African countries. Similarly, more than 40,000 Inuit men and women were rendered infertile by the US Health Department between 1986 and 1993 after being administered a serum called Heptavax, a banned sterilization drug. in most countries of the world.

Kevin Annett

WHO’s past ethnocides

While everyone is talking about Arctic warming as the main threat, no one is talking anymore about the new control over the Arctic by imperialism, Russian, American and others, and that of capitalist, oil, gold and other trusts. !

What was Inuit society ?

Jean Malaurie recounts in “The Last Kings of Thule” :

“In this community, sharing is the rule ; it is the very basis of these collectivist societies. There is never any question of eating “in Switzerland” the slightest piece of seal fat. Any surplus must be shared, individual accumulation being decidedly against the “law”. Greenland is one of the few countries in the world where there is still no prison. If the mad are feared – it was once customary to get rid of them by letting them die of cold in snow igloos – the infirm and the old are now taken care of by the tribe… Traditional is their generous hospitality : the host welcomes you with an outstretched hand on the doorstep : “Nouanîngouyou ! how happy your visit is to us ! » Once inside, we put in front of me, now integrated into the group, what we have – and everything the neighbors have – in terms of sleeping material, blankets, meat… One might think that this is a form of the “customary generosity of the poor towards the rich”, if I were and if they did not show so much sincere joy in acting even among themselves. But what most justifies the proud appellation of Inouk, "the man par excellence", which they gave themselves, is their extraordinary taste for adventure... The Eskimo does not feel good and does not has the feeling of being accomplished only in a wild polar night..., the snow, the darkness, the dogs howling like wolves, the tent tearing, the ice floe breaking up, the expedition in danger... During the winter evenings, while the wind blows and drags around the igloo, the old people talk about these kinds of stories, the young people their hunting adventures... See this man ! at the moment, he seemed prostrate ; here he is who soon reveals himself to be a mischievous storyteller, then, imperceptibly, an inspired narrator, a seer who brings out before our fascinated eyes heroes and victims of a terrible mythology... The exemplary life of these three hundred hunters, without driftwood, without metals, and for which a needle, a nail, a board represented a treasure, will perhaps bear witness to obscure centuries which are at the very sources of thought. Who knows ? It can shed a revolutionary light on our understanding of the evolution of early societies. How – and with what rules – did man move from the state of the Lower Paleolithic hunter to that of Neanderthal, mammoth and rhino hunter, then to that of walrus and whale hunter ? How did very small, amorphous groups transition to a state of communist society ? But there is more : there are reading problems. It is said that a man today could not understand his fellow man from the Ice Age. However, the Arctic is Lascaux alive and it is not true that it is impossible to attempt this understanding... A community literally forced to wisdom by the harshness of the material conditions to which it is subjected, traditions which remain alive because they express immemorial organizational imperatives on which survival depends, a sociography infinitely more articulated and hierarchical than it appears at first, because it matters, under direct threat and permanent environment, that the function of each person is rigorously determined, these are the main features… This group life is also based on strict rules of social organization. First principle : communism ; the soil, hunting grounds, the sea, large means of production (boat), igloos belong to the group. Only individual hunting instruments are private property... The parental association constitutes the basic economic and demographic unit, the only one capable of occupying all levels... Collective hunts - narwhal hunts, walrus hunts - implied and imply agreement of these groups and called for everyone, consequently, to respect the traditional rules which result from them at various levels... However important the role of the individual is, his rights are, in fact, null to the extent that it is impossible for him to resolve the problems of one’s own survival alone. Functionally aristocratic, the community is sociologically communitarian. The parental community certainly constitutes a major organism which, genealogically, constitutes a principle of grouping, but in sufficiently "open" terms to constitute economically - and by means of enlargements which go beyond the immediate ties of blood - a unit of grouping and organization… Among the Caribou Eskimos of the Kazan River, the children went, after sunrise, to visit the neighboring igloos, to ask for extra food. Custom forbade refusal and an equalization of goods took place for the benefit of the youngest... Another community feature : entry to any igloo is free. A specific invitation is not necessary to visit, although one must cough to announce oneself or demonstrate discreetly from the outside, before entering the corridor. We can consider this freedom of entry and communication as one of the very bases of Eskimo social life... Voluntary associations can help to strengthen or broaden the network of kinship. The adoption system, widely used in the Eastern Canadian Arctic, allows a community to either introduce into its midst, in a parental spirit, a family not related by blood, or to strengthen blood or parental ties... The hunting relationship, no less singular and already noted by Jenness further west ; among the Copper Eskimos, is, in Igloolik, still alive... A hunter who gives a share of the seal to another hunter will establish a fairly permanent contractual link... There is an often dramatic contradiction between the fundamentally individualistic temperament of the Eskimo and a conscious conviction that loneliness is synonymous with unhappiness. He knows that an igloo, never or very rarely visited, sinks into the cold of the earth, wrapping itself in a shroud of death. Abandoned by his peers, the Eskimo, even if born into a family, then falls into the naturally depressed state that awaits him... So he multiplies the reasons and opportunities to escape by finding others... He does not There is no example of an Eskimo abandoning a companion less happy than himself while hunting. The duty of mutual assistance admits of no exception among all those who are in the prime of life. Everyone is so aware of this system of solidarity for the survival of the group that the unproductive, the incurably ill person who, by definition, cannot provide the services provided to him, once eliminated himself, of his own free will. , or was deleted by another. »

This universe, so masterfully described by Jean Malaurie in “The Last Kings of Thule” in particular, is almost entirely destroyed by the violent colonial irruption of the capitalist world.

Who are the Inuit ?

The Inuit are present from Greenland to eastern Siberia, including northern Canada and Alaska.

Inuit is the plural of Inuk which means “man”. Eskimo is a name given by the colonizer.

8,000 years ago, the Inuit began to settle in the Arctic regions.

They first reached Alaska, crossing the Bering Strait which separates North America from Siberia. At that time the Bering Strait was covered by pack ice, which is why the Inuit were able to cross it on dry feet.

Then they colonized northern Canada and finally Greenland.

The arrival of Westerners disrupted the lives of the Inuit. Westerners brought unknown diseases with them to the Arctic, such as tuberculosis. Epidemics then wreaked enormous havoc among the Eskimos. Westerners also brought new materials, such as wood and metal, which the Inuit only possessed in very small quantities. They allowed the Inuit to discover new tools and weapons such as the rifle. Gradually, all modern comforts reached the polar regions : electricity, running water, snowmobiles, etc. Later, European medicine worked wonders. It made it possible to save many patients, thus reducing mortality in the Arctic. The Inuit population then experienced a sharp increase. It was following the arrival of Westerners that the Inuit abandoned their nomadic lifestyle to become sedentary. Westerners have also converted a large part of the Inuit to Christianity, so that shamanism, their traditional religion, is officially no longer current today. The Inuit peoples moved from prehistory to the era of aviation, radio, telephone and television in an accelerated manner.

But by abandoning their traditional activities, the Inuit became dependent on Western countries. Indeed, today, the Inuit consume products that are impossible to produce at home. They are therefore strongly linked to the countries which export them to them. Furthermore, the Inuit suffered this revolution without being able to make their voice heard. Today, Inuit populations unfortunately encounter all the problems that we experience in the West : unemployment, obesity, alcoholism.

The Inuit are present from Greenland to the eastern tip of Siberia via northern Canada and Alaska, where they are believed to have arrived from Asia across the frozen Bering Strait from around 8000 BC. They rather occupy coastal regions and their traditional mode of subsistence is essentially based on hunting and fishing, which makes them one of the peoples most affected by the progressive reduction in sea ice induced by global warming. Today there are around 150,000, including 50,000 in Greenland, 50,000 in Alaska, 40,000 in Canada and 1,500 in Siberia. Their languages ​​are sometimes considered as a vast dialect continuum (iñupiak-Inuktitut) ; the South Greenlandic variant, Kalaallisut, is the first – and to date the only – Eskimo-Aleut language to have obtained the status of national language. In Canada, Inuit land claims led to the creation of a federal territory called Nunavut (“our land”), as well as a regional administration in the Quebec region of Nunavik.

Traditionally, these people are nomads. They have adapted to a very harsh environment (in the north of Siberia, the thermometer can drop to -70°C) by exploiting nature’s resources : the people of Siberia are essentially reindeer herders while the Inuit hunt marine mammals. Until the 20th century, many of these groups constituted what we call isolates : they lived in self-sufficiency, totally cut off from the world and could only rely on themselves and their natural resources : the seal for example, thanks to its flesh, its fat, but also its skin, its skeleton, etc., could ensure the survival of dispersed families ; Furthermore, a captured whale could provide for the needs of an entire community for a year. Some of these isolates survived until the end of the 19th century : on May 10, 1819, Sir John Ross discovered the Thule Inuit and it was not until 1884 that, managing to cross the ice floe, the Dane Gustav Holm was went for the first time to meet the Inuit of Eastern Greenland. The way of life of the “small peoples” of the Arctic was disrupted by the gradual arrival of Westerners during the 20th century, particularly during and after the Second World War.

According to archaeological and climatic data, researchers agree that they originated in Siberia and that they crossed the Bering Strait around 8,000 years ago, populating, following the Amerindians, the north of the American continent.

The Inuit people are attached to four states, Russia, the United States, Canada and Denmark. However, since 1979, Greenland has benefited from a status of internal autonomy that some Inuit envy. In Canada, after long years of peaceful negotiations, the Inuit saw, on April 1, 1999, the realization of a long-term project : the creation of Nunavut, "our territory", a region of which they now administer.

While traditionally the Inuit formed regional groups that were most often self-sufficient, a pan-Inuit movement, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, created in 1977, brings together the Inuit of Alaska, Canada and Greenland at regular intervals. In recent years, the Yupiget of Siberia have joined them. These meetings, which have as their theme common linguistic, cultural, economic, environmental and political interests, allow the Inuit to be fully present on the international scene.

Western expeditions have increased in number in the Arctic where conquests are easy. And with them, all the excesses of the civilized world : money and its perverse powers impose themselves. Alcohol becomes the scourge of the Arctic, and tourism invades the spaces.

In 1953, Greenland ceased to be a colony and became a Danish province. From then on, Denmark implemented a policy of “danification” aimed at aligning Greenlandic society with the model of the metropolis, through education and actions provided by a very generous welfare state. This strategy, although decided with the agreement of the population concerned, left painful traces in Greenland. It in fact served the economic interests of Denmark, while aiming to ward off the presence of an American military base on Greenlandic soil, and the potential cultural contamination that it could cause. In 1972, when Denmark joined the European Economic Community (EEC), Greenland followed, but reluctantly, its population having voted against membership. This event, added to the resentment linked to danification, gave rise to the birth of a nationalist movement in the 1970s. In the broader context of the struggle for recognition of the Inuit people which led to the creation, in 1977, of the Conference Circumpolar Inuit (CCI), Greenland obtained a status of internal autonomy in 1979. On February 1, 1985, Greenland’s withdrawal from the EEC was recorded by the Brussels institutions, an unprecedented move until then. This was demanded by its population during a referendum organized in February 1982, with the aim of protecting the territory’s almost unique resource, fishing, in the face of competition from other Europeans. The island now benefits from the status of “overseas country and territory” (OCT) and substantial aid from the European Union (EU) : 25 million euros per year under the agreement. partnership agreement for 2007-2013, to which are added 15.8 million euros paid under the new fisheries partnership agreement, signed in 2007.

From 1979, the Greenlanders implemented a policy of "Greenlandization", particularly in linguistic and cultural matters, as allowed them by the devolution of legislative and executive powers in a large number of areas : internal management, taxes, economic issues, fishing, hunting, breeding, education and culture, environment, real estate, religion... The Danish state, for its part, retained sovereign powers : foreign policy, defense, police, currency. In terms of diplomacy, however, the Greenlanders were involved in all negotiations. But all this was not enough in their eyes. In 1984, a Greenlandic-Danish commission with the aim of developing a proposed law on enhanced autonomy was created on their initiative. The law was approved by referendum on November 25, 2008 (with 75.5% yes and a participation rate of 72%), then ratified by the Danish Parliament on May 19, 2009.

To resist this situation of colonialism, Inuit resistance was organized in the 1970s. The Eskimo people fought against the cultural and economic invasion of the West. In 1979, Greenland became the first autonomous province in the Arctic. The Inuit are now taking charge of their new destiny as free people, and are gradually opening up to civilization. The Eskimos are educating themselves to become, tomorrow, the ethnologists of their own history.

On June 21, 2009, Greenland’s status of enhanced autonomy came into force, adopted by referendum in November 2008. A few days earlier, on June 1, 2009, elections had brought to power the far-left independence party Inuit Ataqatigiit ( Community of the People), with a score of 43.7% of the votes, which put an end to thirty years of social democratic domination.

“Everything has changed for communities living in the Arctic : food, activities, social occupations, connections with “nature”, their notion of well-being. Today, other upheavals (political, economic, social and even ecological) are accelerating the health consequences of these new, so-called “Western” ways of living.
We find among the Inuit morphological, but also biological specificities, traces of a real "acclimatization" which could make them more vulnerable. »

Read more : “Men victims of the “Westernization” of lifestyles : the Inuit” (source CNRS)

Jean Malaurie describes the establishment of the American base at Thule :

“In the full context of the Korean War and on the verge of a third world war when the US Army decided, in the greatest secrecy, to set up a military base in this high Inuit place of Thule, located north of the of the world. I was there, in the frozen wastes, leading a mapping and geocryology expedition, when the shaman Outak, the supreme authority, asked me to speak for them to the general, commander of the base. I presented myself in front of the soldier, surrounded by two strong warriors, to tell him : “Go home !” I was not 30 years old and it was June own June 18th. Since then, I have continued to fight for the Inuit. Today, it is up to them to stand up, speak out and become our wise men in the face of global warming. Their mission is to try to save us from the dangers that threaten us in our proud aspiration to dominate nature... The Inuit saw the Canadians, the Americans, the Danes (from the 18th century) and the Russians land like conquistadors, with their boats and their guns. And until the Second World War, Westerners looked at them with racist prejudices, comparing them to boors incapable of developing themselves. The Danes, who very early occupied most of Greenland, were undoubtedly the most enlightened, but they delegated to the Protestant Church the task of educating the Inuit. The Lutherans then launched an evangelization movement aimed at disintegrating these animist societies by forcing them to unlearn shamanism... The animism of these societies is more than 10,000 years old, is based on a multitude of founding myths which are transmitted orally from generation to generation. generation and should, rather than being condemned, open our minds... The real problem today, in the Arctic, is that young people are committing suicide, in Greenland, in the Canadian north and in Alaska (rate of 134/100,000 in Greenland, 215/100,000 in Labrador, compared to 14/100,000 in France). These young Inuit, of a very proud nature (Inuit meaning “man par excellence”), do not consider themselves concerned by modern society ; employee in a cooperative, bank secretary... certainly not. Miner in uranium factories, proposed by the Chinese and South Korean government, neither. They are worried about the pollution of the waters, which are the source of their hunting and fishing. So tempted by drugs and alcohol, they resort to humiliation ; suicide by hanging… Human capital, the heritage of humanity, is being destroyed. Every two weeks, a language disappears, that is to say a civilization... Yes, Greenland is threatened by Chinese and South Korean uranium exploration projects, and oil exploration by the Americans. Greenland, which has a major geostrategic position, has only 57,000 inhabitants, all speaking their language, but whose desperate young people commit suicide. The misfortune of this large island is that it is very rich in minerals. Tomorrow there could be a Greenland without Greenlandic elites. The Inuit fear African-style progress, that is to say, large, enriched capitalist societies and impoverished peoples. My latest book, “Letter to an Inuit of 2022” is an awakening of circumpolar peoples. »

“The last kings of Thule”, Jean Malaurie :

“The base of 800 million dollars – The landing of July 5, 1951 – Inouk is condemned”

“I grab the telescope ; blinking, I adjust it for a long time. On the staked lens then becomes clear beyond a compact ice floe an incredible spectacle which makes me believe in a mirage. A city of sheds and tents, of sheet metal and aluminum, dazzling in the sun in the smoke and dust, stands before us on a plain that was still deserted yesterday. The most fantastic of legends takes shape before my eyes. – Takoû ! Just look ! Like eruptive pustules emerging from the depths, the outlines of cisterns line up along the mountain. Their orange color further highlights the absurdity of the vision. We descend the slope of snow that shines before us. We go from astonishment to astonishment. As far as the eye can see, there are only rows of trucks, lifting equipment, mountains of crates. Frames raise their large metal arms into the sky. Along the slopes, sprawling excavators with enormous jaws scrape through smoke and steam, clearing tons of mud and stones that dumpsters, with one movement of this city, reach us. The breath, the panting of this city reaches us. He won’t let us go again. It is a dull rumble of engines running without respite. Dozens of planes circle in the gray. One of them, closer, comes and goes like a big bumblebee, mixing his personal, serious note with the growing hubbub. Seen from this glacier, the spectacle given by this sudden irruption of civilization is sinister. Our dogs howl to death. Two teams throw themselves at each other... “Thousands and thousands of Americans,” Outâk told me in his hoarse voice, “Maorslarà, we can no longer count them. It comes from the sky every day ; there is also the “atomic bomb”… We have been here for a thousand years, we Inuit… All these Amerikaniout do not have wives. That’s not normal. Sofia heard that they would like our hundred daughters... Poor people ! for thousands and thousands, they will never be able to achieve it…” For two hours, he continues… The base cost 800 million dollars. The Americans spent in Thule, in a few weeks, as much, if not more, than the Canadian government has ever invested in its Eskimo colonies in a century. It is said that… the “Blue-Jay Operation”, which resulted in the creation of this base, is the largest military enterprise since the Normandy landings. It is said that Thule will be the strongest atomic base of the Strategic Air Command. It is said that the annual work planned for this base alone will represent more than double the amount of investment by the Danish state never made for all of Greenland since 1721... Officially, in eighteen months, the base cost nearly one hundred billion dollars. ’old francs... For miles, this plain is now bristling with giant cranes. Six large heated hangars are planned to house the largest planes... Buses will, at set times, serve the four corners of the city... The cinema, electricity and its power station, the telephone for instant communications with the echeloned bases of the Aleutians in Iceland, a baseball field, a radio tower taller than the Eiffel Tower, two types of radar... a restaurant, an ultra-modern hospital, the largest seawater distiller in the world... a theater for blue-girls, a library... Operation Blue-Jay, prepared in the greatest secrecy from January 1950 in Washington, - and we, with the Eskimos, had not the slightest idea : the secret was well kept - was not conceived under the sign of the provisional and slow… Do they even bother to go and discover their Eskimo neighbors ?… In the words of my friend Robert Pommier, “We no longer explore the Pole, we exploit it”… An iron curtain is now established between the base and the village, made concrete by soldiers, rifles on their shoulders… Inouk, the harpoon man, is condemned. One of the rare societies in the world to have lived in community life, equality and fraternity until the 20th century, will it die ?

July 9, 1951 – Construction of the American military base in Inuit country

During the Cold War, Greenland and the Thule base took on major geopolitical importance. The American military base is expanded and becomes a real enclave of the American army. A runway three kilometers long and several hundred meters wide was built to accommodate the most modern aircraft. This required numerous installations to enable its operation : navigation stations, meteorological stations, radar, repair workshops as well as enormous tanks. The former bed of a glacier was chosen to establish the runway and a town was built on either side, facing the sea. There are all the services necessary for the operation of the base as well as those allowing staff and families to live in complete isolation of the Arctic zone.

A local population of 187 Inuit living traditionally from hunting and fishing was forced to leave their land and go into exile in Qaanaaq, 150 km to the north. Concentrated in a smaller region with less game, the Inuit suffered from overpopulation and gradually had to give up income from seal hunting and whaling to depend on Danish social assistance. In the 1960s, the American army invested more than five billion dollars to transform Thule into an ultra-modern detection base. On January 21, 1968, an American B-52 crashed on the ice floe near the Thule base. It was carrying four hydrogen bombs when an interior fire forced the crew to make an emergency landing in Thule. During the crash, three bombs exploded causing radioactive contamination, while the fourth was never found. The United States and Denmark launch a major clean-up operation, requisitioning Inuit who have been exposed to radiation. Many of them died as a result of their contamination while others developed illnesses several years after the accident. This event, added to the population displacement during the expansion of the base, further accentuated the resentment of the Inuit towards the Americans.

Malaurie and the “last kings of Thule”

A little history

The Inuit, whose civilization is centered on particular hunting techniques (seal, walrus, whale, caribou), entered Greenland through Smith Strait around 1250. They developed the Thule culture there.

From around 1300, they moved down the coast of Greenland due to the cooling climate (Little Ice Age). It was probably at this time that they learned about igloo building from the Dorset Culture.

During their migrations, they discovered Viking settlements, first in the west, then, around 1400, in the east, with which they certainly entered into competition. The Inuit had an obvious advantage, their hunting techniques being more sophisticated. A colony of several hundred houses was then established in Sermermiut (Ilulissat) in the main bear and walrus hunting areas of the Norwegians.

The Little Ice Age, however, had a detrimental influence on the Inuit economy as well, and many families died of hunger and cold. However, they survived this difficult period, unlike the descendants of the Vikings.

In 1536, the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway merged into a single entity. It was at this time that Greenland began to be considered a Danish dependency, and no longer a Norwegian one. Even though all contact with Greenland was broken, the Kings of Denmark tirelessly continued to proclaim their sovereignty over the island.

In 1540, a ship visited the Eastern Settlement and found only deserted farms and, in one, an unburied corpse. When the English explorer John Davis reached Greenland in 1578, he found only Inuit.

During the 17th century, whaling brought English, Dutch and German ships to Greenland, where fishermen sometimes landed without ever really settling there.

In 1721, a clerical-commercial expedition led by the Norwegian missionary Hans Egede was sent to Greenland, not knowing whether there was still a civilization15 and, if so, whether they were still Catholic 200 years after the Reformation or, even worse in Egede’s eyes, if they had become pagans again. In addition to these religious elements, Greenland was also interesting from the point of view of the fish economy (fisheries, whaling industry). Finally, this expedition can be seen as one of the manifestations of Danish attempts at colonization of America.

In any case, Greenland gradually opened to Danish trading companies and closed to those from other countries. The new settlement was centered around Godthåb, literally meaning "Good Hope", on the southwest coast of the island.

If Hans Egede was then respected and honored both in Greenland and abroad, he is today criticized for his lack of respect for Inuit values ​​and his use of coercion. Some of the Inuit who lived near the trading centers were converted to Christianity. Since colonization by the Danes in 1721, the Inuit have gradually become more settled and adopted a Western way of life. However, in winter, isolated from supplies coming from Europe, they tend to regain some of their hunting and fishing traditions.

In 1734, trader and landowner Jacob Severin took control of Greenland’s trade and infrastructure. After 1750, however, he was no longer able to handle competition in the field of whaling and experienced repeated failures.

In 1776, the Kongelige Grønlandske Handel (KGH) received the trade monopoly for Greenland and also took over the administration of the island and control of missionary activities. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the growth of the fishing economy in Greenland allowed the development of Flensburg, which is currently a German city, but which was then the second Danish port. This city particularly benefited from the whale oil trade.

After the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, when Norway was separated from Denmark and attached to Sweden, the colonies, including Greenland, remained Danish. During the 19th century, the interest that polar explorers and scientists such as William Scoresby and Knud Rasmussen had in Greenland increased considerably. At the same time, the colonization of Greenland grew, with the Danes limiting themselves less and less solely to commercial activities. The activities of the missionaries were largely successful. In 1861, the first Greenlandic-language newspaper was created. Danish law, however, still only applied to settlers.

During the 19th century, new Inuit families immigrated from Canada to settle in the northern part of Greenland, which had been almost uninhabited until then. The last group of immigrants arrived in 1864. During the same period, the eastern coast of the island gradually became depopulated due to increasing economic difficulties.

The first democratic elections were held in Greenland in 1862 and 1863 for district assemblies, although there was no assembly representing the entire territory. In 1911, two assemblies were created, one for the North and the other for the South. It was not until 1951 that these two assemblies were brought together and Greenland was thus provided with a parliament. Until then, all decisions concerning Greenland were taken in Copenhagen, without Greenlanders being represented in Danish institutions.

After gaining full independence in 1905, Norway refused to accept Danish sovereignty over Greenland, which was a former Norwegian possession. In particular, she highlighted the fact that the Treaty of Kiel only related, according to her, to the economic use of the colonies in West Greenland. However, she accepted that Greenland remained Danish, but the controversy erupted again when Denmark decided to close Greenland to non-Danes. Following this, in 1931, Norwegian fishermen, notably the whale fisherman Hallvard Devold, occupied the uninhabited eastern coast of Greenland on their own initiative. The Norwegian government, faced with a fait accompli, subsequently supported this occupation. In 1933, the Permanent Court of International Justice was called upon to decide and ruled in favor of Denmark. Norway accepted this judgment.

Furthermore, livestock farming was reintroduced in 1924 to reduce unemployment, with the same environmental consequences as during the Norwegian colony. It only survives thanks to government subsidies.

The Cold War allowed Greenland to acquire strategic importance, since it controlled part of the passage between Soviet ports in the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean. It also became an observation base for the possible use of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which would have passed over the Arctic.

In 1951, the treaty signed by Henrik Kauffmann with the United States during the war was replaced by another treaty, allowing Thule Air Base (at Qaanaaq) to become permanent. This same treaty placed Greenland in a NATO military zone whose defense was to be ensured jointly by Denmark and the United States.

In 1953, the Inuit of Thule were forced by Denmark to leave their homes to allow the expansion of the American base. Since then, this base has become a source of friction between the Danish government and the Greenlanders. These frictions increased considerably on January 21, 1968, when an American B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed near the base, spilling large quantities of plutonium onto the ice (Thule Accident). Although most of the plutonium has been recovered, the Inuit still talk about the deformations that some animals still suffer from.

In the 1950s, like the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, the Inuit of Hebron and Nutak in Labrador experienced forced centralization. Because governments had no choice but to provide services to all Aboriginal people, even those in remote areas, politicians decided to consolidate these populations into the small existing communities of southern Labrador. Although the predatory economy had always provided them with everything necessary for a happy and community life, these Inuit had no other choice but to try to adapt to life in southern communities. We even separated families from the same village. Five families from Hebron would go to Nain, 10 to Hopedale and 43 to Makkovik. This haphazard way of doing things was extremely painful for these Hebronimiut. As in Nova Scotia, at the time of the moves, most new houses had not yet been built in the receiving villages. Many families had no choice but to crowd into poor quality housing. As with all relocations, perhaps most importantly, officials failed to take into account the ties that bind Inuit to the land. Paulus Nochasak summed up the situation very well : “we had to go to a place that was not our land”. The 1974 Royal Commission on Labrador concluded that the northern resettlement program had been a futile and ill-considered operation that had caused injustice and suffering to both Inuit and residents of the host communities. She concluded that government resettlement programs in Labrador had been viewed by the government as an end in themselves and not as part of a development process. Other fundamental errors were made in failing to take into account or seek to understand the wishes and aspirations of all those affected by the resettlement, and also because the planning was very poor. great mediocrity.

It was with an ideology of minimalist intervention with Inuit populations that northern administrators undertook a vast plan to colonize the virgin territories of the Baffin and Devon Islands. Various research later revealed, however, that reasons for sovereignty of the Arctic territory were also behind this decision to move forward with the first official Eskimo resettlement project. In 1934, 53 men, women and children from Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet and Cape Dorset, with 109 dogs, sleds, kayaks and boats were moved to Devon Island (Dundas Harbour). After two years spent in this deserted land, the very poor climatic and ice conditions finally convinced the Inuit to want to return home. The so-called experiment intended to test the ability of the Inuit to adapt to this place ended in total failure. The people of Pangnirtung were repatriated home in 1936. On the other hand, those of Cape Dorset and Pond Inlet were surprised to learn that they would instead be moved to Arctic Bay where a trading post was about to open. Just a year later (1937), these families were relocated to Fort Ross (Somerset Island). For ten years, due to chronic problems of supply by boat in this place, the Inuit lived almost exclusively on tea, ration biscuits and flour. We can read in a 1943 report that the resettlers still entertained the crazy idea of ​​returning to Cape Dorset. In 1947, they were transferred for the fourth time, this time to Spence Bay (present-day Taloyoak). Descendants of this small group of Inuit can still be found in this village today. It is probably in the episode of Devon Island that the analogy of moving humans like pawns on the Arctic chessboard is most clearly illustrated. Indeed, a small group of Inuit was the subject of successive transplants to four different places, according to the changing economic interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company and against the backdrop of the geopolitical interests of the State. .

Despite the failure of this first relocation plan, in the 1950s, an administrator from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs wrote a long memo on a new idea for relocating Arctic populations. For this anonymous author, the solution would be to move them all to two or three cities in southern Canada. In fact, we thought about establishing an Inuit village in Hamilton (Ontario), another in Winnipeg (Manitoba) and a last one near Edmonton (Alberta). This plan would allow better management of the needs of these people instead of leaving them scattered along the 15,000 kilometers of coastline of the Actic Ocean. As for their civilization, it is necessary to implacably oppose it, because of the little hope of seeing it evolve. This is a good example of a certain racist ideology that reigned among civil servants and politicians of the time. Fortunately, this idea, which can be described as ethnocentric, has never been implemented.

While officials were preparing to relocate the Inuit south, plans to increase resettlement in the High Arctic were underway. Again for unacknowledged reasons of sovereignty over the Arctic archipelago, the government of Canada was preparing one of the most tragic stories of the northern regions. A solution had to be found to the Eskimo problem of the time and these moves had to be presented as spectacular to the Canadian population of the South. Once again, there was a promise of a better day from the Canadian government to these forced migrants. July 25, 1953. Thirty-four people (seven families) from Port Harrison (Inukjuak) boarded the ship CD Howe heading for Ellesmere and Cornwallis Island in the High Arctic. Three days later, three families (sixteen people) from Pond Inlet joined them on the steel deck of the government ship. The next day, the CD Howe arrived at Craig Harbor (Ellesmere Island) to unload five families. Henry Larsen, a senior officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, described them as follows : "They are dirty, ragged, unkempt in appearance, an unattractive lot of settlers." The others, who remained on the boat, were transferred to the icebreaker Iberville which tried in vain to reach Alexandra Fiord a little further north. After this abortive attempt, the icebreaker returned to Craig Harbor to disembark two other families. The remaining eighteen Inuit will be brought to Resolute Bay a few days later. Without any warning, families found themselves separated. One of the exiles later said : "We were totally abandoned on the beaches of Craig Harbor and Resolute Bay." A year later, those of Craig Harbor will be moved a second time, one hundred kilometers further west, to Grise Fiord. Corporal Glenn Sargent of the gendarmerie, a year after the arrival of the Inuit at Craig Harbor, informed his superiors by writing : “that the Craig Harbor area is their Garden of Eden.” He also wrote that the Inuit were very successful in hunting, in reality it was exactly the opposite. At these northern latitudes, game is rare. In the polar night that lasts four months, a hunter even spent long hours waiting for a seal above its breathing hole, but in reality, this black spot was only fox droppings. Between 1953 and 1960, the majority of children in Resolute were orphaned. The parents had died of despair, illness and extreme conditions. A famous politician of the time even declared : “if they want to come back, let them pay”. It was not until the late 1990s that the federal government agreed to compensate the families who were displaced. However,

Just like the Amerindians and the Maori, the Inuit suffered the invasion and colonization of Westerners. But it is a real assimilation that the Inuit experienced, forced as they were, and still are today, to follow the Western way of life. With, on the one hand, its harmful effects, for example on health (obesity) due to an overly sedentary lifestyle and an unbalanced diet ; and on the other hand meager material or economic benefits. Worse still, Inuit children were taken from their families and sent to residential schools in the south of the country from the 1950s to the 1980s, causing indelible trauma and interrupting the oral transmission of customs and traditional knowledge. This is obviously without mentioning the abuse that the children experienced in these orphanages and which still disturbs their existence today.
Even today, the situation of the Inuit remains precarious. Because even if progress has been made in the last two decades, notably through the participation of indigenous communities in decisions concerning development projects in the region, fundamentally these Canadians are left behind. In developed countries, in fact, “indigenous people systematically find themselves at the bottom of the scale of most well-being indicators even in developed countries. They have a shorter life expectancy and poorer education and health care than the rest of the population, and the unemployment rate is higher among them.” Canada, unfortunately, is no exception. For example, their life expectancy is 17 years lower, the suicide rate is 11 times higher, 70% of students living on a reserve do not complete their secondary education and 60% percent of young Aboriginal people people living in urban areas live below the poverty line.

Despite the Inuit’s heavy past and despite the injustices that force them to look toward the future. In fact, they have no other choice than to integrate modernity, but by solidly relying on the founding principles of their culture, as Teevi Mackay so rightly points out. But it’s not an easy thing. On the one hand, the Inuit still face incomprehension from southern residents ; on the other hand, they are still marked by colonization, assimilation and acculturation, which often manifests itself for the Inuit as an inferiority complex. At the same time, they question the authority of the different levels of government which do not sufficiently take into account the interests of the Inuit community. How could it be otherwise ? Nevertheless, the Inuit know that to advance their cause, they must deal with the government, while claiming their rights.

History of the Arctic world

Where did the Inuit come from ?

Around 8000 BC. BC and during the 6,000 years that followed, when the Bering Strait was invaded by pack ice, small groups of hunters arrived in Alaska. There is a good chance that these people crossed it on the ice floe to go from the Old to the New World. In this part of the Bering Strait, according to the geographical location of the Diomede Islands, there are only about twenty kilometers at most between two lands. So only three or four days of walking were needed to make the trip. According to excavations of the oldest Alaskan sites, these people were of the Arctic microlithic tradition which is very similar to the Neolithic groups of Siberia. These hunters never reached the southern coast of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Instead, they spread quickly across the Canadian Arctic and Greenland in pursuit of muskoxen and marine mammals. They brought with them a technology of cut stone tools that was completely unknown in America, mainly micro-blades which are small strips of stone obtained by percussion. Additionally, tiny triangular blades serving as projectile points were most likely the first evidence of bow and arrow use in North America.

The origin of ancient peoples can be traced by the study of the languages ​​used by them and by the physical characteristics of the populations concerned. All North American Inuit groups have related languages. In addition, Inuit languages ​​have significant affinities with that of the Aleuts, suggesting that they possibly have the same origin. In addition, the Inuit and Aleutian languages ​​have a distant relationship with the Chukchi, Koriaks and Kamtchadales of northeastern Siberia. Eskimos and Aleuts have similar phenotypes with people from the Chukotka and Kamchatka peninsulas. They are referred to as “Arcto-mongoloids.” » The term "Paleo-Eskimos" is used to identify these hunting groups of the distant past, but the relationship of descent to the various Inuit cultures that followed is not as clear as was believed during the first archaeological discoveries.

It seems that several layers of settlement from Asia succeeded one another or rubbed shoulders in boreal America. Thus, “the Paleo-Eskimos of the Saqqaq and Independence cultures, documented by archaeological remains in northern Canada and Greenland, represent the oldest human expansion in the extreme north of the New World. However, their origin and genetic relationship with later cultures are not known. We sequenced a mitochondrial genome of a Paleoeskimo using 3,400-4,500 year old frozen hairs excavated from a saqqaq settlement in Greenland. The sample is distinct from those of modern Native Americans and Eskimos. This result suggests that the first migrants to the far north of the New World came from populations in the Bering Sea area and were not directly related to the later Native Americans or Eskimos who replaced them. On the other hand, the sample appears very close to that of the Aleuts of the Bering Strait region and the Sirenikis of Siberia.

Based on the similar antiquity dates of sites of the Microlithic Tool Tradition, ranging from Alaska to Greenland, it is assumed that ancient Paleo-Eskimos invaded the polar territories quickly. They were adept at exploiting new territory beyond seasonal migrations. The latter were hunters from the northern forests of Siberia who adapted to tundra and sea ice regions. It was the first phase of territorial expansion of a good part of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, still uninhabited at that time. The similarity of early Paleo-Eskimo technology is striking from one region to another. A degree of cultural cohesion and conservatism is noted across time and space. The ancient Paleo-Eskimos were the first to achieve a certain adaptation despite the climatic constraints of the North American Arctic, that is to say freezing cold, a lack of food of plant origin, a seasonal availability of animal proteins , a limited number of available species as well as a scarcity of fuel and essential raw materials.

Initially, they may have been attracted by the caribou herds and, once there, they would have discovered the muskoxen and seals of the Arctic coasts. The defensive line or circle used by these animals was transformed into an advantage for hunters who owned dogs. The immobility of the herd thus trapped allowed men to approach the animals, facilitating the use of the bow or spear. Once the meat was cut, it was packed in the skins and transported to the camps. In fact, muskox hunting was very possibly much easier than whaling and walrus hunting. During the summer, the diet was supplemented with migratory birds, eggs, Arctic hares and anadromous fish. There is nothing to suggest that they had boats and dog sleds, so they would have moved on foot over this immense territory of 5,000 km from west to east and 3,000 km from south to north. In addition, the igloo and the soapstone (soapstone) oil lamp were absent at that time, which must have made life quite harsh and precarious.
The stone tools found in the camps of the Arctic Microlithic Tradition are products made completely different from the earlier traditions of Alaska but very similar to those of the Neolithic of Siberia. All this equipment was extremely small. It included micro-blades, bone-cutting chisels, tiny triangular blades used as harpoon and arrowheads. Possible encounters with Maritime Archaic Indians of Labrador allowed them to discover the harpoon with a detachable head which is very effective for hunting seals and walruses. This novelty spread from one end of the Arctic to the other and tangibly improved subsistence activities. Research by Danish archaeologists demonstrates that the three formations from this period, Independent Ancient, Saqqaquian and Pre-Dorset, are in reality three regional cultures, slightly shifted in time but coming from the same microlithic culture. Three variants of the Arctic Microlithic Tradition have been discovered in the Canadian and Greenlandic Far North : the Independence I of the High Arctic, the Saqqaqians of Greenland, and the Pre-Dorset culture of the islands and coasts of the Low Arctic.

The occupation of early populations of the Arctic Microlithic Tradition is concentrated primarily in the region north of Hudson Bay, on the north shore of Hudson Strait and around Foxe Basin. The southern regions of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago were much richer in food resources than the High Arctic. In the Igloolik region, a radiocarbon-dated site indicates it is 3,900 years old. It’s 1000 BC. BC, which the Pre-Dorsetians crossed into the Quebec Arctic (Nunavik) via the Nottingham and Salisbury islands while the Dorsetians occupied the High Arctic islands and the northwest coast of Greenland.

Although there are several similarities between Predorset and Independence I tools, the resemblance is even more pronounced with the microlithic groups of Alaska. The latter would have left their Alaskan territories to spread across a large part of the eastern Low Arctic, a few centuries after the Independence I groups. Unlike the latter, the Predorset camps seem to have been used over several generations. During excavations, small oil lamps were even found there which must have been used to burn fat to provide light and a little heat. We also found circles of rubbish which suggest that they were building igloos although no snow knives have yet been found. They also had dogs without the sled and the bow and arrow were part of the hunting weapons.

The barren lands of northern Greenland and the Canadian High Arctic had been abandoned by the Independence Group I around 1700 BC. It was not until 700 years later, around 1000 BC. BC, that a second culture which we will call Independence II arrives in these regions. On Peary Land, the muskox was the main land mammal available, the caribou was completely absent. We must not forget that this very northern region is a harsh stone desert. In the inland lakes, arctic char could be caught and many migratory birds visited the region during the summer months. On the coast of Independence Fjord, one could find a few polar bears, walruses, ringed seals and sometimes narwhals.

The dwellings of the Independents II are mainly skin tents. There are no solid structures and no soapstone lamps for heating and lighting have been found. The space inside the tents is designed for four to six people and a trend indicates that a gathering of four to six tents formed a clan. It can be said that twenty to forty people traveled and hunted together. Considering the region’s poverty of resources, there does not appear to have been much trade or commerce. Based on the string layout of the camps on the beaches and the shape of the houses, there are great similarities between Independence I and II. It is in harpoon points and other lithic tools that we notice a notable difference. These carved stone objects more closely resemble those of the Pre-Dorset Islands of Cornwallis, Bathurst, Devon and Ellesmere Islands than those of Independence I of Peary Land. In summary, we can easily think that there was a double influence (Predorset and Independence I) in the culture of the people of Independence II.

Around 1000 AD. BC, whale hunters (Punuk) from northern Alaska moved east. They probably traveled by oumiak (large boat made of sewn skins) and reached Greenland via the High Arctic in a very short time. The Thule are considered to be the representatives of the third and final wave of population migrations from the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. These significant movements are very possibly linked to global warming (medieval warming) which affected the entire Arctic at that time. Pursuing the bowhead whale, in addition to Greenland, the Thule spread throughout the Arctic archipelago and around Hudson Bay. This culture bears this name because it was on the northwest coast of Greenland, near the community of Thule, that old Thule-type houses were first identified.

As stated previously, the bowhead whale of Alaska (West) and that of Greenland (East) were the main resource of these populations. However, they also used seals, caribou and fish as food resources. In the Igloolik region, they also discovered numerous herds of walruses. In reality, these great whale hunters became, during their eastward migrations, versatile hunters. Despite everything, the whale remained the main source of food and fuel. These large marine mammals allowed the Thule to lead a fairly sedentary life so that populations increased rapidly. Furthermore, for various reasons, a split could occur in a group and a new camp would appear in just a few days. This would explain the rapid expansion of their territories of occupation. To feed and clothe themselves, the Thule also hunted land animals such as caribou and musk ox. As for him, the fish was caught with a trident (karkivak). The catch was cut up using a slate knife, shaped like a half-moon, called an “ulu”.

In addition to meat and blubber, whales provided the Thule with their bones as building material. To build earthen dwellings similar to those in Alaska, the Thule had to use bones, mainly whale ribs and jawbones, as framework for the roof. The whole thing was covered with skins and a thick layer of peat and earth. These semi-permanent winter houses, very well insulated and heated, must have been fairly comfortable. Food and fuel for the lamps came from surrounding caches, covered with heavy stones to protect its contents from dogs, wolves, foxes and bears. During the summer, the whole group moved into skin tents. In addition, these people were building another type of winter dwelling completely unknown in Alaska : the igloo. They would have invented this technology but would have borrowed from the Dorsetians the use of soapstone in the manufacture of oil lamps. They also perfected the use and construction of sleds. Dog harnesses appeared at Thule sites in Canada at this time. The villages of the first Thule had only a few winter houses and less than fifty occupants. This organization of Thule society was to be grouped around an old man who possessed knowledge and experience. The rest of the group included the old man’s sons and their families, the families of other male relatives, and sometimes, the families of his daughters. In summary, today we can say that the Thule economy was based on the hunting of marine mammals such as whales and seals.

Certain elements of technology from Dorset culture suggest that there was some contact between these two groups. On the other hand, several Inuit legends tell that there was a fight with the Tuniits (Dorsetians) and that they were chased from the best hunting grounds. It is in Arctic Quebec that the most recent Dorset sites are found (1400 AD) and it is this same region which saw the latest arrival of Thule groups. After several excavations of Thule sites, it has been proven that in Greenland, these populations traded with resident populations from Nordic countries and that in Labrador, trade took place with Basque, Scottish and American whalers as well as with the missionaries.

Archeology confirms that the Thule are the latest arrivals from the Canadian Arctic and Greenland and that their ancestors, two or three thousand years ago, lived on the coasts of Alaska and Siberia. The Thule are considered, without a shadow of a doubt, to be Inuit. It is almost certain that these people spoke Inuktitut, an Eskimo dialect very similar to that still used today by the natives of the Far North. However, it appears that the original Thule traditions and customs appear to have been richer, more sophisticated and more uniform than subsequent Inuit cultures.

Will Inuit hunters still have the right to live ?

by Annie KEROUEDAN, Chief Physician at Uummannaq Hospital, Greenland

Greenland woke up this morning of May 6 to the shock of the announcement of the ban on the import of seal products, voted by the European Parliament. Few European media took the trouble to relay this information in the newspapers but here, in this small community of hunters, it is annihilation.

Since 1986, I have regularly come to work in Greenland as a doctor and am currently at Uummannaq Hospital in northern Greenland. During these stays, I learned to love and appreciate the Greenlandic people and also to share the existence of hunters and fishermen.

Hunting marine mammals is the basis of Inuit culture and way of life. These people are by tradition respectful of nature with which they live in symbiosis despite the advance of modernity. Greenlandic hunters only kill adult seals because female seals give birth in Canada. It is also not tolerated in this culture to kill young animals. Consequently, the Canadian Inuit also only hunt adults. Greenlandic hunters never use batons to kill seals. These are killed with guns. The photos circulating in all the magazines are therefore false.

You should know that seals live in very large numbers in Greenlandic waters and that the species are absolutely not threatened. On the contrary, the overpopulation of adult seals causes starvation among young seals who are thus doomed to an early death. The Greenlanders eat and will always eat seal meat. Foods imported from Europe are extremely expensive and hunting and fishing are the necessary conditions for families to have meat and fish of excellent nutritional quality on their table every day.
The Greenlanders also need, in order to escape an acculturation often denounced in the media, to rediscover their traditional hunting methods. Numerous sociological studies have shown that, in communities where Inuit practice their ancestral methods, there is much less alcoholism and sexual abuse than in large cities where traditions have disappeared.

Until the highly publicized campaigns of the 1970s, a quarter of the Greenlandic population made their living from the sale of seal skins. After the drastic fall in the price of pelts, seals continued to be hunted for meat, but many hunting families found themselves without resources. I remember that at that time, skins rotted in the streets of the villages.

Thanks to the creativity of young Danish and Greenlandic designers employed by Great Greenland, the fashion for sealskin clothing has returned. Around 100,000 seal skins are now processed each year in Greenland and sold abroad. Each skin is purchased for around 300 Danish crowns (39.70 euros) from the hunters by the Great Greenland company which is then responsible for tanning the skins and partly making the clothes. This constitutes a significant source of income for families of hunters who often live below the minimum poverty line.

This newfound balance is now in jeopardy if the ban on the importation of skins voted under the influence of the media and personalities from the entertainment world is implemented. The clause which stipulates that seal skins killed by traditional Inuit methods can be imported for non-profit purposes is total hypocrisy. Because Inuit hunters live from the sale of skins and must be paid for their work ! Part of the skins is of course used to make traditional clothing, mittens and boots that will protect hunters from the cold, but another part is sold so that families have a salary.

European deputies, like Panurge’s sheep, have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the powerful and blind lobbies of animal rights associations. These MPs have not bothered to try to understand the Inuit way of life, although the ministers of the countries they represent, with great publicity, have gone to Greenland to see first-hand the influence of the Inuit. global warming on Inuit populations. MPs voted blindly solely in order to satisfy their electorate.

The sale of baby seal skins has been banned since 1983. Despite this, the photos published by animal rights associations still concern this hunt which everyone, including and first and foremost the Greenlanders, considers monstrous. Adult seal skins are very easily recognizable by their gray color and characteristic pattern and cannot be confused with the entirely white skins of baby seals.

So let the Inuit hunters continue to earn their living through their work.

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