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Quaqtaq: Modernity and Identity in an Inuit Community

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Dorais examines how the Inuit community of Quaqtaq, a small village on Hudson Strait, has managed to preserve its identity in the modern world. He points to three things: kinship, religion, and language.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7893-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Introduction: On Modernity, Identity, and Quaqtaq
    (pp. 3-11)

    Quaqtaq is a small predominantly Inuit village in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec). In 1990 the village had 225 residents. Like all other native communities in the Canadian North, Quaqtaq has experienced, and is still experiencing, tremendous change. As anywhere else in the Arctic, present-day life there has almost nothing in common with what it used to be seventy, fifty, or even thirty years ago. The nomadic igloo-dwellers of the Qallunaatʼs (white people) fantasies have become sedentary wage workers and/or sophisticated harvesters of faunal resources. Inuit society, in many respects, is as modern as its Euro-American counterpart.

    Inuit, however, continue to consider...

  6. 1 Qallunaaqalaurtinagu: When There Were No Qallunaat
    (pp. 12-21)

    To understand how modern Inuit came to be what they now are requires a knowledge of history. Even if their way of life is increasingly similar to that of southern Canadians, many Inuit cultural values and social habits cannot be explained without reference to aboriginal tradition. Quaqtamiut are no exception, and to them diachrony is important. In reflecting on their own past, they often establish a distinction between two periods in the development of the Tuvaaluk area and of Nunavik in general, the one before and the one after Qallunaat established themselves in the North. The first,qallunaaqalaurtinaguʻwhen there...

  7. 2 The Formation of a Community
    (pp. 22-45)

    The culture and history of theinutuinnaitform the basis on which the identity and community organization of Quaqtaq were built. However, only with the establishment of Euro-Canadian trading posts, and other institutions in the area, did the economic and social conditions leading to the emergence of Tuvaaluk as a centre of permanent settlement progressively get put into place.

    If a date is to be chosen to mark the start of Quaqtaqʼs modern history, it should be 1927. That year an independent trader by the name of Herbert Hall, whom the Inuit remember as Isumataaluk (ʻthe big chiefʼ), established a...

  8. 3 Quaqtaq in the 1990s
    (pp. 46-61)

    Over a period of some forty years (1940–80) Quaqtaq evolved from a winter camp to a fully sedentarized village. Concurrently, its social organization became increasingly complex. Local bands who harvested their territoryʼs fauna through a well-adjusted seasonal cycle of hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering activities, progressively became family groupings whose members competed for wage-earning occupations and for positions within a diversified political and administrative structure. The culture of the Tuvaaluk Inuit would seem to have been drowned by a host of exogenous concepts and living habits introduced through the school, the media, and increased contact with the outside


  9. 4 Some Fundamentals of Identity
    (pp. 62-87)

    Identity in present-day Quaqtaq is anchored within several phenomena and institutions that play a crucial part in defining local culture. The phenomena that contribute to the uniqueness of Quaqtamiut include a privileged relationship with a territory rich in game, the small size of the community, a sense of shared family history, and a high degree of assertiveness towards the outside world.¹ Three elements, however, which will be dealt with in the following pages, stand out as particularly relevant to contemporary identity. These are kinship, religion, and language.

    When questioned about their identity, most Inuit – and the Quaqtamiut are no...

  10. 5 Quaqtaq and the World
    (pp. 88-101)

    In Quaqtaq, as in all other modern Inuit communities, native language and culture are constantly confronted by foreign ways of saying and doing things. The traditionaluqausiit(ʻways of speakingʼ; words) andpiusiit(ʻways of doingʼ; customs) are not adequate any more if one wants to interact with an outside world that is now within easy reach because of radio, television, telephone, fax machines, the Internet and frequent scheduled air service.¹

    In this chapter, I shall describe two phenomena that appear particularly important for understanding Quaqtaqʼs relations with the wider Canadian society: education and politics. First, however, we will see...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 102-106)

    The establishment and subsequent development of Quaqtaq resulted from the sedentarization of several families that used to move around in the Tuvaaluk (Diana Bay) area of northeastern Nunavik. Some of these families had always lived around Tuvaaluk. Some others came from neighbouring regions, although quite a few of these latter had originally been from the area.

    Whatever their origin, these people came to Tuvaaluk and/or stayed there because game was plentiful. In the 1920s and 1930s they were also lured by the presence in the southern part of the bay (Iggiajaq) of trading posts that paid good prices for their...

  12. Appendix A: Historical Events in Tuvaaluk and Quaqtaq, 1910–1990
    (pp. 107-108)
  13. Appendix B: Adult Deaths in Tuvaaluk and Quaqtaq, 1941–1992
    (pp. 109-110)
  14. Appendix C: Peterhead Boats in Tuvaaluk, 1930–1967
    (pp. 111-114)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 115-126)
  16. References
    (pp. 127-130)
  17. Index
    (pp. 131-132)