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Hunters in the Barrens

Hunters in the Barrens: The Naskapi on the Edge of the White Man's World

Georg Henriksen
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 134
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  • Book Info
    Hunters in the Barrens
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive study of the Naskapi Indians of Labrador is based on an anthropologist's life with them between 1966 and 1968, when families still followed the traditional pattern of hunting on the barrens during the winter and returning to their costal settlements in the summer. Now the Naskapi live in coastal settlements; no longer in possession of their own culture, they have become sedentaries under white tutelage. This description of two antithetical worlds provides valuable insights for anyone interested in contemporary native rights issues.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-367-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps, Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Robert Paine

    Georg Henriksen’sHunters in the Barrenshas become a classic: between 1973 and 1997 the Institute of Social and Economic Research published seventeen reprints — and requests for the book will, I am sure, continue unabated with its new publisher, Berghahn Books. In the 1973 Foreword I wrote that for future generations of Innu (Naskapi)¹ this book would be an important legacy. So it has come to be, and the late Georg Henriksen himself further ensured it with the publication of his biography of an Innu friend,I Dreamed the Animals: Kaniuekutat, The Life of an Innu Hunter(Berghahn, 2009). Speaking...

  5. Preface
    (pp. x-x)
    Georg Henriksen
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    The Naskapi live in two different worlds: in the winter, they roam the interior of Labrador, hunting caribou; in the summer, they live in or around the village of Davis Inlet on the coast of Labrador. In this book, one of the themes I explore is the contrast in the social life between these two worlds. One may say that the Naskapi alternate between two economic spheres: the subsistence sphere of caribou hunting in the winter, and the money sphere of cod fishing in the summer. However, their lives are altered not only in economic terms, but also ecologically, socially,...


    • 1 The Naskapi and their Environment
      (pp. 1-16)

      The hunting grounds of the Naskapi lie roughly within a semi-ellipse, reckoning 150 miles west and 50 miles north and south of Davis Inlet. It is the interior western part of this area where the Naskapi hunt for caribou which provides the setting for the most crucial aspects of Naskapi social life and culture. Their environment consists mainly of barren mountains and rolling plains broken up by numerous lakes and rivers. Throughout this exposed landscape, widely scattered patches of conifers are found in protected riverbeds and on a few sheltered hillsides. Here the Naskapi erect their tents, while the daily...


    • 2 Nomads In the Barren Lands
      (pp. 17-40)

      In the spring, when the Naskapi travel towards the coast and Davis Inlet, they look forward to meeting people they have not seen for a long time, and to visiting the store where they can buy all the goods which they have to ration or do completely without in the Barren Grounds. Indeed, if the date of departure depended on snow and ice conditions, most of the Nas kapi could stay a month longer in the Barrens than they do and still travel down to the coast by dog sled. However, in their deliberations, they all give as reasons for...

    • 3 Leadership in the Barren Ground World
      (pp. 41-56)

      In the foregoing chapter, it was shown that there is a relatively equal distribution of material wealth among the Naskapi, and that social and ecological factors severely restrict the possibilities for any accumulation of wealth. Thus, there is no basis for a systematic relationship between the distribution of wealth and social rank. Although minimal equipment is required to shoot the caribou necessary to gain prestige, every Naskapi can afford to obtain it. It is possible, however, that this technological minimum will rise in the future with the introduction of, for example, motor toboggans; some Naskapi would be prevented from participating...

    • 4 Socio-Territorial Groupings
      (pp. 57-74)

      In chapter 3, we have seen that much information is needed to decide where, when, and with whom to go hunting, and that the formation of hunting groups and camps, though the result of individual decisions of self-interest, is acollectiveprocess; that is, the actions of others are crucial to one’s own decisions and to the success of one’s own actions. These processes of information management and decision-making were seen in connection with competition for leadership and prestige, and with the sorting out of leaders and followers. This chapter will be concerned with other factors that are relevant to...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • 5 The Coastal World
      (pp. 75-94)

      As soon as the Naskapi reach the coast and settle down in Davis Inlet for the summer, their social life and the setting in which it takes place changes in character. In the interior, it is necessary for the men to hunt to keep their families alive. In addition, the men can accumulate prestige and attain leadership, goals which spur the men to action. As will be shown, these incentives are absent on the coast; furthermore, the store is there with all its goods, and the government provides relief to those who need it, thereby securing everybody a living. Hence,...

    • 6 The Naskapi and their White Patrons
      (pp. 95-104)

      Except for the settler family who once lived in Sango Bay, it is only in Davis Inlet that the Naskapi come into contact with white men. Here they frequently interact with the missionary, the storekeeper, and since 1967, with the teacher. They also have limited contact with Eskimos and settlers from the communities of Nain and Hopedale who sometimes travel through Davis Inlet to go caribou hunting. Government officials from the Northern Labra dor Services Division make brief visits to the community during the summer, and one or two politicians make an hour stop-over every election year to ask the...

    • 7 The Meaningfulness of the Two Worlds of the Naskapi
      (pp. 105-118)

      Living among the Naskapi in Davis Inlet, one quickly learns that they are much less enthusiastic about fishing cod than hunting caribou. While sitting in their punts in a bay jigging cod, they often say, “Fishing is no good – too hard work. Only hunting any good. Hunting is not work.” For an outsider, these remarks may seem strange when one compares the relatively easy job of fishing cod with the harsh and strenuous life of a hunter. Obviously, the Naskapi are not basing their assessment on the time or the physical effort put into these two activities, but rather on...

  10. Postscript: The Future of the Naskapi
    (pp. 119-124)

    Having lived and participated in the daily life of a small society such as the Naskapi for one and a half years, on parting, one feels that one is leaving something of oneself behind. Indeed, perhaps one never loses the feeling that an essential part of oneself belongs with the people whom one has left. The more one has internalized some of the fundamental values of the society, and felt a need to act according to them in order to be recognized as a social person and a member of the group, the more likely it is that one has...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 125-132)
    Peter Armitage

    Georg Henriksen (1940–2007) first lived among the Mushuau Innu¹ of northern Labrador in the late 1960s at a pivotal point in their history as they made the difficult transition from a form of social organization based on nomadic caribou hunting to a highly sedentary one based in a coastal, government-built village where they rapidly became dependent on government transfer payments.Hunters in the Barrensbears witness to the end of the Innu’s nomadic way of life, while at the same time pointing to the precursors of various social pathologies which in later years would attract international attention.

    In 1975,...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 133-138)
  13. References
    (pp. 139-142)
  14. Index
    (pp. 143-148)