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Hunters, Predators and Prey

Hunters, Predators and Prey: Inuit Perceptions of Animals

Frédéric Laugrand
Jarich Oosten
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 418
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  • Book Info
    Hunters, Predators and Prey
    Book Description:

    Inuit hunting traditions are rich in perceptions, practices and stories relating to animals and human beings. The authors examine key figures such as the raven, an animal that has a central place in Inuit culture as a creator and a trickster, andqupirruit, a category consisting of insects and other small life forms. After these non-social and inedible animals, they discuss the dog, the companion of the hunter, and the fellow hunter, the bear, considered to resemble a human being. A discussion of the renewal of whale hunting accompanies the chapters about animals considered 'prey par excellence': the caribou, the seals and the whale, symbol of the whole. By giving precedence to Inuit categories such as 'inua' (owner) and 'tarniq' (shade) over European concepts such as 'spirit 'and 'soul', the book compares and contrasts human beings and animals to provide a better understanding of human-animal relationships in a hunting society.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-406-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Frédéric Laugrand and Jarich Oosten
  5. Part I. Introduction

    • CHAPTER 1 Theoretical Perspectives
      (pp. 3-26)

      In recent years, the study of human-animal relations has developed so much that it has become a field of research in its own right.¹ The emphasis has shifted from symbolic approaches to ethno-zoological, ecological and environmental perspectives.² In this book, we will adopt an anthropological perspective that gives priority to the participants’ views (see Oosten 2005). In this approach we do not explore whether Inuit knowledge of animals and their environment is symbolic or experiential, technical or spiritual, modern or traditional.³ These distinctions make little sense to the participants anyway, as the very connections between these various levels are essential...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Animals and Their Environment
      (pp. 27-55)

      The animals inhabitnuna, the land;tariuq, the sea andsila, the sky. In Inuit culture, especially the land and the sea were a source of life. They provided the sustenance that allows human beings to survive in the harsh Arctic climate. The main prey were the caribou on the land and the sea mammals in the sea. Birds were hunted, but they were much less important prey than the caribou and the sea mammals (see figure 2.1).

      In the past, land game and sea game were usually separated by ritual injunctions. Especially the transition from caribou hunting to seal...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Making of a Good Hunter
      (pp. 56-80)

      Hunters should understand the movements and behaviour of animals. They need a thorough knowledge of anatomy and have to be skilled observers of animals’ physiology. They should be able to assess the condition of an animal, if it is healthy or not, and they should know how to butcher animals’ bodies, separating the various parts, muscles, bones, fat, skin and organs.¹ This requires instruction and training by elder hunters and, most of all, practical experience out on the land.

      The annual hunting cycle varied for each area. Inland people mainly concentrated on caribou hunting and supplemented their diet with other...

  6. Part II. Life and Death

    • CHAPTER 4 The Raven, the Bringer of Light
      (pp. 83-112)

      A mythological complex focusing on the common raven (Corvus corax) as a trickster and creator is widespread in the Arctic, extending far into Siberia and North America.¹ Extensive mythological cycles have been recorded among Native Americans.² E. Nelson (1899) and Lantis (1947) provided rich accounts of the mythological complex of the raven in the western Arctic. The creation of the earth and everything upon it is credited to the Raven Father (Tu-lu-kau-gûk), who is said to have come from the sky and made the earth when everything was covered with water. He created man and founded many cultural institutions. The...

    • CHAPTER 5 Qupirruit, Masters of Life and Death
      (pp. 113-148)

      The life of small beings such as thequpirruit(insects and other small life-forms) has not received the attention it deserves. Biologists acknowledge that the insect fauna of the Arctic regions is not yet adequately surveyed. Yet, more than 2,200 species of insects and their relatives have been reported from north of the tree line in North America, and many more probably remain to be discovered (Danks 2004: 85).

      An excellent paper by Vladimir Randa (2003) in a book devoted to the place of insects in different cultures is probably the only substantial contribution that can be found on the...

  7. Part III. Fellow Hunters

    • CHAPTER 6 The Dog, Partner of the Hunter
      (pp. 151-178)

      TheNunatsiaq Newsof 26 March 1999 (George 1999) reported a discussion at a meeting of the Makivik Corporation of the dog killings in Nunavik in the 1950s and 1960s: ‘Many elders can still remember how a way of life abruptly changed when government officials killed their Inuit husky dogs.’ The killings, to control canine diseases and reduce numbers of loose dogs, are still viewed as an injustice, almost a ploy, to make the Inuit dependent on the government. The president of Makivik Corporation, Pita Aatami, said, ‘[I] would like to see Inuit receive an apology and compensation similar to...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Bear, a Fellow Hunter
      (pp. 179-206)

      In Western society the polar bear has always been an icon of the Arctic. The word Arctic itself is derived from the Greek wordarctos, bear. For the Inuit the polar bear, ornanuqas they call him, represents altogether something else: a fellow hunter as well as an animal of prey. Like Inuit, polar bears hunt on the land as well as in the water. But Inuit also have a long tradition of hunting the polar bear, and today this is becoming more and more difficult as the polar bear has become a protected species. The United States and...

  8. Part IV. Prey

    • CHAPTER 8 The Caribou, the Lice of the Earth
      (pp. 209-264)

      Caribou hunting has always been important for survival in the central Arctic, and today it is still very important for Inuit, who greatly appreciate the meat, skins and bones of the caribou. Most Inuit hunted for caribou,tuktu,¹ in the spring and the autumn, and some groups in the Kivalliq, such as the Ahiarmiut, depended almost completely on the caribou for survival (see figures 8.1 and 8.2).

      Simon Tookoome (1999: 28–29) from Qamanittuaq related,

      The caribou used to gather in a very large herd to migrate. You could hear them coming for two days, walking over the frozen tundra....

    • CHAPTER 9 The Seal, the Offspring of the Sea Woman
      (pp. 265-307)

      Seals were hunted extensively along the coast, especially the ringed seal,nattiq, and the bearded seal,ukjuk. In summer they were hunted at the floe edge, when they were basking in the sun and in the open water. In winter they were hunted at the breathing holes in the sea ice. Seals constituted the most important prey in winter in many areas along the coast. The Nattilingmiut, ‘the people of the seal place’, derive their name from the seal. Seal meat was eaten and sealskin was used for many purposes depending on the quality of the skin and the type...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Whale, Representing the Whole
      (pp. 308-341)

      Whaling is an old tradition in Inuit culture.¹ Archaeological evidence shows that whaling already had an important place in Dorset and Thule culture. Large-scale Euro-American whaling in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was responsible for the decline of Inuit whaling in the Arctic seas. In the final stages of the heydays of whaling in the second half of the nineteenth century, whalers began to establish whaling stations and employ Inuit hunters to catch whales for them (see figure 10.1). This employment was profitable for both parties until whaling collapsed at the end of the nineteenth century.² The whalers brought many...

  9. Comparisons and Conclusions
    (pp. 342-361)

    Tivi Etok, from Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, related a story that expresses the predicament of the Inuit hunter very well:

    The next day the hunter set out to hunt the walrus by qajaq. As he paddled toward the island, a suckling walrus came to greet him. ‘Harpoon me, as I would like a drink of water’, the suckling walrus said to the great hunter. The man saw how tiny the walrus’s tusks were, and did not reply. ‘Harpoon me as I would like a drink of water’, repeated the walrus. To which the man replied, ‘I do not want you, for you...

  10. APPENDIX. Inuit Elders
    (pp. 362-366)
  11. Glossary of Inuktitut Words
    (pp. 367-378)
  12. References
    (pp. 379-400)
  13. Index
    (pp. 401-408)