Saturday, October 04, 2008

Inuit Wildlife Harvesting

Its pretty rare that I get comments on posts older than about 6 days, let alone 6 months. I did, however, find that my blog was getting a number of hits searching for information on the seal hunt as it pertained to traditional Inuit life. I received an email yesterday from a reader in France, I believe, who had read this post from last March. As Megan subsequently commented, it's nice to get a person who is actually interested in this issue and doesn't swear or make death threats. Indeed.

So, I will post this here rather than in the comments section with the hopes that my visitor will discover an answer to her query more easily.

Here is the original comment:

Anonymous said...
Dear Blogger,
just to let you know that we actually have seals in france ! Reaaaaally, many grey seals sunbathing in complete peace and freedom in Bretagne, north west part of France ! Don't worry, not one single critic in my comment, which was more an informative one.
Ok, the purpose of my message was first of all to thank you for your posts on seal hunting. Pretty nice to read your point of view on this. But also for the future borrowing of some of your pictures I will do since I already read that you agree with this!
And last of all, I am going to present something pretty soon about the role of the seals & polar bears in the Inuk culture and to be sure that I get it all about the hunting seal thing in Canada, do you have a local or lets call it traditional seal hunting by Inuit AND a commercial seals hunting by Canadians and/or Inuit. And if you considere that there is clearly two kinds, do you have any information about the proportions of seals cautght in these 2cases.
One more qusetion. An open one... If you had to say anything, inspirated from your feelings, experiences, readings, talks, whatever, about the place of the polar bear in the Inuk culture, what would be your words ?
Thank you for answering and helping, and actually thanks for writting about Nunavut! Nice gift for people so far away from this "land"

5:26 PM

Rather than respond right away, I ruminated for awhile. I forwarded the comment to Clare since he has more experience than I do in these matters. The following reply to my visitor's question then, is more Clare's answer than mine.


If you are inquiring as to whether there is a commercial aspect to the Inuit hunt, there is. Some pelts are used locally to make kamiik (seal skin boots), clothing etc.. There really are no "proportions" to distinguish between the two hunts, the commercial hunt is incidental to the other. The complete seal is used for food while others are sold. It is very important to point out that the traditional Inuit hunt is nothing on the scale of the Atlantic commercial that my little Green Peace "buddies" are so fond of showing up at.

The protests of the 1980's severely diminished the revenues Inuit hunters collected from the sale of their harvested pelts. So devastating was this drop that it has yet to fully recover. The same can be said for other fur bearers such as Arctic Fox which were also trapped for income and the main reason for the existence of the Hudson's Bay Company posts up here.

I wasn't quite clear on what information you were looking for in terms of the polar bear. They too, are hunted up here for food and for their pelts which are used to make traditional clothing. As Clare points out, and I can certainly vouch for, they make great pants. Clare also mentioned a story to me about a local young man who raised an orphaned polar bear cub as a pet. It was later released but locals believed it would recognize them out on the land and "visit".

Hope you find this post and find it insightful, Aurore. Come back and visit any time.


Anonymous said...

Hi, and first of all thanks a lot for your and Clare's reply (and thank you Megan for your welcome words !)

I have to admit that I may partly be responsible for increased hits searching for information about seal hunting and Inuk culture those last weeks ! I have been forth and back through different blogs from the Northern Canada since I wanted to get a good picture of the Inuit from Canadian Arctic, i.e. not only from books and articles, but also through eyes and experiences of others.

Well, I was in greenland this year for field work and one day the hunters with who I was working with, mentioned Brigitte bardot and the disastrous decrease in sales of sealskins which followed her and different organisations campaign. To be honest, I had never heard anything in the French medias about the catastrophic consequences that these campaigns had on Inuit economy and probably on their identity. France being Brigitte Bardot's country did not really help...
Oups, writing too much !
Ok, what I just wanted to say besides thanking you was actually more about the bears. When I started seaching information on the role of seals and bears in the Inuk culture, I was actually expecting to find a lot more polar bear things than seal's ones. I don't know, maybe the omnipresence of the polar bear as a symbol of the arctic. But anyway, traditional clothes and the all hunting and sharing things around the bear were the few information I could actually found, compared with tons of exciting things for seals. So that was why you got this quite bread question about bears, to hear all kind of information you may be thinking of by associating polar bear and Inuit !

Thank you one more time for your help. I may ask it again some other times !

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I believe your mind is more into politic now, but I read a pleasant paper today which I felt like sharing with you

About relationship humans/animals, Inuit hunting and property rights from a Western or Inuk point of view. Quite long so you may keep it for other times, but I liked it a lot, and it actually made me smile all the way through since it really reflected the way I experienced Inuit around seals and other marine mammals.