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Canadian Arctic

Lords of the Arctic: Wards of the State

Summary - When I read the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut response to my report I am left with a sense of hope. I have nothing to add to their review except to say that I agree with it. The review speaks for itself. The GNWT plan for the future of Canada's Inuit is to build more infrastructure over the coming years at an additional cost to the Canadian taxpayer of between $1 billion and $2 billion per year. In some "trickledown" way, like crumbs falling from a table, this may bring benefits to the Inuit, but it is a plan without vision, as stale as the crumbs it generates. It is simply a continuation and expansion of past policies which have made Inuit wards of the state. The Inuit have an alternative plan, as they must, if they and their descendants are to survive as a viable society. The Inuit invite Canadians to join with them, as full partners, in an act of creative nation building in the Canadian Arctic. For both sound economic and moral reasons, this invitation should be warmly and graciously accepted by the government and people of Canada.

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Lords of the Arctic: Wards of the State

Full Report in English:

Full Arctic Report

Report in Inuktitut:

Arctic Report Inuktitut

Inuit Ethics and the Priority of the Future Generation

As a result of ten years of travel in Arctic Alaska, Canada and Greenland the author found himself confronted with the question "Could Inuit ethics and virtuous morality be explained in functional environmental terms?” Along with a holistic view of Inuit culture, that came from many years of participant observation, cognitive anthropological techniques were employed to describe Inuit ethics. This work focused on life histories, mythology, interviews and linguistic analysis that sought to give emic meanings to Inuit ethical terms by emic standards of truth. Inuit religious ethics was shown to have only an incidental relationship to shamanism which concentrates on the power of helping spirits rather than the ideas of good or evil. The metaphysics in mythology was shown to be of traditional importance but belief in the name/soul and reincarnation was and is the central Inuit metaphysical concept in Inuit ethics. Naming rules are enumerated along with some modern examples of Inuit names. It is concluded that the Inuit Summum Bonum is the priority of the future generation as demonstrated by the strength and extent of the beliefs in reincarnation. Inuit philosophic ethics is approached from an analysis of Inuit ethical terms. Firstly a description of the Inuit language is given that points out its agglutinative nature and the important relationship of symbol to form in which symbol can create form. Secondly the synonymity of the concept of human nature and wisdom in the Inuit concept of the good person is explained. This leads to the conclusion that Inuit philosophic ethics is not mere blunt pragmatism but rather a well-refined form of consequentialism. Some related questions of Inuit ethics are examined that are distinctly concerned with survival, namely, authority, distribution of resources, suicide, invalidicide, senilicide, and female infanticide. This examination demonstrates the functional necessity of Inuit morality and the associated rationality of Inuit religious and philosophic ethics. It is suggested that relativism does not offer an adequate explanation for the divergent nature of ethics described here. Further the giving of priority to the future generation is more in keeping with the necessities of survival and an evolutionary explanation.

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Inuit Ethics

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Inuit Ethics Autobiography

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Inuit Ethics Mythology

The Inuit and the Evolution of limited group conflict

From an examination of the archaeological and ethnographic record Bigelow (1969) and Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1979) draw the conclusion that the human behaviour we call war is and has been a universal human trait perhaps as old as Homo sapiens. Bigelow (1969), in his book The Dawn Warriors, goes so far as to suggest that many of man's so called advanced facultative skills evolved specifically to enhance man's warring skills, as war, Bigelow suggests, was adaptive. The advent of nuclear weapons may have irrevocably changed the cost to benefit ratio of warring behaviour. So long as there were some winners then war may have been adaptive but when there are only losers the behaviour of war ceases to have any adaptive advantages. How will this change in the cost to benefit ratio of warring behaviour be played out in evolutionary terms? Will man become extinct? Perhaps. 

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Inuit Limited Conflict

Anthropology and Peace Making

Anthropology, in the American tradition, is divided into sub-disciplines: biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. The first three are used to better understand the nature of deadly group conflict in humans and how war might be prevented. Critically, if humans have developed a society based on a culture that excludes the deadly behaviour of war, can we learn from that example and apply such lessons to our contemporary circumstances? The answer to the first part of this question is a definite ‘yes’. The Inuit in the Canadian Arctic developed a culture without war, but the author’s application of their various cultural adaptations to our modern circumstances has only met with mixed success.

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Anthropology and Peace Making

Inuit Navigation, Empirical Reasoning and Survival

In order to navigate and thereby survive in a hostile environment the Inuit have developed a sophisticated body of knowledge that makes travel possible even during a blizzard or white-out. This unique skill was developed from a thorough understanding of the properties of snow and local meteorology. Problems of space, time and distance are also taken into account by Inuit navigators but this is done with minimal use of quantification and abstraction. However this highly practical form of navigation in which the Inuit deal directly with their environment is none the less scientific and empirical. In 1971 the author attempted a single-handed sailing of the North West Passage and in 1973 completed a crossing of Arctic North America by dog team. 

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Inuit Navigation

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Arctic Trek

Sociocultural Biology: Studies in the Evolution of some Netsilingmiut and Other Sociocultural Behaviours

This dissertation attempts to examine the causes of human prosocial and antisocial behavior as a phenomena of human nature and culture. However the thesis to be developed here begins with the premise that the nature/nurture dichotomy is essentially false. Culture, it is suggested, has evolved to advance life and is subject to a process of natural selection. This approach to an understanding of human nature, culture and behavior is termed sociocultural biology and is explored by analyzing three aspects of Eskimo sociality. Firstly female infanticide amongst the Eskimo is shown to be a temperature dependent phenomenon. The principle evolutionary ultimate causes are identified as a combination of human birth sex ratio, sex role specialization, male mortality, environmental conditions and optimal foraging strategies. It is noted that the control of the Eskimo sex ratio is not accomplished by a physiological process but rather by a cultural proximate mechanism. Secondly a brief review is made of the biological and cultural evolutionary theories that could contribute to an evolutionary analysis of kinship. By separating questions of "ultimate cause" from questions of "proximate cause" it is suggested that kinship can perform an instrumental role as a cultural proximate mechanism in the regulation of adaptive behavior. Correlations were found between these kin terms, associated normative behavior and adaptive behavior. Thirdly it is suggested that aspects of ethnocentrism could be artifacts of our human evolutionary past when hunter/gatherers lived in small populations comprised of inbred demes. By applying the principles of kin selection the parameters for ethnocentric behavior are examined. Correlations were found to be present between cultural, genetic and behavioral variation consistent with the theory that cultural differences could have become proximate mechanisms for group behaviors. In order to move beyond the limited sociality of the tribe it is suggested that nothing short of a revolution in human affairs must have taken place. Models are developed to help illustrate this sociocultural change. It is hoped that these models, and the theoretical perspective that support them, could possibly be developed to better understand subjects as diverse as descriptive morality and applied social science.

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PhD Dissertation