Native vs European Cultures

Qimmiit Man’s Best Friend

Emmanuelle Frennette

Native people always had and still have different behaviour and traditions that are largely unknown to non-natives. For example, dogs are their best friends and they are an important part of their everyday life. Dogs are useful in many fields by helping their owners accomplishing their daily routine. As in some non-native homes, the dog is practically a member of the family; but in Native families, he receives a name that fits his character and physical appearance.

Firstly, the main task of the dog in Inuit tradition is mainly to carry heavy loads during winter and summer. At a young age, the Inuit dog starts to be harnessed to a sled for the pleasure of the children in the village. This was a way to tame the puppies so they can perform harder work when they are adults. After, the dog was harnessed with others on a sled to get him used to a heavier load. As soon as a dog was big enough to pull. he would go to work with the adult dogs. Each dog was carefully observed during growth to detect his character. Some dogs were more intelligent from the start so they were trained to be a lead dog. The lead dog was called “ Isuraqtujuq” and was responsible to maintain order amongst the team while carrying a sled. Depending on their length and physical condition a dog was going to have a different position in a team; the leader has the longest trace and the second one is the track maker, “Tullasuti,” because he is the strongest and a good puller. All other positions were determined by the temperament and ability of a dog. The dog was also used as a hunter to help Inuit people hunt seals during winter. Some of the most intelligent dogs had special skills and had facility to find seals. They were also used to carry heavy things around like logs to build houses in a village. Also, when people were travelling, dogs were able to carry packs for approximately fifteen to twenty miles a day.

Secondly, dogs were an important member of each family because if you had a dog you were able to survive and to provide food for your family. When a young man was old enough to have his own team, a member of his family would give him a lead dog. This was a way for him to start providing for his own family. The dog was there to protect him while hunting and to train others dogs. When getting older, the man would pass on his lead dog to his son as a sign of protection. The son was now able to go hunting with the men of the village because he had his own guard dog. This was an unconditionally important tradition that was crucial in every man’s life in order to be able to provide food for his family. Also, according to Inuit philosophy, the dog had spiritual power. They had a strong spirit and they were capable to protect their family from any spiritual dangers. Some shamans used dogs as spirit helpers while doing their rituals. Dogs were also useful to save people from unfortunate situations of any kind. They were also helpful to save people from some malicious spirits; so dogs were, at some level, guardians of the sleep for their family.

Thirdly, dogs were so important in Inuit life that they were treated with great respect amongst the community. Dogs always had plenty of food and rarely suffered from starvation. Even if the family did not have enough food for everyone their dogs were still eating because this was a sign of hope. “There were times that the family went hungry, but if the dogs were well fed, then the family worried less”. This means that, if your dog is still alive, you still have a great chance of killing while hunting. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and they were better to track animals to ensure the survival of the family or clan. Inuit were always giving them high quality of food and not regular dog food because they were their most valuable weapon for hunting. People were feeding them with blood broth, with guts of seal, to give them extra nutrients to keep them super healthy. Even in time of starvation for a village, people found ways to give food to their dogs, even if it was only dry pieces of meat. This was a way to keep them healthy for future hunting trips to search for food. As a last resort some people ate their dogs because it was a question of survival; however, eating their dogs diminished their chance of survival in the future. “ When the dogs started dying off, the Inuit would start to die next”. It is a clear demonstration here that without their dogs, the Inuit population was not able to provide food on the table for their families.

Finally, dogs in the Inuit community were raised and fed in such a way as to increase their future aptitudes as hunter, protector, and man’s best friend. Dogs received special treatments depending on their future purpose in life. For example, the Inuit gave special or uncommon food to their dogs so they can have special extra skills to hunt seals when they are adults. Specific training was given to dogs so they would become stronger or great fighters, with the goal of teaching them extra skills. Inuit people also strongly believe that doing “good things” can increase the chance of having a stronger dog. Overall, they made sure to keep all their chances on their side in order to have the strongest and most intelligent dog possible. For example, in some regions “ The first tooth a boy lost was hidden in a piece of meat and fed to his dog. This ensured a close relationship between the boy and the dog”.

After reading this text I strongly believe that Inuit people have great traditions for their surroundings. It is really important to treat animals with respect and not like an object. I think that they are a great example for our society and we should all incorporate some of their traditions in our daily routine. Nowadays, we do not have to go hunting to provide food for our family, but we can integrate dogs as a special member of our family, by treating dogs like equals and giving them more respect within every family. I was also really surprised to learn that tradition about dogs because it was the fist I had heard of it. It is interesting to learn more about another culture to fully understanding them. I think it is admirable and I deeply respect Inuit culture because they have an interesting and deep relation with their animals and natural surroundings.

Work Cited

Course Handbook: ANG456: Native Literature: Inuit Identity p.117-126

 

 

The Myth of the Savage and the Beginning of French Colonialism in Americas                                              by Olive Patricia Dickason

Venessa Labelle-Bilodeau

The Myth of the Savage and the Beginning of French Colonialism in the Americas is a study written by Olive Patricia Dickason. In this book Dickason describes both the French and European perceptions of the New World, and the actual encounters. It is a study of the relationship between the early French settlers and the Amerindians. The third chapter of her study is titled “To Each a Place and Rank.” This chapter talks about the lack of order and civility in the native community according to European scholars. She goes on to explain the many different reasons why Europeans have named natives uncivilized and savage.

Europeans believed that there was “a great chain of being” which was closely related to Christian Ideals. Their belief of the order of the world was as followed; the Holy Trinity, the angels, the arch angels, the Aquatic Belt, the firmament, the seven planets and the four elements. In the center of all are men. Amongst the species some were considered to be imperfect, such as wild predators. Europeans did not understand how it was possible for other civilities to have a different value scales than they had. They explained this by stating that the Amerindians were hommes sauvages. By trying to understand this phenomenon, colonizers created many contradictions amongst their own people and the natives as well. She goes on to describe Ptolemy’s explanation for the different skin colors and physical appearances of the natives. Ptolemy claimed that for geographical and climate reasons, the skin may vary in color and resistance. But this explanation did not apply to the New World. The colours did not vary but stayed quite similar from the Artic to the Equator. The explanation Europeans gave for this was that they have arrived only a few hundred years before the Spaniards and the climate had not yet had an effect on their physical appearance. They also suggested that climate and geography also affected attitudes. Pierre Charron stated that the differences are caused by the internal temperature, the north being cold, the south being hot and the middle being temperate. Girolamo Cardono on the other hand stated that the violent change in weather was the main reason why there was savagery in the New World.

Europeans soon realised not only that they were physically differentfrom indigenous people, but that they also had different cultures, but most of all, that in one civilization they had multiple customs. Not only did customs vary in different areas but they varied amongst the indigenous people themselves, and customs were also passed down from generation to generation. Europeans did not like this because it could mean the end of the Christian culture. Cultural diversity lead to the introduction of evil which eventually leads to degeneration of culture. Europeans felt that they were superior; thus they wanted their language and culture to be predominant. But the New World presented many different languages and customs; hence, they were challenged to spread Christianity. Europeans were stunned to learn that they had similarities with the beliefs of Amerindians such as a similar story of a deluge and the use of a similar calendar. Eventually, Amerindians agreed to wear clothes, but this was because of the European problem to accept civility with nudity. In European culture the more extreme your clothes were, the higher you are in the hierarchy. Thus the nudity of the Amerindians gave some kind of proof to the Europeans that the “savages” had no social order. And many resisted the demand for civility by the Europeans and often took their clothes off at night or when going out for a walk.

Adding to the nudity of the Amerindians, was the fact that they were unconcerned with riches, unlike the Europeans who based their economy on riches. Renaissance Europeans depicted them as being without culture, stating that they had no writing, money, iron and grain. They also lacked an Alphabet, arts and crafts and printing. Amerindians had gold and iron in abundance, but did not care much for it as the Europeans did. They did not see it as a valuable object, but rather as material from which to make things. They used it for many different things such as fish hooks, breast plates, rings for ears or nose and bracelets. Eventually Europeans were told the story of El Dorado, where many riches still remained. This story has been part of our culture ever since but the treasure has never been found and its mystery has driven many non-natives mad. The desire to incorporate the people of the New World into the Great Chain of Being still remained, thus they started to incorporate them into the arts. They started to put them into paintings. Europeans thought that eventually maybe it would make the indigenous people more like Europeans if they could be depicted in art. Europeans called the Amerindians an immature society because of their customs of cannibalism and human sacrifice. Montaigne stated that this was close to what Europeans did and that they should not argue this custom. The reason being that Europeans would burn people to death as a punishment or would torture them. He argued that cannibalism was as cruel as torturing.

Dickason ends her study by stating that Renaissance Europeans never fully accepted Amerindians as their own. Although they have never left behind the idea that natives should be humanized. What she found outstanding among the many scholars she has referred to was that must of them had written of the New World without ever setting foot in it. Most of their writing were of stories brought back to them by seaman. What Europeans disliked the most about the New World was that they had developed without Christianity, but still they were happy, healthy and lived long lives.

In conclusion Dickason gives a vast explanation of the Renaissance Europeans view of the New World. Her text gives many excerpts by great scholars. In my opinion this gives the text much more depth as it gives concrete examples of the image Europeans had of the natives in the New World. Although we may not know all of the writers she mentions, we can easily understand their importance. In is interesting to see how Europeans felt superior to other civilities and unfortunately such attitudes still stand in our way of thinking about minorities today.

Work Cited

Dickason, Olive Patricia. The Myth of the Savage: And the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas. Edmonton, Alta., Canada: U of Alberta, 1984. Print. p.43-59

 

Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples

Estelle Grenier -Robillard

Linda Tuhiwai Smith is a Native author from New Zealand. In Chapter 5 of book Decolonizing Methodologies, the author affirms the existence of imperialism as a state under which Aboriginal communities still live. She attempts to explain “the new language of Imperialism” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 97) and colonialism and how it is still accurate to use these concepts to describe sociological realities. She is confronting the common ideas that tend to diminish or delegitimize theses concepts in sociological studies.

The author explains how Aboriginal knowledge and philosophies are appropriated and used by the Western world in its process of domination. She demonstrates how Native cultures, Native philosophies, Native bodies and Native Knowledge are commodified for the benefit of the capitalist system. This commodification takes multiple forms. For example, Indigenous people are dehumanized in the name of science because of the Western vision of the world. Any “cell-lines stolen, patented or copied” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 98) for scientific experiences resonate with past experiences of Indigenous bodies being dehumanized for producing scientific knowledge. It is, then, impossible to deny the colonizing process that was and is happening in the appropriation of Native bodies by Western Science (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999: 100). Western Science is trying to create knowledge about these bodies denying the self-determination of First Nations in the understanding of their own bodies.

Another form of commodification of First Nations identity is how Aboriginal cultures and spirituality are appropriated by white people for profit. The author affirms that there is a “current fashion of patenting anything likely to be desired by others in order to both control and profit from it is placing great pressure on Indigenous communities to protect themselves” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 101). How the world is now developed with the Internet helps creating mass consumption of certain cultural elements that are sacred to Natives. More so, virtual arts and cultures are created with the new technologies, we now know, and are sold as Aboriginal culture. According to Thuhiwai Smith, this reality is producing “static stereotyped images of what is accepted by white Australians as being Aboriginal” (1999 : 102). Cultural differences are now virtually created by the production of cultural commodities that are constructing what can be considered as Aboriginal. The process of delimitation, by white people, of who and what is Indigenous is historically central to the experience of Natives within the process of colonization they have been going through (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 102). The author wants to expose how Aboriginal spirituality is appropriated by white people that gain and profit from it and why this is part of a colonial process.

It is also central to the text that the Western and Indigenous belief systems are contradictory. The center of this contradiction is the Indigenous belief that “the earth is a living entity, Mother Earth” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 99). The Native alternatives to capitalist process of destroying the environment are there but are against Western dominance. “Indigenous peoples have philosophies which connect humans to the environment and to each other and which generate principles for living a life which is sustainable, respectful and possible ” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 105). A capitalist vision is essential to the Imperialist system in which we live, and it is contradictory to Indigenous visions of the world. While Indigenous ways are all about sharing and caring for nature, Mother Earth, and each other, capitalism appropriates any natural resources for the benefit of a small group. This is denying the well-being of humans, plants, animals, and the interdependence of everything that is living on this planet.

It is important to understand that, from a native perspective, the word post-colonialism is a reference that implies the end of colonialism while Aboriginal people still experience a large realm of what could be defined as colonialism. While Native communities are dealing with collective trauma, they are recovering from the fragmentation of their identities and are maintaining “collective memory and critical consciousness of past experience” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999 : 98). Colonialism and Imperialism may have changed there ways of expression but are their effects are still entangled in very complex ways.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith demonstrates how Colonization and Imperialism are still happening in ways that are adapting to the evolution of Western Dominance. This idea seems very important for a radical understanding of society and for studies that have a desire to participate in social justice. It seems relevant to keep theorizing the concept of Colonialism that is central to the sociological reality, especially from a Native perspective. It is primordial to be listening to the voices that have the sensibility to understand the impact of Western dominance on oppressed groups.

Work Cited

SMITH, L.T., Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples.

Zed Book: Royaume-Unis. 1999, p.95-106.

 

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