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The Inuit Sled Dog International
The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) is a consortium of enthusiasts whose goal is the preservation of this ancient arctic breed in its purest form as a working dog. The ISDI's efforts are concentrated on restoring the pure Inuit Dog to its native habitat. The ISDI's coordinators welcome to your comments and questions.
from the Film Board of Canada's
Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories Project
reviewed by Sue Hamilton
This thirty-seven minute documentary, created in 1973, tells the story of the relocation of Inuit from their traditional homelands in the north coastal communities of Hebron and Nutak to more southerly locations of Makkovik, Hopedale and in particular Nain. Moravian missionaries, two hundred years in the most northerly region, once the self-appointed administrative body for the Inuit there eventually abandoned the area. And in the mid to late 1950s, in an effort to centralize the “care” of the Inuit living in the far north of Labrador, the Canadian government moved them further south. In a translated interview Nick Menzil, an Inuk relocated from Hebron to Hopedale commented,
“To Hopedale, Makkovik and Nain, people from Hebron, people from Nutak, going against the wind. Some of them, even close relatives were separated from one another by being placed in other villages. That is why some of us are poor here. We’re also hungry for seal meat, caribou meat and trout. In the winter we are always hungry now. We always had these foods in Hebron. Now we are living like nothing, like a void. Some of us, some of the Inuit, the men, those who are able are OK. We are not hungry for the foreigner’s food. We are not always able to get wild food here ever since the time we were moved from Hebron. Our land, Hebron, we are proud of and we are greatly attached to. Because we had to listen to what was required of us, we were moved here when we didn’t want to move from our land.”Despite the stated reason for the relocations, Inuit were left with insufficient services and resources. Outsiders laid exclusive claim to the best fishing areas. Local businesses did not have the boats, motors and nets that could begin to put Inuit on a par with the outsiders who could get this equipment elsewhere for more efficient and bountiful catches. Community laws and meaningless school curricula applied to Inuit were created by and for another culture 1500 mi/2425 km to the south in St. Johns. Siegfried Hettasch a Nain Moravian Mission spokesperson,
“Of course there are two sides to the story. Again, where the Eskimoes would love to go north with their young people, go fishing and hunting like in old days. We must not overlook that white people and government are very concerned about building up an education at the same time to help the Eskimoes. But how can you do both when parents are in need of their children for the work, hunting and fishing, to continue to exist as they would like to and they have enjoyed? Yet at the same time we would like to put them back into the school bench. So what is it what we want? What is it that is best? Are we trying to make their future or let them form their own future?”Viewers will also hear about non-aboriginal people who were deeply committed to helping Inuit wrest control of their destiny from the mission and the government, helping them to assume responsibility for decision making and activities affecting their future, to run their own lives. In closing, the documentary’s narrator says of these relocatees/exiles,
“Education is perhaps a key to the future. However in arranging their priorities, they will have to retain what is unique and necessary to their own way of life. Only then will they be able to withstand the pressure of other values imposed from the outside world.”In addition to the many interviews, there are good scenes of eager dogs being harnessed and running in the traditional fan hitch. And there are scenes of harvesting seals, preparing fish and traditional camps.
Ed.: In 2005 after thirty years of working towards self-governance, Nunatsiavut (Our Beautiful Land), the home of Labradormiut (the Inuit of Labrador) was officially established. Please visit the Nunatsiavut website to learn more.
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The Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories project was launched about a year ago by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The purpose has been to honor the aboriginal people of Canada’s North and their long history, and to present to the rest of the world the richness of northern culture as well as the challenges to and tragedies surrounding their traditional ways of life as outside religion, government and business penetrated northward.
Labrador North is but one of sixty-three archival and more modern films of the Unikkausivut project world wide web playlist that NFB has made available to watch at no charge!
A boxed set DVD of Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories includes a summary playlist, a beautiful double-sided poster including a big map featuring all the regions of Arctic Canada, a booklet written in Inutittut, English and French describing the Unikkausivut project, and two elegantly created folders each with three DVDs, (one in Inutittut and the other in English and French). To purchase this treasure visit NFB’s boutique store or call them at 1-800-267-7710 or write them at: National Film Board of Canada Sales and Customer Service, D-10 PO Box 6100, Station Centre-Ville Montreal Quebec H3C 3H5. There is also a web mail form of contact here.
And while you’re visiting the NFB website, be sure not to miss their fabulous collection of images. If you search on “Inuit Dogs” you will get a collection of 115 video clips of Inuit life and scenes of dogs!