The Fan Hitch Volume 12, Number 4, September 2010

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog
In This Issue....

From the Editor: An Outsider's Perceptions

The Gaze of Animal Life

In the News

Conducting Dog Feeding Trials on the Antarctic Huskies:
a behind the scenes look at how it got done!

Further Experiments on the nutrition of sledge dogs

How Use of the name Inuit became official

An Examination of Traditional Knowledge:
the case of the Inuit Sled Dog, part 4

Chinook Project visits Northern Labrador

Media Review: Qimmit - A Clash of Two Truths

IMHO: In Transition

Index: Volume 12, The Fan Hitch

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Editor-in-Chief: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
Print Edition: Imaged and distributed by the IPL students of the Ulluriaq School, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at:

Print subscriptions: in Canada $20.00, in USA $23.00, elsewhere $32.00 per year, postage included. All prices are in Canadian dollars. Make checks payable in Canadian dollars only to "Mark Brazeau", and send to Mark Brazeau, Box 151 Kangiqsualujjuaq QC J0M 1N0 Canada. (Back issues are also available. Contact Sue Hamilton.)

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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.

ISDI Coordinator Canada:
Geneviève Montcombroux, Box 206, Inwood, MB R0C 1P0;
ISDI Coordinator USA:
Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791,

How the use of the name 'Inuit' became official

by Sue Hamilton

I have a tattoo above my wrist. It's not a permanent one but I keep it going as long as I can and then replace it with a fresh one because I like it very much. A packet of them was sent to me by some nice folks up north as part of a "goodie bag". Since I had to retire my much loved polar bear ring when it became fragile and then cracked, this tattoo, created to celebrate 2010 as the year of the Inuit, keeps me feeling connected to the North and all those years Mark and I traveled across arctic Canada and (once) to Greenland. The tattoo reminds me of how we were so warmly welcomed and treated virtually everywhere we traveled and how we felt so comfortable and at ease, even though the predominant language of each community was not our own. We have many fond recollections and my tattoo helps me to remember them.

My uncle has a tattoo on his forearm as well. Only his is permanent, a series of numbers that was applied to his skin very much against his will. He got his tattoo at Auschwitz. Since the subject was so exquisitely painful to discuss, I never did ask him why he didn't have it removed, as there are procedures to make it go away. Maybe the reminder that despite the effort to obliterate personal identity (what I believe to be, when all else has been taken away, the very last thing a person has left), it can indeed be rediscovered – an act of triumph of the human spirit…survival…humanity's struggle of good over its evil side. My uncle is known by his real name, not his tattoo number. 

For many years I worked for a very large multi-cultural organization, rich in diversity. Not everyone spoke "the Queen's English" and I often had to work hard understand what was being said. I had nothing but admiration for these visitors to America, for they knew far more English than I knew of their language. And it was most important to me that, if I couldn't speak their language, at the very least I wanted to call them by and pronounce correctly their name as they wished to hear it, not some corrupted version nickname given to them by others who were too lazy to remember and pronounce an original name.

Identity has always been important to me.

I supposed it doesn't matter that he was born in the same country, but every time I hear Jeopardy's Alex Trebek refer to the aboriginal people of the Canadian North by the "E"-word, I recoil as if someone is dragging fingernails slowly across a blackboard. Trebek needs a verbal dope-slap upside his head, in the most polite way of course, because I think he seems to make a point of using that word, as if he knows better but doesn't care.

Well, I do care and so do a lot of others. And, back in 1977, there were two in particular, Eben Hopson and Jon Buchholdt1,2, who cared enough and were respectful enough to make the name "Inuit" official. Mr. Buchholdt recounts how it came to pass:

"I was at the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference in 1977 and, as Mayor Hopson's assistant, I wrote most of the resolutions passed by the Inuit Circumpolar Commission (ICC) in 1977. I also was responsible for organizing the first ICC conference during the period between summer 1976 and July 1977. During this early organizational period I worked closely with the Inuit of Canada's Western Arctic, and with Greenlanders active in their home-rule movement. At that time the word "Inuit" was not generally known or used by the Alaskan Eskimo community, but I learned that it was the proper noun of choice in Canada among those active in Canada's land claims movement. So, when we organized the ICC, Mayor Hopson decided to adopt "Inuit" when he invited the delegates to the early organization meetings preceding the first ICC conference in Barrow. I don't believe the word replaced "Eskimo" in Alaska. For instance after the ICC was organized, in 1977 or 1978 in response to bowhead whaling ban by the International Whaling Commission, Alaska's whalers organized the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission to assume management of the American bowhead harvest.

I think "Inuit" was adopted as the word for the international polar aboriginal community in deference to the Canadian and Greenlandic feeling that "Eskimo" was a European word, originally French, "Eskimaux." In any event, I was sensitive to that feeling, and I advised Eben Hopson to adopt "Inuit" in place of "Eskimo" in the early days of ICC organization."

Original painting of Eben Hopson hangs in the
North Slope Borough building Barrow, Alaska
                      Artist: Moses Wassilie, permission
                                  courtesy of Jon Buchholdt

The most amazing thing about their decision is that both men were Alaskans, and Hopson was Yupik, whose people collectively prefer to be referred to as Eskimo.

Honoring the use of the term "Inuit" is not an issue of "political correctness" (for me another fingernails-across-blackboard term), but a matter of respecting the wishes of the people who prefer to be called by a name of their own choosing, not one assigned to them by a culture other than their own.

1,2     Eben Hopson began his political life in 1946 as a Barrow city councilman. Later he was elected to the legislature of the Alaska Territory and then to its first state senate. Hopson helped organize Alaska's first regional land claims organization for the Arctic Slope Inupiat, then serving as the first Vice-President of the Alaska Federal of Natives (AFN), and becoming its Executive Director.  In 1970, Hopson left the AFN to become Special Assistant for Native Affairs to Governor William Egan. Two years later, he left that position and was elected mayor of the North Slope Borough. In 1976, Hopson called upon the Inuit (Eskimo) leaders of Greenland, Canada, the U.S., and the U.S.S.R. to form an international organization, called the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC). The first meeting of the ICC, hosted by Hopson in 1977 in Barrow, was the high point in his career. Eben Hopson passed away on June 28, 1980, the opening day of the Second Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Greenland. He was 57 years old.

Jon Buchholdt managed Anchorage's Community Action Agency when he met Eben Hopson in 1969. The two men began collaboration on the development, creation and operation of health clinics in Alaska, beginning with the Bethel Region, then created the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and later the Norton Sound Health Corporation. Their friendship remained strong until Hopson passed away. Today Buchholdt operates an Anchorage law office where he maintains the Eben Hopson Memorial Archives.

Information for these biographies was taken from
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