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
Navigating This Site
Index of articles by subject
Index of back issues by volume number
Search The Fan Hitch
Articles to download and print
Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis
Our comprehensive list of resources
Talk to The Fan Hitch
The Fan Hitch home page
ISDI home page
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog International, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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.)
The Fan Hitch welcomes your letters, stories, comments and suggestions. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.
Contents of The Fan Hitch are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut 06791, USA or email@example.com
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.
|Part 4 of 4....
Sled dog team tied up.
Henry A. Larsen / Library and Archives Canada
An Examination of Traditional Knowledge:
The Case of the Inuit Sled Dog
by Kerrie Ann Shannon
Winner of the 3rd annual ARCUS* Award for Arctic Research Excellence, 1999
Table of Contents
II. THE SUBJECT OF DOGS AND DOG TEAMS
III. ASPECTS OF TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE
V. TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE CONCERNING SLED DOGS
Brake / Anchor
Lines / Traces
Booties / Paw Protectors
Hunting with Dogs
Food and Feeding Practices
Connection to Human Health
VI. EXPLORING THE INCONSISTENCIES
*Arctic Research Consortium of the United States
VI. EXPLORING THE INCONSISTENCIES
The previous sections of this paper provided an overview of some research results investigating the traditional knowledge of dogs and dog teams. The responses were not always consistent. The following will briefly highlight some of the greatest diversities in the responses. In exploring these inconsistencies in traditional knowledge concerning dogs and dog teams, possible reasons for the inconsistencies are given.
One of the most notable areas of discrepancy was in criterion for choosing a lead dog for a team. Some people believed that it was always best to use a male dog while others stated that it was best to use the mother of a litter of pups. Yet, other respondents would choose a leader regardless of the sex of the dog and the lead dog had to be a calm dog. In contrast, other respondents highlighted the importance of having a dominant dog as the leader. Furthermore, some people explained that in order to prevent fights among dogs in a team or to stop dogs from chewing on harnesses and traces, teeth were removed. However, when I specifically asked other respondents if dogs’ teeth were removed, they said that this was never done. When asking about anchors or brakes to stop sleds some people stated that they were a necessity for travel, to prevent the dogs from running away. In contrast, other respondents thought that these devises could pose a danger to travel. Thus, there are many variations in traditional knowledge about dogs and dog teams; these examples are not exhaustive, but simply serve as examples of discrepancies in knowledge.
Four possible reasons are offered to explain inconsistencies in traditional knowledge concerning dogs: 1) the individualistic nature of dog teams, 2) the different geographic and cultural affiliations of Inuit in this particular community, 3) the dynamic nature of traditional knowledge, and 4) gender-related differences in the retention and transference of traditional knowledge.
This research illustrates some of the general components of traditional knowledge, by proving an example of the cumulative, dynamic, experimental and experiential aspects of traditional knowledge concerning the care and maintenance of dogs and dog teams. The individualistic nature of dog team care, training and maintenance should be noted. Because traditional knowledge is largely experiential, such knowledge will differ as a result of differing past and present experiences and circumstances. During interviews, respondents would sometimes explicitly stress that the information he or she provided was his/her way of doing something. In addition, my interpreter was also a dog team owner and sometimes remarked, “I did not know that, I will do that with my dogs.” His reaction to new information illustrated that not everyone in the community held the same knowledge. The inconsistencies in the traditional knowledge of dog teams may stem from both opposing opinions as well as lack of awareness of some knowledge. Although not everyone holds the same information, and opinions might conflict about dog-related issues, one person’s information does not necessarily discredit someone else’s knowledge. It is accepted that within the definition of traditional knowledge, not every individual possess the same knowledge. These contradictory opinions also seem to demonstrate another characteristic of traditional knowledge, namely tolerance of diversity.
Another cause for inconsistencies may be due to the fact that the respondent group was comprised of Inuit from different eastern Arctic locations. On Southampton Island the indigenous population of the Saldlermiut died out around 1902 or 1903. (Freeman 1969/70, Mathiassen 1928 and 1921-24, Moyer 1970, and Sutton 1932). Today, the population largely consists of the Aivilimmiut from the west and Uqummiut from the eastern Hudson Strait area (Freeman 1969/70). There are many cultural differences between these groups, therefore one could expect that there might also be differences in the traditional knowledge about dogs. Traditional knowledge is cumulative, geographically specific, and shared mainly within kin groups. Location has a great influence on experience and hence on the traditional knowledge possessed. Moreover, the cumulative nature further enhances these differences that originated because of different environments. The distinct origins and experiences may thus explain differences in the traditional knowledge about dogs on Southampton Island.
A third reason why there may be inconsistencies is related to the dynamic nature of traditional knowledge. Most definitions of traditional knowledge incorporate the idea of change, causing some authors to prefer the term indigenous knowledge rather than debate the notion of change within the concept “traditional” (Berkes 1993, Johnson 1992). In this paper the term traditional knowledge will be used despite ambiguities about the allowable extent of change. There have been various changes in technology involved in dog team travel; such changes are first initiated and adopted at an individual level. People have different ideas and experiment with different technologies. Therefore discrepancies in dog team practices will likely exist between individuals. For example, someone may have tried a metal ring to serve as the connector between the main lines and the dog lines and think that this is an easier alternative to carved ivory or carved antler pieces. Yet, another person may believe that the purchased metal connectors do not work very well. Although the nature of traditional knowledge is dynamic and tends to change in a common direction, there is a period of flux when new technologies and resources are tested and admitted to the realm of traditional knowledge. Traditional knowledge allows for change. However not everyone is required or even expected to adopt change at the same time.
Finally, the role that gender plays in the retention and transmission of traditional knowledge should be considered. Since traditional knowledge is most often maintained orally, certain people are sometimes responsible for retaining and transferring specific aspects of knowledge. In addition to the individualistic nature of dog team knowledge, specific information is sometimes divided between men and women. Wolfe et al. comment on how traditional knowledge is maintained and transmitted:
“Certain categories of knowledge, however, are regarded as the preserve of particular types of individuals. Women hold a different specific body of knowledge from that held by men.” (Wolfe et al. 1992, p. 16)
Women and men may indeed have retained different knowledge about dogs. Many female respondents told me that raising the puppies was their responsibility until the dogs were old enough to run with the team. In one interview, an elder explained that he never had good dogs until he was married. He thanked his wife for always raising good puppies for him. Maintaining dog teams is very labor intensive, with a division of labor where women raised the puppies being common.
Today the involvement of women with dog teams has changed. Before the availability of snowmobiles, dogs were an essential part of Inuit life. Both men and women traveled by dog team and maintained the dogs. Currently, however, a dog team is a choice rather than a necessity. Men may choose to have a dog team and women may choose to become involved with their husbands’ dogs. Other women may have minimal or no involvement with their husbands’ team. Men might have difficulties in accessing some information about dogs when 1) the knowledge was predominately retained by women and 2) the transference of knowledge occurs during gender specific activities where it is predominately women present. During the radio call-in show previously mentioned, a female elder called in to describe how to feed puppies when the mother dog refused to nurse them. Later a man called in and thanked the elder for sharing that information because that was the problem he currently had with his own puppies. Since women’s involvement with dogs has decreased, it may effect certain portions of the traditional knowledge about dogs. Different channels for information may need to be developed within the community in order to transfer the traditional knowledge. The specific roles of men and women in the retention of certain aspects of knowledge of dog teams are changing. As these changes occur, some people may have greater success than others at attaining traditional knowledge, therefore, inconsistencies may result.
Although all four of these possible reasons can lead to inconsistencies in traditional knowledge, it is difficult to isolate one reason as the main cause. By exploring these reasons, certain properties of traditional knowledge have been confirmed, such as the cumulative and dynamic properties, experimental and experiential aspects, as well as the role of gender in the retention and transference of knowledge. These different sources of inconsistency are not antithetical to a definition of traditional knowledge. The distinct manner in which traditional knowledge is acquired allows for these inconsistencies to be incorporated into the body of knowledge. The definition of traditional knowledge includes properties that make it flexible enough to incorporate differences.
Understanding and collecting traditional knowledge of dog teams is an important step in assessing the significance of dogs in the past, as well as today. Comprehending the substance of traditional knowledge about dogs helps to determine their functions. Traditional knowledge continues to be salient and transmitted about subjects of physical or social significance. By examining the contents of traditional knowledge about dog team use, it is possible to derive a clearer perception of the significance of sled dogs in Inuit culture. Categories of traditional knowledge included an examination of: sleds, brakes or anchors, whips, harnesses, lines and traces, booties, hunting, teeth, lead dogs, feeding practices, names and connection to human health. Although this collection of traditional knowledge is not completely comprehensive, the information collected provides insight to the large amount of knowledge surrounding the care and maintenance of dogs and dog teams and suggests the importance of dogs in Inuit culture. Both the amount and the detail of information allude to the importance of canines. The information collected provides a useful record for the community and also fills a gap in Arctic literature.
When specifically examining some of the traditional knowledge involved with dog teams, many inconsistencies were noted in the information. Definitions and notions of traditional knowledge do not specifically address inconsistencies in traditional knowledge. Traditional knowledge can be considered to hold the properties of being cumulative, dynamic, experimental, experiential and embedded in societal values. The discrepancies in the traditional knowledge involved in the care and maintenance of dogs were evaluated in terms of these basic characteristics of traditional knowledge. Four possible sources for inconsistencies in the traditional knowledge were discussed. The traditional knowledge about dog teams may differ because: 1) the individualistic nature of dog team ownership and use, 2) the differing cultural background of Inuit respondents, 3) the dynamic nature of traditional knowledge, and 4) the role of gender in the retention and transference of traditional knowledge. It would be difficult to determine which of the four is the cause for any discrepancy in the knowledge. Investigation into the traditional knowledge of dogs and dog teams has provided a valuable case study for exploring traditional knowledge. An examination of the inconstancies in responses concerning knowledge about dogs has helped to broaden and understanding of the concept of traditional knowledge.
I am very grateful to the community of Coral Harbour, Canada and those people who shared their time and knowledge during interviews. In addition, I am indebted to those who took me out by dog team and taught me about dog team travel by showing me. Thank you: Leonard Netser, Aaron Emiktowt, Joannassie Nakoolak and Oleekie Nakoolak. Research funding was provided from a Canadian Boreal Alberta Research Grant.
Balikci, Asen. 1970 The Netsilik Eskimo. Garden City, New York, The Natural History Press.
Berkes, Firkret. 1993 "Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Perspective", in J. Inglis (ed), Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Cases and Concepts, Ottawa, International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and International Development Research Centre.
Bielawski, Ellen. 1992 "Inuit Indigenous Knowledge and Science in the Arctic", Northern Perspectives, 20 (1): 5-8.
Blackman, Margaret. 1989 Sadie Brower Neakok: An Iñupiaq Woman. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Bloomfield, Leonard and John Nichols. 1991 The Dog’s Children. Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.
Briggs, Jean. 1970 Never in Anger: Portrait of An Eskimo Family. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Brockman, Aggie (ed). 1991 Report of the Traditional Knowledge Working Group, 1991, Department of Culture and Communication, Government of Northwest Territories.
Brody, Hugh. 1987 Living Arctic Hunters of the Canadian North. Vancouver and Seattle: Douglas and McIntyre and University of Washington Press.
Boas, Franz. 1888 The Central Eskimo. (1970) Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
1901 The Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay. New York: Order of the Trustees.
Bodfish, Waldo. 1991 Kusiq: An Eskimo Life History from the Arctic Coast of Alaska. Recorded, compiled, and ed. William Schneider in collaboration with Leona Kisautaqokokok and James Mumigana Nageak, Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.
Fast, Helen and Fikret Berkes. 1994 Native Land Use, Traditional Knowledge and the Subsistence Economy in the Hudson Bay Bioregion. Technical Paper Prepared for the Hudson Bay Bioregion. January 1994, Canadian Arctic Resources Committee (CARC) and Environmental Committee of Sanikiluaq and Rawson Academy of Aquatic Science (RAAS).
Feit, Harvard. 1979 "Political Articulations of Hunters to the State.” Inuit Studies, 3(2): 37-52.
1988 “Self-management and State-management: Forms of Knowing and Managing Northern Wildlife.” In M.M.R. Freeman and L. Carbyn (eds). Traditional Knowledge and Renewable Resource Management in Northern Regions. Edmonton: Boreal Institute for Northern Studies: 72-91.
Freeman, Milton M. R. 1969/70 "Studies in Maritime Hunting I.” Folk, 11-12: 155-171.
1982 "An Ecological Perspective on Man-Environment Research in the Hudson and James Bay Region.” Naturaliste Can, 109: 955-963.
1982 “An Ecological Perspective on Man-Environment Research in the Hudson and James Bay Region.” Naturaliste Can, 109: 955-963.
1985 “Appeal to Tradition: Different Perspectives on Arctic Wildlife Management.” In Jens Brosted, et al (eds). Native Power: The Quest for Autonomy and Nationhood of Indigenous Peoples. Bergen: Universitetforlaget As: 265-281.
1992 "The Nature and Utility of Traditional Ecological Knowledge", Northern Perspectives, 20 (1): 9-12.
Freeman, Milton M. R. and D. S. Moyer. 1968 Report on Field Research Southampton Island, N. W. T. Submitted to: National Museum of Man, Ottawa, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Freeman, Milton M.R., Eleanor Wien, and Keith Darren. 1992 Recovering Rights: Bowhead Whales and Inuvialuit Subsistence in the Western Canadian Arctic. Edmonton: The Canadian Circumpolar Institute.
Gubser, Nicholas. 1965 The Nunamiut Eskimos: Hunters of Caribou, New Haven, Yale University Press.
Guemple, Lee. 1965 "Saunik: Name Sharing as a Factor Governing Eskimo Kinship Terms.” Ethnology, 4 (3): 323-335.
1971 "Kinship and Alliance in Belcher Island Eskimo Society.” In Lee Guemple (ed). Alliance in Eskimo Society. New York: University of Washington Press: 56-78.
Hall, Edwin. 1975 The Eskimo Storyteller, Folktales From Noatak, Alaska. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
Inglis, Julian (ed). 1993 Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Cases and Concepts, Ottawa, Ontario, International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and International Development Research Centre.
Jensen, Bent. 1961 “The Folkways of Greenland Dog-Keeping.” Folk 3: 43-66.
Johnson, Martha. 1991 "Dene Traditional Knowledge", Northern Perspectives, 20 (1): 3-5.
Johnson, Martha (ed). 1992 Lore: Capturing Traditional Environmental Knowledge, Ottawa, Dene Cultural Institute and the International Development Research Centre.
Kakfwi, Stephen. 1993 Response by the Government of the Northwest Territories to the Report of the Traditional Knowledge Working Group, November 30, 1993, 35-12(4).
Mendenhall, Hanna, Ruthie Sampson and Edward Tennant, (eds). 1989 Lore of the Iñupiat: The Elders Speak. I, Kotzebue, NW Arctic Borough.
Mendenhall, Hanna, Ruthie Samson, Ed Tennant, and Linda Lee, (eds). 1990 Lore of the Iñupiat: The Elders Speak, II, Kotzbue, NW Arctic Borough.
Moyer, David. 1970 "The Dimensions of Conflict in an Eskimo Community.” Atlantic Association of Sociologists and Anthropologists, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Nelson, Richard. 1969 Hunters of the Northern Ice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nuttall, Mark. 1992 Arctic Homeland: Kinship, Community and Development in Northwest Greenland. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Osherenko, Gail. 1988 "Wildlife Management in the North American Arctic: The Case for Co-Management", in Milton Freeman and Ludwig Carbyn (eds), Traditional Knowledge and Renewable Resource Management in Northern Regions, Edmonton, Alberta, Boreal Institute for Northern Studies: 92-104.
Puiguitkaat. 1978 Elders Conference, Barrow, Alaska, North Slope Borough, Commission on the History and Culture.
Qiñiqtuagaksrat Utuqqanaat Iñuuniagninisiqun. 1980 Barrow, North Slope Borough Commission on History and Culture.
Rasmussen, Knud. 1908 The People of the Polar North: A Record. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company.
1929 Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition 1921-24, Vol. VII (1) Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel.(reprinted New York, AMS Press).
Recollections of Inuit Elders: In the Days of the Whalers and Other Stories. 1986 Eskimo Point: Inuit Cultural Institute.
Riechert, P. and M. Spigelman. 1991 International Workshop on Indigenous Knowledge and Community-Based Resource Management: A Workshop Report, September 24-26, 1991, Canadian Environmental Assessment Research Council.
Savishinsky, Joel. 1974 The Trail of the Hare: Life and Stress in an Arctic Community. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. (reprint 1994)
Shannon, Kerrie Ann. 1997 The Unique Role of Sled Dogs in Inuit Culture: An Examination of the Relationship Between Inuit and Sled Dogs in the Changing North. Master of Arts Thesis, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
Sonne, Birgitte. 1990 “The Acculturative Role of the Sea Woman: Early Contact Relations Between Inuit and Whites as Revealed in the Origin Myth of Sea Woman.” Copenhagen: Meddelelser om Gronland, Man and Society, Number 13.
Stefansson, Vihjlmur. 1919 The Stefansson-Anderson Arctic Expedition of the American Museum: Preliminary Ethnological Report. New York: Order of the Trustees (reprint 1978).
Sutton, George. 1932 The Exploration of Southampton Island. Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum, XII (Part I, Sections 1, 2, 3): 1-78.
1934 Eskimo Year: A Naturalist's Adventure in the Far North. New York: Macmillan Company.
Taylor, Garth. 1993 “Canicide in Labrador: Function and Meaning of an Inuit Killing Ritual,” Inuit Studies, 17(1): 3-13.
Williamson, Robert. 1988 "Some Aspects of the History of the Eskimo Naming System.” Folk, Vol. 30: 245-264.
Wolfe, Jackie, Chris Bechard, Peter Cizek, David Cole. 1992 Indigenous and Western Knowledge and Resources Management System, First Nations Series, 1992, University of Guelph.