From the Editor: Fed Up!
IsumaTV’s First Annual Online Film Festival
Paving over Cultural Identity
Retracing Twenty-Five Year Old Foot and Paw Steps
Okpik’s Dream Update
Bannock – On the Frozen Sea, in the Woods or at Home
Media Review: Romance of the Far Fur Country
Media Review: On the Trail of the Far Fur Country
IMHO: Truth, History and Dogs
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“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”
movie character Howard Beale (screaming) in Network,
a 1976 satirical film written by Paddy Chayefsky
There is ample evidence in March’s The Fan Hitch that across the board, the Inuit Dog has been finding a place in this modern world. And if this isn’t enough proof, more affirmation can be found all over our website and in its seventeen-plus years worth of journal pages. I can interpret this as “the glass being half full”. But, my glass has never been half full, and likely won’t be…ever. Maintaining this side of the idiom “protects” me, or so I believe, from suffering crushing disappointments while allowing room for unexpected joyous moments. I am truly grateful for those occasions when there have been things to celebrate, as indirect as they may be to absolutely “sealing a deal” on ensuring a future for the Inuit Dog in its most natural of all settings. These occasions have been exemplified by multi-disciplinary scientific research, historical reports, books, documentaries, greater involvement with veterinary medicine, interest by serious working dog people. I would never wish for the folks in these categories to get the impression that I am not appreciative of their contributions. Very much to the contrary, I am! I fully accept that as an “outsider” it is not my place to issue directives as to what actions should be taken on behalf of the Inuit Dog. (Well, I can but I can’t expect Iqalummiut or Nunavummiut to jump to it on my say so.) From the outset, I have defined The Fan Hitch’s objectives as educational with efforts at demonstrating to people in the North how important the traditional aboriginal Inuit Dog is in so many ways to the “outside world”, this with the hope that those who are in a position to take positive steps will then come to fully appreciate the value and importance of responsible stewardship of their living treasure, and then act accordingly.
Back to that half-glass of water…Looking at the bigger picture, as I am familiar with the similar trend in the history of many of the world’s aboriginal landrace dogs, the symbolic water representing the Inuit Dog in my half empty glass is evaporating as I stare at it. And as I learn of issues such as what is most recently taking place in Iqaluit (see ”Paving Over Cultural Identity” in this issue), I become even more anxious, escalating my frustration and impatience.
My mind is beginning to stray into dangerous territory. I cannot fathom why what seems so logical and obvious to me is lost to some in the North. And while I absolutely do understand socio-economic pressures that require almost a triage mentality regarding how to prioritize all that needs to be addressed, I have grown weary of it and concoct in my mind that it is being used as an excuse to turn a blind and insensitive eye to the needs of the Inuit Dog. A former boss would pronounce, “There are many reasons but no excuses.” I cannot accept an excuse not to protect all that the aboriginal landrace Inuit Dog represents to the past and into the future.
And what scares me about myself is that my wandering thoughts are morphing into possibly outrageous ones, my version of reality for lack of being offered better evidence to the contrary. I am imagining a similarity between truth commissions (who investigated the dog slaughters), northern governments, other Inuit organizations with animal rights groups who identify highly visible issues (“high value” targets) such as the Iditarod long distance sled dog race or the Kentucky Derby horse race and then exploit them for their own agenda. I absolutely do not question Elder grief expressed during the Truth Commissions’ investigations. Reading the testimonies, that anguish has been palpable. But if this tragic history has been of such significance as to devote so much effort and resources on the part of Inuit organizations themselves, then why did they wait to conduct and then rely on any results? Was this less about apology and more about payout? Why haven’t Inuit organizations taken more proactive roles in more meaningful ways then or now? Absolutely, the living victims who suffered for their losses should be compensated. But lifestyle change should not have to be synonymous with extinction. And although Elders are no longer in a position to resume their stolen way of life, it should continue to have meaning and be honored by encouraging and supporting the keeping and use of their dogs. Not taking supportive action is tantamount to trivializing its cultural significance.
Very uncomfortable harboring these thoughts, I am fearful of seeing myself among the ranks of those early historical intruders whom I so roundly disparage for their inability or unwillingness to understand and respect the People and their civilization. I do not want to become the very hypocrite I identify in those others!
Readers, please do not interpret my verbal rambling as representative of the entire northern community. These are very complicated issues. I certainly do not mean to disrespect organizations (government, private, NGOs), both Inuit and non-Inuit, who do support some activities involving Inuit Dogs, for example Ivakkak (Nunavik) and the Nunavut Quest dog team races. These events represent more than who finishes first and the fastest. They are celebrations of a proud culture, a way of life. But these activities are annual events. What is needed to bring high quality traditional aboriginal Inuit Dogs to the starting line, as well as other dog teaming related activities, is a year ‘round long-term commitment!
While I’m not sorry for spilling my guts here and now (although I have anguished greatly over this editorial), to my Inuit and non-Inuit friends I am truly sorry if I have upset you. This certainly has not been my intention. Where I may have crossed the line I welcome your enlightenment so I can apologize. And as for Inuit organizations whose motives and lack of proactivism I have criticized, I ask that you please clarify your positions. I encourage you to speak up in The Fan Hitch so we may all be more accurately informed. Your silence only encourages rampant speculation. Your silence screams back at me.
Wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,
A March 9th letter I sent to members of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly and Iqaluit City Council, and Nunavut Tourism has, as of our publication date, gone unanswered. However both the Nunatsiaq News and The Arctic Journal have seen fit to publish a copy, even though I did not specifically ask them to.