Power and Politics in American Indian History
Forum 7: Angry Inuk
In Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s documentary “Angry Inuk,” we learned about some of the challenges facing arctic indigenous communities. We see an indigenous family hunting and butchering a seal. For them, seal hunting is an important source of food and trade which they have been conducting for tens of thousands of years. Outsiders see seal hunting as something people should not be doing; they call it greedy and evil.
There are many interesting dissonances in the story. The hunters are practicing time-honored traditions using rifles, boats, snowmobiles, and posting pictures of their hunts on Facebook. At one point they show a photo of children with faces covered in blood eating raw meat. The people in the video remark that outsider cultures might see the photo as scary but the Inuk culture sees it as a cute photo. Animal rights activists oppose seal hunting while Inuit activists fight for their vital right to hunt for food and trade.
The cultural differences are huge, and the conflicts seem intractable. The Inuks talk about using songs to settle disputes. Particularly interesting is the claim that losing one’s temper during a disagreement is a sign of a guilty conscience. This leads to an indigenous culture which prizes quiet and respectful disagreement, being met with an external culture of loud outrage on 24/7 corporate media.
It’s interesting to see the way this film ties into previous readings which showed that the idea of fur trade was demanded by settler colonists in exchange for goods but also in exchange for tolerance. Just as early white settler colonists demanded profits from native people in order to not slaughter them, modern white settler colonists demand profits from native people in exchange for rifles, boats, snowmobiles and computers. Native people find themselves in an impossible situation. They must produce trade but “must not” use the natural resources they have sustainably exploited for countless millennia. The central argument of the movement documented in the film is that most native seal hunting is actually sustainable and not cruel and greedy. At the same time, animal rights has become a vehicle for intense and extreme hate against native culture and native people with violent threats in the name of animal rights becoming commonplace from white settler colonists around the continent.
There is a ray of light at the end of the film; we see white settler colonist-led organizations partially endorsing subsistence hunting in what seems like an attempt to diffuse some of the violent racist and misogynistic reaction directed towards native people in the name of animal welfare.