Historical Events

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Stefansson: "I am so great an admirer of the Eskimo before civilization changed them that it is not easy to get me to say that civilization has improved them in any material way, leaving aside, of course, the question of whether it profiteth a man that he gain the whole earth if he lose his own soul."

February 19, 1912

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 27

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Biblical Fundamentalism
Christianization
Religion
Eskimo

If you ask the missionaries working among the Alaskan or the Mackenzie River Eskimo whether they have been Christianized, they will say yes; if you ask the Eskimo themselves whether they are Christians, they also will answer in the affirmative; and if you ask me, too, then so will I. But to supplement my answer I would like the privilege of explaining what kind of Christians they are, to explain which fact has been the purpose of this article. 


I am so great an admirer of the Eskimo before civilization changed them that it is not easy to get me to say that civilization has improved them in any material way, leaving aside, of course, the question of whether it profiteth a man that he gain the whole earth if he lose his own soul. But although it is not easy to get me to admit that the present-day Eskimo are far better men than their forefathers, it is easy to get them themselves to admit it. In fact, they are of late years rather prone to assert that they are better men than their ancestors. To quote my man Ilavinirk again, he said to me one day : 


“The people of Kotzebue Sound were formerly very bad, but they are all good now. In my father's time and when I was young they used to lie and to steal and to work on Sunday.” 


“ But," I asked him, “don't they, as a matter of fact, tell lies now occasionally ? ” 


“ Oh, yes, they sometimes do. ” 


“ Well, don't they really, as a matter of fact, tell about as many lies now as they ever did ?” 


“ Well, yes, perhaps they do. ” 


“ And don't they, as a matter of fact, steal about as frequently as ever ?” 


“ Well, possibly. But they don't work on Sunday.”