Historical Events

twitter-icon_edited.png
Copy Link

It is one of the dangers that threatens the Eskimo people as civilisation overtakes them. If they give up their native foods they will dwindle and die out. This is my firm belief

January 1, 1912

rollo-meat-diabetes_edited.jpg

Among the Eskimos of Labrador

Samuel King Hutton

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Pre-civilization races
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

Though times hare changed since the old days, and a man can sell his fish and blubber and fiirs at the store and buy flour and ship's biscuits and other plain things, the nature of the Eskimos has not changed. They still like to depend on the hunt for their daily food ; they still go out hungry in the morning, and gorge themselves on the raw flesh of the seals they bring home. This is their custom, part of their nature, born in them; they are a nation of hunters, and whatever changes in morals and housing and education passing years have seen among them, in tiiis one thing they do not change. And well it is that the Mission has been able to keep them true to their traditions in this matter, for to my mind there is no doubt at all that the life of a hunter is the ideal life for an Eskimo. It is the life for which he is especially gifted; the raw meat that he eats keeps him fit and well, and the exposure hardens him to bear the climate of his firozen land. And I do not base my belief on conjecture only; I base it upon what I have seen. At Okak, and in the north generally, the people are broad and plump, with flat faces and sunken noses; but further south I have seen lean, sharp-faced Eskimos, with bony limbs and pointed noses. They are pure-blooded Eskimos, all of them ; they may be lean and bony without any admixture of other blood; and the cause of the change lies in the altered food and habits of the people themselves. 


At the southern stations they are more in contact with the outside world, and, especially, there are English-speaking settlers living among them, cod-fishing and fur-trapping. The Eskimos are born imitators; they do what they see others do; and when they have settler folks living among them in little wooden shacks like their own, and passing in and out among them, it is small wonder that they fall into the settler habits of food and clothing. 


They take to garments of cloth instead of the sealskin that Nature has given them ; and they eat less of their raw meat and blubber and more of the bread and tea and cooked meats of the settlers. And Nature rebels. The southern Eskimos are, as a consequence, less hardy than their northern brethren; they cannot bear cold so well, but need more fire, more clothing, and more warm food; and their children are more puny. This is an unfortunate thing, but I must record it for completeness' sake, because it is one of the dangers that threatens the Eskimo people as civilisation overtakes them. If they give up their native foods they will dwindle and die out. This is my firm belief, and so I record with all the more satisfaction how I found my neighbours at Okak to be real Eskimo hunters. 


During the long winter that followed the home- coming of the families to their wooden homes in the village the men were seldom idle. In my visits to the houses I always found the women in charge and my question ** Aipait nannek& ? " (where is your husband ?) nearly always brought the answer "Sinamut aigivok " (he is off to the edge of the ice again). That is the hunting-place that the Eskimos love, the edge of the ocean ice, where the seals sport in the chilly water or clamber on the ice to rest. Sometimes, when sudden sickness has called me into the village in the small hours of the morning, I have heard the scufflings and yelpings of dogs, and have seen dim and shadowy men, dressed in sealskin clothes, trotting down the track among the hununocks towards the sea ice, off to the "sina." 


 I was fortified with a good breakfast of bacon and eggs— eggs kept in waterglass since the ship brought them last summer — but Gustaf would have none. "No," he said, "I shall eat by-and-by" ; and from what I had seen of Eskimo mealtimes I imagined him disposing of several pounds of seal-meat and a pint or two of weak tea when the day's work was done. Nevertheless I saw that he was chewing, pensively chewing with a steady champ, champ, champ, as he disentangled the dogs from one another. 


"What are you chewing?" said I. 


"Eoak" (frozen), answered Gustaf ; and he went on to tell me that he had got a mouthful of raw sealmeat; that was plenty; it was the custom of the people. "Ananak" (splendid) ; he said, "it makes me warm; it gives me sinews; piovok-illa" (good indeed). I envied him his warmth, for on a raw bleak morning like that the effects of bacon and hot coffee are soon gone, and I was forced to try to trot in the darkness to keep my circulation up.