Historical Events

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"Kakertogot taima"..."We are always hungry now."
Of course they were hungry. The Eskimo is a carnivore. His body craves meat--seal, bear, caribou, fish--and the climate and his hard life aren't satisfied by anything else. Half a grapefruit and a couple of pieces of toast are not the breakfast for the Inuk at all, but for another class of people.

January 1, 1951

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Inuk

Roger Buliard

Diseases of Civilization
Civilized Food
Carbotoxicity
Pre-civilization races
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

page 213


The Eskimo used to hunt only what he needed--bear, seal, caribou.

The little foxes--Tiriganiak--he despised. In the old days the Copper Eskimo hardly recognized the existence of the fox. If he met one on the trail he might risk an arrow on him, just to try his skill, but never because he wanted the animal. Fox meat makes poor eating, and fox fur is too frail for anything but baby clothes.

But fashionable women in Paris and New York did not share the Inuk's contempt for the fox. They regarded Tiriganiak's silvery fur as a perfect complement to their gleaming shoulders. What women want, men will get, and so the white man came to the Arctic after foxes and dinned into the Eskimo's ear the value of fox pelts.

"Do you want a rifle, eh, Inuk? Ammunition? Then go and get us foxes, plenty of foxes. Plenty of foxes."

The Eskimo wanted the white man's rifle, steel knife, fish net, boat. So he went after foxes. And soon he found he was so busy getting the miserable little animals that he had no time left in which to hunt for real meat--for bear and caribou. Observing the white traders, he saw them eating bread and jam, and tea with sugar. The new food was no good. It had no taste, and certainly didn't stay with one on the trail. But the Inuk wanted to imitate the Krabloonak. He ate the white man's sugar, and soon it became a habit. He found that he could not do without it. 

"Sugar!" he says. "The Eyebrows offered it to us for nothing, just to try, and we threw it away. The taste of that sand was so bad. Now we have got to like it, but they no longer give it to us. They sell it, and dearly. Mamianar! Calamity!"

Systematically, the white traders ensared the Eskimos, making them slaves to commodities of which they had felt no need before the Eyebrows came, unnecessary luxuries such as flour, silk, sugar, even chewing gum. All these things the Inuit paid for--by giving up his healthy, free life in exchange for trivial luxuries. He ceased to be a hunter, in many cases, and became a trapper, a slave to the little foxes he despised. Thus Tiriganiak--the smallest of all--revolutionized the Eskimo's life, at least the lives of those Eskimos close enough to the traders' posts to come under their influence.

Not too long ago, all Eskimos hunted to clothe and feed themselves. Now they go after foxes, with which to buy some jam, or a Micky Mouse watch, or a cheap, tinny-sounding phonograph. They haven't time to hunt fo seal to provide oil for their lamps, so they buy the white man's kerosene. More foxes. There is no caribou meat on hand, so he eats the white man's flour. More foxes. Soon he lives in a vicious circle, like a knifegrinder's dog in his wheel cage.

Thus, in those areas where the traders hold sway, the happy hunter of old has become a kind of clerk. Once fierce and independent, ignoring tomorrow and contemptuous of anyone who mentioned it, now he is always in debt, as badly off as a petty office worker caught in the clutches of the race-track bookmaker. Once his life was diversified--today hunting, tomorrow sealing, the next day fishing--whatever satisifed the whim of the moment. Now he must turn all his energies toward the capture of the fox. And the supreme irony, of which he is aware, is in the fact that he, the Agun, the male, must outstrip himself to satisfy the desires of the scorned Arna--the woman. And the Krabloonak's woman, at that.

Along the coast, noawadays, one often hears from the Eskimos a bitter, disillusioned cry. "Kakertogot taima"..."We are always hungry now."

Of course they were hungry. The Eskimo is a carnivore. His body craves meat--seal, bear, caribou, fish--and the climate and his hard life aren't satisfied by anything else. Half a grapefruit and a couple of pieces of toast are not the breakfast for the Inuk at all, but for another class of people.

Yet the Inuk counts on the little foxes to provide his sustenance all the year round, and sometimes the foxes don't turn up. Then he's in trouble. Then there is famine. And it is usually too late before the Inuit resign themselves to going out on the ice after seals, as they should have done early in the winter. They starve. At Coppermine, in 1948, for example the whole Eskimo colony kept alive only by eating old skins, boots, and other rubbish--and this not fifteen miles from a white man's settlement.

You might blame the traders themselves, and it is true that some are mightily unscrupulous, but it is not the individuals who should be blamed, but the system, and the government that encourages it. I am told that such tragedy is not known among the Eskimos in Greenland, under Danish rule, though it matches the colonial pattern elsewhere--in the sugar islands of the Caribbean, for eample, where the natives were persuaded to forego their food crops in order to plant sugar cane, and where starvation results when the sugar crop is poor or when the market drops and the price breaks. 

The Eskimos have never heard of the seven lean kine. A trapper may bag three hundred foxes in one year and three the next, but it never occurs to him to store provisions against a bad season. Of course, we must blame him for his improvidence. But must we not also blame the white men who profit vilely from the Eskimo's ignorance, who take advantage of a good fox season by importing diamond rings, gold watches, silk dresses, chronometers, and similar goods? Of what use is a diamond ring to a woman who's going to wear it for cutting seal blubber, if she's lucky enough to have a seal to cut up? What good is a chronometer, complete with sweep second hand, to a man who doesn't care a whit for time? Of what use is a silk dress under a greasy caribou parka?

With melancholy one must watch a venal civilization displace the old Eskimo style. The white man is as devious as Sila. He takes much, and gives little. He talks big, and the rewards look inviting, but when the season is over he has the foxes and what has Inuk?

An empty belly. A forlorn view of the future. The precious watch will soon be opened to see what makes it tick and ruined by snow or water. The elegant dress will soon because a greasy snot-stained rag. The diamong ring will not be worn long before it is lost down a seals' hole. Alas!