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THE INUIT of the Arctic Regions Of Canada, Greenland, Russia & Alaska

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Author Topic: THE INUIT of the Arctic Regions Of Canada, Greenland, Russia & Alaska  (Read 8171 times)
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2009, 04:54:07 pm »

"A pervasive European myth about Inuit is that they killed elderly and unproductive people."

This is not generally true.

In a culture with an oral history, elders are the keepers of communal knowledge, effectively the community library, and there are cultural taboos against sacrificing elders because they are of
extreme value as the repository of knowledge.

Knud Rasmussen found that the death of elders by suicide was a commonplace among the Iglulik Inuit.He heard of many old men and women who had hanged themselves. By ensuring they died a
violent death, Inuit elders purified the soul for its journey to the afterworld.

According to Franz Boas suicide was not of rare occurrence and was generally accomplished through hanging.

Writing of the Labrador Inuit, Hawkes (1916) was considerable more explicit on the subject suicide
and the burden of the elderly:

"Aged people who have outlived their usefulness and whose life is a burden both to themselves and
their relatives are put to death by stabbing or strangulation. This is customarily done at the request
of the individual concerned, but not always so. Aged people who are a hindrance on the trail are abandoned."

People seeking assistance in their suicide made three consecutive requests to relatives for help.
Family members would attempt to dissuade the individual at each suggestion, but the third request became obligatory.

In some cases, a suicide was a publicly acknowledged and attended event.

Once the suicide had been agreed to, the victim would dress him or herself as the dead are clothed,
in this case with clothing turned inside out. The death occurred at a specific place, where the material possessions of deceased people were brought to be destroyed.

When food is not sufficient there is little doubt that the elderly are the least likely to survive. In an extreme case of famine the Inuit fully understood that a hunter was necessarily the one to feed on whatever food was left if there was to be any hope of obtaining more food.

However, a common response to desperate conditions and the threat of starvation was infanticide, which did sometimes entail abandoning an infant in hopes that someone less desperate might find and adopt the child before the cold or the wildlife killed the child.

The belief that the Inuit regularly resorted to infanticide may be due in part to studies done by Asen Balikci, Milton Freeman and David Riches among the Netsilik.

It was long presumed by anthropologists that Inuit cultures routinely killed children born with physical defects.

Between 1982 and 1994, a storm with high winds caused ocean waves to erode part of the bluffs near Barrow, Alaska, and a body was discovered to have been washed out of the mud. Unfortunately the storm claimed the body, which was not recovered. But examination of the eroded bank indicated that
an ancient house, perhaps with other remains, was likely to be claimed by the next storm.

The site (known as the "Ukkuqsi archaeological site") was excavated.

Several frozen bodies (now known as the "frozen family") were recovered, autopsies were performed, and they were interred as the first burials in the then new Imaiqsaun Cemetery south of Barrow.

Years later another body washed out of the bluff - that of a female child, approximately 9 years old, who had clearly been born with a congenital birth defect.  This child had never been able to walk, but must have been cared for by family throughout her life.

During the 19th century, the Western Arctic suffered a population decline of close to 90% of their population resulting from foreign diseases including tuberculosis, measles, influenza, and smallpox. Autopsies near Greenland reveal that, more commonly pneumonia, kidney diseases, trichinosis, malnutrition, and degenerative disorders may have contributed to mass deaths among different
Inuit tribes.

The Inuit believed that the cause of the disease came from a spiritual origin.
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Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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