Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Kinship and the Inuit People

Category Culture, Human Nature
Words 728 (2 pages)
Views 81

It takes a certain type of person to be able to survive the harsh freezing climate of the Arctic. The Inuit, descendants of the Thule have been surviving along the shores of the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay, Davis Strait, and Labrador Sea for over 1,000 years. The kinship relationships among the Inuit people are very important to their way of life and survival. Every family unit consists of the nuclear family. This is the most common type of unit in a foraging society, such as the Inuit. The nuclear family is the mother and/or father and their children.

Occasionally, the Inuit nuclear family will include a spouses’ widowed mother or father or a single adult sibling. The village will contain several other households sharing kin members. This is important because they participate in generalized reciprocity. Generalized reciprocity is a form of exchange where there is no expectation for the immediate return of an item or service in exchange for something else. The different households visit each other, share food, and work together to complete everyday tasks.

During the seal hunting season, about 15 different households come to work together. This is very important because seals are used for more than just their meat. They use the sealskins for various things such as boot liners, waterproofing clothes, houses, and kayaks, and the blubber for household lighting. However, “whenever food was abundant, sharing among non-relatives was avoided, since every family was supposedly capable of obtaining the necessary catch. In situations of scarcity, however, caribou meat was more evenly distributed throughout camp” (Laird & Nowak, 2010, p 3. ). This generalized reciprocity helps to ensure the survival of the people in times of need. However, because it is not done all the time, there is little conflict. During times of scarcity, the Inuit people have practiced infanticide. One of the reasons they do this is so the older children or adults do not starve. However, it has been noticed that they prefer female over male infanticide. This is most likely because the boys will grow up to be the hunters. A few women do hunt, but it is considered the men’s responsibility.

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Women do contribute to the food by gathering grasses, berries, tubers, stems, and seaweed. However, because there is very little vegetation in the Arctic, women are not the main contributors of food. They process and prepare the meats the men bring home. Women are expected to take care of the children and the house. This is one of the closest similarities between our culture and theirs’. In our society, women are still considered the primary caretaker of children and elder family members.

Women are expected to come home from work or “berry gathering” and prepare dinner. Women run the household chores such as cleaning and laundry. Inuit women clean and sew for the children and men, except when the men go away to hunt and have to do it themselves. In our culture, men sometimes help with household chores, such as cooking, although they have the option of ordering in. Our culture also practices generalized reciprocity. Families gather together to share meals and everyday chores. We go to visit other households to enjoy holidays and birthdays.

Family members exchange gifts, foods, and just enjoy being together. Some families gather to help one another out like when we moved. My father-in-law helped by lending us his truck. There was nothing expected in return. The one thing we do not share with the Inuit culture is infanticide. Although I understand why they do it, I would not be able to. In our culture, the parents would end up in prison. We also do not place as much importance on the sex of the child. The only benefit of a boy would be the passing on of the family name.

However, today women can decide to keep the family name and add on their husbands, instead of giving up theirs for his. Although our cultures have many similarities, they are also very different. Kinship relationships are important in every society, including ours and the Inuit. However, our survival is not dependent on these relationships, whereas the Inuit are. Without the kinship of the Inuit, they would not be able to survive the harsh winters of their environment. It does take a very special type of people to survive the Arctic. The Inuit have proved to be one of them.

Kinship and the Inuit People essay

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