Riding an Utapanashku

August 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Alaska, Traditions | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever wanted to ride an Innu toboggan through the snow? If this was your childhood dream, you can now make it come true thanks to François Bellefleur of Uanamen-shipu, who offered the description for the diary of Peter Armitage (Fall 1982):

Construction of an Utapanashku

utapan – a toboggan; automobile
utapaniapi – rope used to haul the toboggan
utapanashku – a toboggan; snowmobile; he/she loads his toboggan
utapanikueu – he/she makes a toboggan; he loads someone’s toboggan
utapatshimaushu – he/she pulls a child on a toboggan.
utapatshimeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeun – a tobaggon load
(Lynn Drapeu. 1991. Dictionnaire Montagnais-Français. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec. p.879).

Tools used to make the toboggan included a hacksaw, pocket knife, crooked knife (mukutan), extremely sharp axe, small hand plane, pot for hot water, “brush” (split stick with old rag in end), holding wedge tool, a flat carpenter’s pencil, screw-driver-push drill, and a “needle” made out of twisted snare wire.

Some pictures

Looks like quite a hard job, but summer can be so boring for snow addicts!

Survival’s campaign: Progress can kill

July 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Rights | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

And actually, it does kill, as it shows one of the most shocking campaigns. To keep the post on topic I will include here only the information related with polar tribes, but please, go and check the full campaign as it deserves all your attention.

Progress can kill

Forcing ‘development’ or ‘progress’ on tribal people does not make them happier or healthier. In fact, the effects are disastrous. The most important factor by far for tribal peoples’ well-being is whether their land rights are respected. Some of the problems affecting tribal peoples are HIV/AIDS, starvation, obesity, suicide or addiction. The last three specially affect the indigenous people living around the polar circle.

Obesity
Tribal peoples without land are forced into a sedentary life and many become dependent on processed foods. This change in lifestyle and diet – from high-protein to high-fat food – is often disastrous, leading to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the Pima reservation (Arizona), more than half of Indians over the age of 35 have diabetes; while those living in the mountains suffer far less from this condition. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that excess weight and diabetes will lead to ‘earlier deaths and disabilities’. If untreated or detected late – as is common with tribal peoples – diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease and amputations. The impact on future generations will be catastrophic.

‘The human costs of unrestrained development on our traditional territory, whether in the form of massive hydroelectric development or irresponsible forestry operations, are no surprise for us. Diabetes has followed the destruction of our traditional way of life and the imposition of a welfare economy. Now we see that one in seven pregnant Cree women is sick with this disease, and our children are being born high risk or actually sick.’
Matthew Coon-Come, Cree, 2002

Addiction
Dispossessed and alienated tribal peoples often take to drugs, usually the cheapest and most easily available such as alcohol and petrol. The health of individuals and families collapses. Babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome, children get little care from addict parents, teenagers follow suit, and once-respected elders are alienated from younger generations. Cycles are fixed which cannot be broken by merely treating individuals or symptoms. The entire society falls apart.

Among Innu youth, sniffing petrol is an acute problem. In the long term this addiction can cause convulsions and permanent damage to the kidneys, eyes, liver, bone marrow and heart. In 2000, 11-year-old Charles Rich died by accidentally setting himself on fire when sniffing petrol. A child who witnessed this horrific death said:

‘My name is Phillip. I’m a gas [petrol] sniffer. I sniff gas with my friends. In wintertime, we steal skidoos and we steal gas… I don’t go home because I sniff gas. And I sniff gas because both my parents are drinking and I’m mad at that… At one point Charles ran towards me when he was in flames but because I was sniffing gas and the fumes were very strong on me, I ran away. I was afraid I would be caught on fire too.’

Suicide
Tribal people across the world suffer from the trauma of forced relocation and settlement. They find themselves in an environment they are not used to, where there is nothing useful to do, and where they are treated with racist disdain by their new neighbours.

Their children may be taken to boarding schools which separate them from their communities and often forbid or ridicule their language and traditions.

Alienated and without hope, many take to drugs and alcohol. Domestic violence and sexual abuse soar. Many resort to suicide. In Canada, Indian groups who have lost their connection to their land have suicide rates up to ten times the national average; those with strong links often see no suicides at all.

The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land. We don’t have space any more. In the old days, we were free, now we are no longer free. So our young people look around them and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live. They sit down and think, they forget, they lose themselves and then commit suicide.’
Rosalino Ortiz, Guarani Ñandeva, Brazil, 1996

I think that the words speak for themselves. If you want to learn more about it, you can take a look at the whole campaign and also read the full report.

Locating Newfoundland and Labrador

March 21, 2008 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Language, Maps | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I will continue with the people in Canada. Today, talking with some workmates, this topic has come out, and they have been telling me some things. The situation it is still not clear, but now I have more clues to keep searching. They told me that it had hit the headlines that ten years ago Canada gave some authonomy to one of its provinces, traditionally indigenous. Since I have no idea about it, I started looking for it at the Wiki:

Concerning Innu’s land, in 1869, Newfoundland decided in an election to remain a British territory, over concerns that central Canada would dominate taxation and economic policy. In 1907, Newfoundland and Labrador acquired dominion status. However, in 1933, the government of Newfoundland fell and during World War II, Canada took charge of Newfoundland’s defence. Following World War II, Newfoundland’s status was in question. In a narrow majority, the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador voted for confederation in a 1948 referendum. On March 31, 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador became Canada’s tenth and final province.

Geographically, the province consists of the island of Newfoundland and the mainland Labrador, on Canada’s Atlantic coast. While the name “Newfoundland” is derived from English as “New Found Land” (a translation from the Latin Terra Nova), Labrador comes from the Portuguese lavrador, a title meaning “landholder” held by Portuguese explorer of the region, João Fernandes Lavrador.

As of October, 2007, the province’s population is estimated to be 507,475. Newfoundland has its own dialects of the English, French, and Irish languages. The English dialect in Labrador shares much with that of Newfoundland. Furthermore, Labrador has its own dialects of Innu-aimun and Inuktitut.

The 2006 census returns showed a population of 505,469. Of the 499,830 singular responses to the census question concerning ‘mother tongue’ the languages most commonly reported were:

1. English 488,405 97.7%
2. French 1,885 0.4%
3. Montagnais-Naskapi 1,585 0.3%
4. Chinese 1,080 0.2%
5. Spanish 670 0.1%
6. German 655 0.1%
7. Inuktitut 595 0.1%
8. Urdu 550 0.1%
9. Arabian 540 0.1%
10. Dutch 300 0.1%
11. Russian 225 ~
12. Italian 195 ~

The website of the Newfoundland and Labrador Government offers some information, as well as an interesting section that focuses on Labrador’s aboriginals. But you will have to wait for the next chapters for that 🙂

Innu villages at Labrador peninsula

March 20, 2008 at 8:21 pm | Posted in Language, Maps | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

I seems that my research keeps going on, as usually thanks to the Internet. Looking here and there, I have found a website where Innu people speak about their language, which they call Innu-aimun. In that site they teach it, they have some traditional tales, some links, and also some interesting maps with the placement of their villages.

I am a bit confused, because this map doesn’t match with that other one from the same site, where they show all the dialects of Innu-aimun:

mapa-dialectes-innu.jpg

I don’t know if they are different communities, or what. I will have to look for more information. For example, this article where they have a map created with Google Earth which a layer that shows all their villages in Canada.

Survival International: the Innu

March 16, 2008 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Canada | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

After deciding to take charge of this personal project, I soon realized that it would be unfair to do it without taking into account the whole situation of indigenous Arctic people. As I has sensed, I soon confirmed that they have to face heavy adversities to maintain this way of life, and I would consider it a lack of responsibility not to write about it.

As I learned from my last entry, there is a NGO, Survival International, who works supporting tribal people worldwide. They have an excellent website, packed with tones of information. I will tell you what they say about the Arctic people, and then it is up to you to continue learning from them.

Innu

The Innu are the indigenous people of most of the Labrador-Quebec peninsula, in eastern Canada. They were formerly referred to as the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, and are unrelated to the Inuit (or ‘Eskimo’) who live further north.

How do they live? Their homeland, where they have lived for millennia, is a vast area of sub-arctic spruce and fir forest, lakes, rivers and rocky ‘barrens’. They call this land Nitassinan. Up until the second half of the 20th century, the Innu lived as nomadic hunters. For most of the year, the waterways of Nitassinan are frozen, and they would travel in small groups of two or three families on snowshoes, pulling toboggans. When the ice melted, they would travel by canoe to the coast or a large inland lake to fish, trade, and meet friends and relatives. They hunt animals including bear, beaver and porcupine, and also fish and gather berries – but most of all they rely on the herds of caribou which migrate through their land every spring and autumn. Until recently, the Innu got all that they needed – food, clothing, shelter, tools and weapons – from the caribou, which have a huge cultural significance. Today the Innu have been settled into villages; although many hunt, fish and gather, some have paid jobs as well, or depend on social security.

What problems do they face? During the 1950s and 1960s, the nomadic Innu were pressured into settling in fixed communities by the Canadian government and Catholic church. The transition was difficult and traumatic. Life in the communities is marked by extremely high levels of alcoholism, petrol-sniffing amongst children, violence, and record levels of suicides. Many of the Innu are still fighting to retain much of their traditional lifestyle, increasingly difficult as the government hands out their land in mining concessions, floods the heart of their territory for hydro power schemes, and builds roads which cut up the remainder. In April 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee described the situation of tribal peoples as ‘the most pressing issue facing Canadians’, and condemned Canada for ‘extinguishing’ aboriginal peoples’ rights.

How does Survival help? Survival is calling on the Canadian government to rethink its approach to negotiations with the Innu and other similar groups – currently they will only recognise Innu land rights if the Innu agree to surrender most of their land. Canada must recognise the Innu’s right to own their land, and live on it as they choose.

I know this is little help, but it is just the beginning. You will read more soon 🙂

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.