Aflicktion: The Wreck of Hope

Originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Nanuq of the North II: Animal Rights vs Human Rights.” Speechless. Uploaded January 3, 2007.

The Bush administration took advantage of the way in which all eyes turn towards Santa’s North Pole, where big-eyed talking polar bears, reindeer and seals live in harmony, to announce that they would save these creatures from Nanook of the North. See story.
For a divergent point of view read Nunatsiak News article.

Nanook (nanuq Inuktitut for polar bear) was the name of the Eskimo hunter captured on film in the first documentary ever produced, Robert Flaherty’s (1922) Nanook of the North , — still shown in film studies survey courses. Nanook the Stone Age-20the century hunter became an international legend as a lively, humourous and skillful hunter of polar bears, seals and white fox who tried to bite into the vinyl record Flaherty had brought with him. (The real “Nanook” died of tuberculosis (Stern 2004:23) as did countless Inuit from small communities ravaged by one of the worst epidemic’s of tuberculosis on the planet.)

On August 13, 1942 in Walt Disney studios’ canonical animated film Bambi it was revealed that many animals with cute eyes could actually talk and therefore shared human values. Nanook and his kind became the arch enemy of three generations of urban North Americans and Europeans. Hunters were bad. Cute-eyed animals that could talk were good. Today many animals’ lives have been saved from these allegedly cruel hunters by the billion dollar cute-eyed-talking-animals-industry.

The White House has once again come to the rescue of these vulnerable at-risk animals. (There was an entire West Wing episode in which a gift of moose meat was rejected by all staff since it came from a big-eyed-talking-animal. See Ejesiak and Flynn-Burhoe (2005) for more on how the urban debates pitting animal rights against human rights impacted on the Inuit.) Who would ever have suspected that the Bush administration cared so much about the environment that they would urge an end to the polar bear hunt, already a rare phenomenon to many Inuit since their own quotas protected them?

When I lived in the north the danger for polar bears did not reside in the hearts of hunters. Nanuq the polar bear who could not talk was starving. He hung out around hamlets like Churchill, Baker Lake or Iqaluit, looking for garbage since this natural habitat was unpredictable as the climate changed. Some people even insisted that there was no danger from the polar bear who had wandered into town since he was ’skinny.’ That did not reassure me! I would have preferred to know that he was fat, fluffy and well-fed. Polar bears die from exhaustion trying to swim along their regular hunting routes as ice floes they used to be able to depend on melted into thin air literally. They die, not because there are not enough seals but because they need platform ice in the right seasons. That platform ice is disappearing. They die with ugly massive tumours in them developed from eating char, seals and other Arctic prey whose bodies are riddled with southern toxins that have invaded the pristine, vulnerable northern ecosystem. Nanuq is dying a slow painful death. Nanuq is drowning. Although he doesn’t sing he is a canary for us all.

Climate change and southern industrial toxins affect the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic first. The Inuit claimed in 2003,“Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit .”This is why Sheila Watt-Cloutier laid a law suit against the administration of the United States of America. Now the handful of Job-like Inuit who managed to survive the seal hunt fiasco of the 1980s and are still able hunt polar bear, will have yet another barrier put between them and the ecosystem they managed and protected for millennia. When I see Baroque art and read of the Enlightenment, I think Hudson’s Bay and the whalers in the north. It wasn’t the Inuit who caused the mighty leviathan to become endangered. Just how enlightened are we, the great grandchildren of the settlers today? Who is taking care of our Other grandparents?

Since the first wave of Inuit activists flooded the Canadian research landscape fueled by their frustrations with academic Fawlty Towers they morphed intergenerational keen observation of details, habits of memory, oral traditions and determination with astute use of artefacts and archives to produce focused and forceful research. When Sheila Watt-Cloutier representing the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) was acknowledged with two awards in one year for work done to protect the environment, I wondered how many cheered her on.

I don’t cheer so much anymore. I am too overwhelmed, too hopeless to speak. I myself feel toxic, perhaps another pollutant from the south — my name is despair. I don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm of those activists who still have courage to continue. For myself, I feel like the last light of the whale-oil-lit kudlik is Flicktering and there is a blizzard outside.

Footnotes:

From wikipedia entry Sheila Watt-Cloutier

In 2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected[1][4] International Chair of ICC, a position she would hold until 2006[1]. Most recently, her work has emphasized the human face of the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. In addition to maintaining an active speaking and media outreach schedule, she has launched the world’s first international legal action on climate change. On December 7, 2005, based on the findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which projects that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, she filed a petition, along with 62 Inuit Hunters and Elders from communities across Canada and Alaska, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and environmental human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.[5]

2. See also David Ewing Duncan’s “Bush’s Polar-Bear Problem” Technology Review: The Authority on the Future of Technology. From MIT. Information on Emerging Technologies. March 09, 2007. Duncan claims “The administration tells scientists attending international meetings not to discuss polar bears, climate change, or sea ice.”

Note:

See We Feel Fine for innovative use of this image in an upcoming publication.

Digitage elements:

Caspar David Friedrich’s (1824) The Sea of Ice
Tujjaat Resolution Island, abandoned, DEW line station DINA Northern Contaminated Sites Program (CSP) web site
My photo of ice floes in Charlottetown harbour, March 2000
A section of my acrylic painting entitled Nukara (2000)

Selected Bibliography

Eilperin, Juliet. (2006). ““U.S. Wants Polar Bears Listed as Threatened.” Washington Post Staff Writer. Wednesday, December 27, 2006; Page A01

Fekete, Jason. 2008. “Nunavut opposes anti-polar bear hunt movement in U.S.” Calgary Herald. May 29, 2008

Gertz, Emily. 2005. The Snow Must Go On. Inuit fight climate change with human-rights claim against U.S. Grist: Environmental News and Commentary. 26 Jul 2005.

The Guardian. 2003. ““Inuit to launch human rights case against the Bush Administration.”

Stern, Pamela R. 2004. Historical Dictionary of the Inuit. Lanham, MD:Scarecrow Press.

DEW line contaminated sites in Nunavut.

www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1104241,00….

www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/07/26/gertz-inuit/index….

This will be updated from EndNote. If you require a specific reference please leave a comment on this page.

Creative Commons Canadian Copyright 2.5 BY-NC-SA.

Advertisements

“Canada’s social safety net results in lower rates of poverty and income inequality along with higher rates of self-sufficiency of vulnerable populations than in the United States. But many Canadians would be surprised to find out that the U.S. has a lower burglary rate, a lower suicide rate, and greater gender equity than Canada […] Canada’s relatively poor record on child poverty, income inequality, and assault [remain] shocking […] Particularly troubling is its ranking on child poverty. In Canada, according to OECD statistics, one child in seven lives in poverty. Canada also still has an unacceptably high rate of poverty among its working-age population. According to statistics published by the OECD, just over 10 per cent of its working-age population is below the poverty line. This is double the rate of Denmark, the best-performing country on this indicator. Canada’s crime record is also disturbing—with 17 times the rate of assaults as the best-ranked country, 7 times the rate of burglaries, and 3 times the rate of homicides. Crime takes its toll on trust—both within the community and within public institutions. This picture of crime is not what Canadians think of when they think of their society. […] Canada ranks high on the indicator measuring acceptance of diversity […] Canada’s past achievements, such as reducing poverty among its elderly, show that, given the political will, Canada could successfully address other social challenges to sustain future quality of life (Conference Board of Canada Society Overview 2008 ).”

The Conference Board of Canada (2008 ) compared economic, innovation, environment, education, health and society performances of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States which are considered to be Canada’s international peers. Canada’s standard of living ranking dropped from 4th spot in 1990 to 9th in 2008. In terms of Education and Skills, over 40% of adult Canadians lack literacy skills required for everyday life and work in modern society. In terms of innovation Canada scored D since the 1980s and has failed to produce any top global brands.

The full report for 2008 will not be available until September. I am curious to see how data specifically related to Canada’s growing aboriginal community with its unique social histories and current dilemmas will be analysed in this report. When we examine the weakest points in the report, it is obvious that the vulnerabilities faced by Canada’s most at-risk group (aboriginal women and children) affect our international ranking. It is also useful to consider the location of remote aboriginal communities in terms of the most volatile environmental debates in Canada.

Data for this annual report comes from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (c.80%), the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. The report measures quality of life based on this definition:

“The Conference Board defines a high and sustainable quality of life for all Canadians as being achieved if Canada records high and sustainable performances in six categories: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education and Skills, Health and Society (B 10/17). The word “sustainable” [1] is a critical qualifier. It is not enough for Canada to boost economic growth if it is done at the expense of the environment or social cohesion. For example, to take advantage of high commodity prices by mining and exporting all our natural resources may make the country rich in the short term, but this wealth will not be sustainable in the long or even medium term. The Conference Board has consistently argued that economic growth and sustainability of the physical environment need to be integrated into a single concept of sustainable national prosperity—what we call here a “high and sustainable quality of life for all Canadians.”

..

“Having a high quality of life means living in communities that are free from fear of social unrest and violence, communities that accept racial and cultural diversity, and those that foster social networks. A country that provides a high quality of life also minimizes the extremes of inequality between its poorest and richest citizens, while reducing the social tensions and conflicts that result from these gaps. Performance in the Society category is assessed using 17 indicators across three dimensions: self-sufficiency, equity, and social cohesion. Self-sufficiency indicators measure the autonomy and active participation of individuals within society, including its most vulnerable citizens, such as persons with disabilities and youth. Equity indicators measure equity of access, opportunities, and outcomes. Social cohesion indicators measure the extent to which citizens participate in societal activities, the level of crime in society, and the acceptance of diversity [. . .] Canada’s social safety net results in lower rates of poverty and income inequality along with higher rates of self-sufficiency of vulnerable populations than in the United States. But many Canadians would be surprised to find out that the U.S. has a lower burglary rate, a lower suicide rate, and greater gender equity than Canada […] Canada’s relatively poor record on child poverty, income inequality, and assault [remain] shocking […] Particularly troubling is its ranking on child poverty. In Canada, according to OECD statistics, one child in seven lives in poverty. Canada also still has an unacceptably high rate of poverty among its working-age population. According to statistics published by the OECD, just over 10 per cent of its working-age population is below the poverty line. This is double the rate of Denmark, the best-performing country on this indicator. Canada’s crime record is also disturbing—with 17 times the rate of assaults as the best-ranked country, 7 times the rate of burglaries, and 3 times the rate of homicides. Crime takes its toll on trust—both within the community and within public institutions. This picture of crime is not what Canadians think of when they think of their society. […] Canada ranks high on the indicator measuring acceptance of diversity […] Canada’s past achievements, such as reducing poverty among its elderly, show that, given the political will, Canada could successfully address other social challenges to sustain future quality of life (Conference Board of Canada Society Overview 2008).”

Footnotes

1. “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland 1987:43).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Brundtland, Gro Harlem. 1987. Our Common Future: World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conference Board of Canada. 2008.

Instead of providing new water plants for the 89 First Nations communities under a drinking water advisory, Health Canada will make better signs and posters warning people to stop drinking contaminated water. Kashechewan, made headline news in 2005 when 100s evacuated because water was contaminated by E. coli. It is still a community-in-crisis.

read more | digg story

Instead of providing new water plants for the 89 First Nations communities under a drinking water advisory, Health Canada will make better signs and posters warning people to stop drinking contaminated water. There are 600 First Nations communities concerned by the issue of clean water. The suicide-plagued community-in-crisis Kashechewan First Nation is one of many that [. . .] continue to struggle with poorly designed water plants or overly modern systems that are considered too costly to staff or maintain.” (Barrett 2007)

Kashechewan made headlines in October 2005 after hundreds of its residents were evacuated to several Ontario towns and cities because of drinking water contaminated by E. coli bacteria.The evacuation prompted the federal and Ontario governments to scramble for solutions to the issue of dirty drinking water in First Nations communities (Barrett 2007).” “The October 2005 evacuation of the community of Kashechewan, in northern Ontario, brought to national attention concerns about the water in this remote community. The evacuation came close on the heels of a report from the federal Office of the Auditor General that found that residents of First Nations communities did not benefit from a level of drinking water protection comparable to that of people living off reserves (OAG 2005 ).”

Selected Timeline of water quality problems in First Nations and Inuit communities

1970s In the 1970s project managers of the the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada oversaw all aspects of on-reserve capital projects, largely without the involvement of First Nations communities.

1980s
As a result of downsizing in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada since the mid-1980s, and in keeping with the devolution policy, there has been an increasing transfer of responsibilities to First Nations and tribal councils for capital and maintenance projects having First Nations including planning and implementation of various program activities on reserves. Consequently, there has been a continual transfer of responsibilities to First Nations and tribal councils for capital and maintenance projects, under funding arrangements with the Department (DINA 1995).


1989-90 Information disclosed in government reports inaccurately portrayed the status of conditions on reserves claiming that 92 percent of houses on reserves received adequate water services in 1993-94 (86 percent in 1989-90). However, a survey report released after our audit showed that only half of the water systems in First Nations communities are not experiencing problems and about one fifth of the systems pose potential health and safety concerns (DINA 1995:2390)


1992 the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada started to develop an Environmental Issues Inventory and Remediation Plan in 1992, Over 1,600 environmental issues including soil contamination, were identified on inhabited reserves, and remediation would involve millions of dollars (DINA 1995).


1995 The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada was responsible for providing services to over 800 on-reserve communities, most of which are located in rural and remote areas. Populations were rapidly outgrowing their already inadequate infrastructures.

2000  The contamination of drinking water in Walkerton, Ontario led to widespread illness that resulted in seven deaths and
ongoing illness for hundreds of residents. “A subsequent inquiry by Associate Chief Justice Dennis O’Connor of the Ontario Court of Appeal not only probed the causes, but also set out detailed recommendations on how to prevent a recurrence. This “Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.” reflects pressures to increase drinking water safety that all jurisdictions in Canada have felt since the Walkerton tragedy.


2001 Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada also “uses funding arrangements with First Nations to define drinking water requirements. However, the wording of the arrangements is general and does not specifically refer to water systems. In 2001, in a submission to the Walkerton Inquiry, the Chiefs of Ontario stated: “First Nations, their consultants and federal officials are left to discern the applicable standards from vague and conflicting language in funding conditions, guidelines and manuals.” This situation had not changed significantly at the time of our audit. (OAG 2005 ).

2003 INAC and Health Canada developed the First Nations Water Management Strategy. The strategy is intended to fix most of the problems identified in the 2001 assessment and substantially improve the quality and safety of drinking water in First Nations communities by 2008. It covers the following seven elements:  developing comprehensive guidelines, policies, and standards; educating on-reserve residents about drinking water issues; clarifying roles and responsibilities; building and upgrading water systems to standards; improving operation and maintenance; providing operator training; and expanding water testing. The departments have been trying to address the last five points since 1995 (OAG 2005 ).


2004 World Health Organization published Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality (3rd Edition).


2005 The Auditor General’s Office concluded that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, and First Nations do not operate under a regulatory regime for drinking water as most provinces do. When it comes to the safety of drinking water, residents of First Nations communities do not benefit from a level of protection comparable with that of people living off reserves.2. There is no statute or regulation requiring the monitoring of the quality and safety of drinking water in First Nations communities. Health Canada relies on its staff and on First Nations to sample and test drinking water quality. Regular tests at the frequency recommended under the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality are not carried out in most First Nations. When the results of these tests are reported to Health Canada, they are not properly recorded; nor are they systematically shared with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Finally, not all the information identified was collected by the departments in 2003–04 and some critical indicators were missing. Parliament is not yet receiving enough information about the First Nations Water Management Strategy and the quality and safety of drinking water in First Nations communities (OAG 2005 ).
2005 “Kashechewan made headlines in October 2005 after hundreds of its residents were evacuated to several Ontario towns and cities because of drinking water contaminated by E. coli bacteria.The evacuation prompted the federal and Ontario governments to scramble for solutions to the issue of dirty drinking water in First Nations communities (Barrett 2007).” “The October 2005 evacuation of the community of Kashechewan, in northern Ontario, brought to national attention concerns about the water in this remote community. The evacuation came close on the heels of a report from the federal Office of the Auditor General that found that residents of First Nations communities did not benefit from a level of drinking water protection comparable to that of people living off reserves (OAG 2005 ).”

2006 United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 3 and 31. On June 29, 2006 the Human Rights Council adopted by a roll-call vote of 30 in favour to 2 against and 12 abstentions a resolution on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration was forwarded to the UN General Assembly for approval in 2006. Canada has so far decided not to support this Declaration. Nonetheless, were a Canadian government to decide to support the Declaration, this would be a further indication of the policy direction Canada intended to pursue, and would be consistent with the general movement towards recognizing aboriginal self-government rights “GC Vol 2. 2006.


2006 The most recent Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality published in March, 2006 and last updated in September (HC 2006) did not provide an explicit definition of “safe drinking water” in Canada. There is no explicit definition in any provincial or territorial legislation (GN 2006).
2006 Kashechewan was under a precautionary Drinking Water Advisory, but Indian and Northern Affairs Canada claimed they had completed upgrades to the water systems and the system was closely monitored by a certified operator (DINA 2006 ).

2006
Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice launched a plan of action in March to address drinking water problems in First Nation communities. (CBC 2007)

2006 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada issued a priority list of communities identified as high risk drinking water systems with drinking water advisories in effect (DINA 2006 ). These high priority list in July 2006 included: New Brunswick: Woodstock, Pabineau; Quebec: Kitigan Zibi; Ontario: Constance Lake, Shoal Lake No. 40, Moose Deer Point, Northwest Angle, Ochiichagwe’babigo-ining, Kingfisher, Muskrat Dam Lake, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway; Alberta: Dene Tha’, Driftpile, Frog Lake; British Columbia: Shuswap, Toosey, Toquaht, Lake Babine (Fort Babine), Canoe Creek, Semiahmoo, Taku River Tlingit.”

2006 The Government of Canada’s panel of experts produced this report “Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.” Vol. 1. November.

2007 Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine called for Ottawa’s immediate attention to the suicide-plagued community-in-crisis Kashechewan First Nation “Kashechewan and many other aboriginal communities in Ontario continue to struggle with poorly designed water plants or overly modern systems that are considered too costly to staff or maintain” [. . .] A report released in November by federal government adviser Alan Pope made a series of recommendations for Kashechewan, including moving the reserve to within the city limits of Timmins, Ont. – 450 kilometres from its current location on the shores of James Bay. Pope said the move would improve the lives of the community residents, particularly young people, by giving them access to high schools and post-secondary education, as well as economic opportunities and employment. But in a speech on [February 8, 2007] to the International Congress on Ethics in Gatineau, Que., Fontaine spoke out against such a move, saying that First Nations have been subject for too long to policy that amounts to “social engineering.” (Barrett 2007)


2007
Instead of providing new water plants for the 89 First Nations communities under a drinking water advisory, Health Canada will make better signs and posters warning people to stop drinking contaminated water. There are 600 First Nations communities concerned by the issue of clean water. Chief David General of Six Nations, ON knows his community members become ill from drinking tap water. “They would rather have a new water plant instead of a new communications strategy” (CBC 2007).

Kirkey, Sharon. 2011-06-10. “Despite billions spent, conditions on reserves have worsened: AG.” Postmedia News.

Bibligraphy

Barrett, Michael. 2007. Kashechewan ‘Community in Crisis’. Red Lake Net News. February 8.

CBC News. 2007. “Message about bad water on reserves not getting through: study.” May 11
DINA. 2006. “Priority List of First Nation Communities With High Risk Water Systems and Drinking Water Advisories.” Last Updated 2006-07-20

Government of Canada. 2006. “Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.” Vol. 1. November 15.
Government of Canada. 2006. “Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations: Legal Analysis.” Vol. 2. November 15.

Government of Canada. 2006. Report, Presentations and Written Submissions to the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.

Health Canada. 2006. “Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.” >> Environmental & Workplace Health. Last Updated: 2006-09-19.
Health Canada. 2007. “Drinking Water Advisories.” in  First Nations & Inuit Health. May 10.
Office of the Auditor General (OAG). 2005. “Drinking Water in First Nations Communities.” Last Updated: 2005-09-29.

2011-05-25 Former auditor general Sheila Fraser gave her final news conference in which she deplored the fact that First Nations’ access to the basics of life — education, child welfare, clean drinking water and adequate housing — are persistently and dramatically substandard, and in some cases deteriorating.

Kirkey, Sharon. 2011-06-10. “Despite billions spent, conditions on reserves have worsened: AG.” Postmedia News.

Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (DINA). 1995. “On-Reserve Capital Facilities and Maintenance.”

WHO. 2004. Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality (3rd Edition). World Health Organization, Geneva. Website accessed September
17, 2006.

The Baroque, Neoclassical and Romantic periods in Europe coincide with the period of colonization in what was called the New World. When we admire artistic creations from these periods how can be also remember colonial activities and their implications for everyday life in 2007.

Freeman (2000a 127) describes one of the distant relatives of the 17th century as a fur trader, interpreter and man of public affairs whose influence increased in 1643 with the formation of the United Colonies of New England (Plymouth, Connecticut, Massechusetts and New Haven). His name was connected with almost every Indian transaction on record.

Selected webliography and bibliography

Freeman, Victoria. 2000. Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Freeman, Victoria. 2000a. “Ambassador to the Indians.”Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. pp.127-147.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Nanuq of the North II: Animal Rights vs Human Rights.” Speechless. Uploaded January 3, 2007.

Finally in December 2006 Bush blinks, but why now? The Bush administration took advantage of the way in which all eyes turn towards Santa’s North Pole, where big-eyed talking polar bears, reindeer and seals live in harmony, to announce that they would save these creatures from Nanook of the North. Is this for the environment or for votes? See story.

read more | digg story

Nanook (nanuq Inuktitut for polar bear) was the name of the Eskimo hunter captured on film in the first documentary ever produced, Robert Flaherty’s (1922?) Nanook of the North, — still shown in film studies survey courses. Nanook the Stone Age-20the century hunter became an international legend as a lively, humourous and skillful hunter of polar bears, seals and white fox who tried to bite into the vinyl record Flaherty had brought with him. (The real “Nanook” died of tuberculosis as did countless Inuit from small communities ravaged by one of the worst epidemic’s of tuberculosis on the planet.)

On August 13, 1942 in Walt Disney studios’ canonical animated film Bambi it was revealed that many animals with cute eyes could actually talk and therefore shared human values. Nanook and his kind became the arch enemy of three generations of urban North Americans and Europeans. Hunters were bad. Cute-eyed animals that could talk were good. Today many animals’ lives have been saved from these allegedly cruel hunters by the billion dollar cute-eyed-talking-animals-industry.

The White House has once again come to the rescue of these vulnerable at-risk animals. (There was an entire West Wing episode in which a gift of moose meat was rejected by all staff since it came from a big-eyed-talking-animal. See Ejesiak and Flynn-Burhoe (2005) for more on how the urban debates pitting animal rights against human rights impacted on the Inuit.) Who would ever have suspected that the Bush administration cared so much about the environment that they would urge an end to the polar bear hunt, already a rare phenomenon to many Inuit since their own quotas protected them?

When I lived in the north the danger for polar bears did not reside in the hearts of hunters. Nanuq the polar bear who could not talk was starving. He hung out around hamlets like Churchill, Baker Lake or Iqaluit, looking for garbage since this natural habitat was unpredicatable as the climate changed. Some people even insisted that there was no danger from the polar bear who had wandered into town since he was ’skinny.’ That did not reassure me! I would have preferred to know that he was fat, fluffly and well-fed. Polar bears die from exhaustion trying to swim along their regular hunting routes as ice floes they used to be able to depend on melted into thin air literally. They die, not because there are not enough seals but because they need platform ice in the right seasons. That platform ice is disappearing. They die with ugly massive tumours in them developed from eating char, seals and other Arctic prey whose bodies are riddled with southern toxins that have invaded the pristine, vulnerable northern ecosystem. Nanuq is dying a slow painful death. Nanuq is drowning. Although he doesn’t sing he is a canary for us all.

Climate change and southern industrial toxins affect the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic first. The Inuit claimed in 2003,“Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit .”This is why Sheila Watt-Cloutier laid a law suit against the administration of the United States of America. Now the handful of Job-like Inuit who managed to survive the seal hunt fiasco of the 1980s and are still able hunt polar bear, will have yet another barrier put between them and the ecosystem they managed and protected for millennia. When I see Baroque art and read of the Enlightenment, I think Hudson’s Bay and the whalers in the north. It wasn’t the Inuit who caused the mighty leviathan to become endangered. Just how enlightened are we, the great grandchildren of the settlers today? Who is taking care of our Other grandparents?

Since the first wave of Inuit activists flooded the Canadian research landscape fueled by their frustrations with academic Fawlty Towers they morphed intergenerational keen observation of details, habits of memory, oral traditions and determination with astute use of artefacts and archives to produce focused and forceful research. When Sheila Watt-Cloutier representing the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) was acknowledged with two awards in one year for work done to protect the environment, I wondered how many cheered her on.

I don’t cheer so much anymore. I am too overwhelmed, too hopeless to speak. I myself feel toxic, perhaps another pollutant from the south — my name is despair. I don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm of those activists who still have courage to continue. For myself, I feel like the last light of the whale-oil-lit kudlik is Flicktering and there is a blizzard outside.

Footnotes:

From wikipedia entry Sheila Watt-Cloutier

In 2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected[1][4] International Chair of ICC, a position she would hold until 2006[1]. Most recently, her work has emphasized the human face of the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. In addition to maintaining an active speaking and media outreach schedule, she has launched the world’s first international legal action on climate change. On December 7, 2005, based on the findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which projects that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, she filed a petition, along with 62 Inuit Hunters and Elders from communities across Canada and Alaska, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and environmental human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.[5]

Digitage elements:

Caspar David Friedrich’s (1824) The Sea of Ice
Tujjaat Resolution Island, abandoned, DEW line station DINA Northern Contaminated Sites Program (CSP) web site
My photo of ice floes in Charlottetown harbour, March 2000
A section of my acrylic painting entitled Nukara (2000)

Selected Bibliography

Eilperin, Juliet. (2006). ““U.S. Wants Polar Bears Listed as Threatened.” Washington Post Staff Writer. Wednesday, December 27, 2006; Page A01

Gertz, Emily. 2005. The Snow Must Go On. Inuit fight climate change with human-rights claim against U.S. Grist: Environmental News and Commentary. 26 Jul 2005.

The Guardian. 2003. ““Inuit to launch human rights case against the Bush Administration.”

DEW line contaminated sites in Nunavut.

www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1104241,00….

www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/07/26/gertz-inuit/index….

This will be updated from EndNote. If you require a specific reference please leave a comment on this page.

Creative Commons Canadian Copyright 2.5 BY-NC-SA.

Moratorium on what some call Canadian ‘Blood Diamonds’? De Beers Canada benefit from government stalling tactics on land claims to extract valuable raw resources leaving behind environmental devastation. Many of the 45,000 Cree and Ojibwa in NAN region live in fourth world conditions in post-RCAP Canada. How many more NAN youth will choose suicide? Let’s not forget Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Kash’s still unsolved water problem.
read more | digg story

For more reading check out my Customized Search Engine on Nishnawbe Aski Nation on Swicki

Benign colonialism for dummies: how to impress OECD while Canada’s First People live in Brazil-like favela. Canadian Public Policy research has been usefully challenged by seasoned journalist Atkinson Fellow Marie Wadden’s recent series which continues her research begun in 1978 in response to the hidden horrors of Canada’s Innu town, Davis Inlet. The True North strong and free has been limping for a long time.

read more | digg story

Neither Left nor Right, just wrong

Decades later, Wadden concerned about the elusive solutions for problems of addiction in Canadian Aboriginal continues her research by visiting remote communities to find stories that will unsettle Canadian complacent apathy, compassion fatigue and worldly-wise jaded perspectives. We just do not want to give up the adventure stories that inspired our youth of Arctic explorers in frozen, isolated, hinterland Hudson Bay posts. Perhaps her shocking series will shake our stubborn pryde in our grandfathers’ mythologies while shamefully neglecting tragic tales from our Other grandparents.
Her passion for the subject earned her the 2005 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and led her to a year-long, cross-country trek to look at the causes, effects and potential solutions to the addiction crisis among Aboriginals. Her series of stories — Tragedy or Triumph; Canadian Public Policy and Aboriginal Addictions — is appearing in the Star and online at thestar.com/atkinson. Wadden began her career at CBC television in Newfoundland 27 years ago and has won numerous journalism awards. The St. John’s resident is the 17th winner of the Atkinson Fellowship and the first from east of Montreal. The fellowship, sponsored by The Atkinson Charitable Foundation, the Toronto Star and the Beland Honderich family, aims to further liberal journalism in the tradition of Joseph E. Atkinson, the Star’s founder. The Atkinson Series, Tragedy or Triumph, Canadian Public Policy and Aboriginal Addictions

Seven years in a Third World military dictatorship did not prepare me for the harsh reality of the everyday lives of Canadian Inuit and First Nations. I felt shame, powerlessness and confusion stemming from years of work as insider in cultural institutions devoted to Inuit studies. It took me ten years to build heightened levels of trust so all the stories pored out. The more I learned and accepted without offering bandaid solutions, patent excuses, weak explanations or high-haded social theories, the more stories seemed to come to me. It was as if I had a pair of antennas, an open channel to a stream of unending stories each one corraborating the other. The more I learned the more I questioned so I paralleled the kitchen table accounts with deep research into footnotes of published materials, Hansards, and cross-disciplinary work. I asked more specific questions of Inuit elders and the knowers in communities. (The knowers were often Inuit women of any age who had been chosen to learn more because of their superior abilities to learn languages. Their emotional maturity, discretion and wisdom was daunting. Often stories were shared in whispers. I would never get permission to share them. Potent stories of individual personal strength, survival could not be shared because the surviving members of the perpetrators of violence and injustice were still alive. In small isolated hamlets there are systems of power in everyday life that are as imposing as those on parliament hill. This explains why a convicted sex offender can be chosen to represent a community (where family violence is extremely high — off the charts in terms of the Canadian average) in the political arena. In Third World countries there is always the hope that education and maturity, in civil society and democracy, might provide improved access to human rights for citizens. My despair, my overwhelming sense of hopelessness, became consuming as I realized that this tragedy was taking place in one of the more advanced democracies with a relatively informed civil society. I began to meticulously develop a detailed timeline of the social histories of First Nations, Inuit (and African-Canadians). I would take the stories shared by friends and students and cross-reference them with dates provided by classical ethnographers, anthropologists, art historians, museologists, geographers, geologists, administrators and Hudson Bay Company reports. I reread the entire series of Inuit Studies, Inuit Art Quarterly and realized that it was not bad research on my part that made me so shamefully unaware. The very cultural institutions on whom we depend for insight into our shared communal memories, these institutions have failed us miserably. They continue to perpetrate distorted histories insisting covertly on presenting a benign colonialism. Examine the brilliant RCAP, the most in-depth (and expensive) report, undertaken using a progressive research methodology called Participatory Action Research (PAR). It’s on-line and available for anyone! Read the section on how our institutions of public curricula were specifically called upon to reexamine distorted histories in collaboration with Inuit and First Nations communties. The do as I did and examine what these institutions have done since then. A tourist visiting Canada’s cultural institutions, either virtually or in glass, steel and stone buildings, such as the National Gallery of Canada or the Museum of Civilization, or exploring Cybermuse, will not learn of the depth of despair of First Nations and Inuit communties. They will leave perhaps learning something of the heroic status of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Inuit art cooperatives, the benefits to Inuit of entering the international art market, the exquisite aesthetics of Inuit clothing from the pre-1950s, Inuit legends shortened and deformed for consumer tastes. They will learn about the dynamic Inuit culture as if the best of the culture sank with the Nascopie. Explorers and Hudson Bay Company employees are heroized when their work should now be reviewed through the lens of the informed, intelligent generation born in the 1930s and 1940s. Remove the overt desire to portray colonialism in Canada’s north as benign, to continue to cherish histories of post WWII heroism of southerners who conquered the hinterland to benefit all Canadians. Challenge the assumptions that learning English, the market system and the northern form of Canadian democracy was beneficial in the long-run. Unsettle the assumption that the errors were in the past and we should all move on. The litany of mistakes outlined in this brilliant, moving, informed series can be complemented by a thorough reading of one of Canads’ most-difficult-to-read stories, Mistakes. Let’s ask the communal archives of memory for the answers to the questions about what really happened to Inuit-Scottish, Inuit-Danish and Inuit-Icelandic children abandoned in the 1930s, 1940, 1950s, 1960s by their fathers who returned south and built profitable careers on their heroism, adventures in Canada’s north while ignoring pleas from their former partners, and even own children abandoned to the care of small vulnerable hamlets. We no longer accept that the genetic pool of the Scottish, British, American, Danish and Icelandic improved Inuit and First Nations do we? How can we continue in 2006 to lionize those who felt pryde in their improvement of the gene pool? Is there no way that we can honour our blue eyed grandfathers without simply forgetting. We need serious, committed memory work on the level of what has been done in Post WWII Europe. The situations are in no way the same. But the revamping of our institutions of communal memory is just taking too long. In Post WWII Europe it became evident over the decades that it could not be ignored by national cultural institutions. In Canada it has been politically shrewd to use delaying tactics in our museums just as we have in land claims issues, and the dozens of other recommendations of the RCAP. Read the most recent articles by Canada’s anthropologist and you will find apologies for these institions arguing that great progress has been made. After al we do have an Algonquin canoe floating silently in the Group of Seven section of the National Gallery of Canada. Silently is the word. Speak to renowned Algonquin elder William Commanda and put his voice through a loud speaker in those galleries. Listen to him describe the starvation when tourism trade grew as southerners flocked north to enjoy the Canadian Shield. Hear his gentle, firm voice as he describes in elaborate detail how he built canoes to stave off starvation as the First Nations communities were denied access to their fishing camps which had become the land of the tourists. He speaks without rage. His voice is still powerfully spiritual. He calls for a freeing of the rivers from the damage of the dams. In the room devoted to Canadian art of the 1950s install a Stan Douglas type piece where the voices of Inuit and First Nations whose lives were irrevocably changed by the one of the worst incidence of TB on the planet speak of their grandfathers, camp leaders, fathers, the hunters, trappers and fishers buried in unmarked graves near Moose Factory’s sanitorium.

In the National Gallery of Canada’s Inuit Art section (in the basement) remind visitors that the artists whose works continue to be revered, have suffered starvation in Canada in the 1940s and 1950s, have succumbed to alcoholism, and drugs, that they have met violent deaths through suicides, murders, or in preventable house fires. How many Canadians know the other stories connected to Inuit women artists who made history when they were honoured with the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest award or the Royal Canadian Academy? One died alone in a hospital near Montreal in the 1980s, so depressed because of her linguistic isolation (she could only speak Inuktitut) that she gave away her ulu, the woman’s knife so affectionately mentioned in articles about Inuit art. Another was confused at one time when nortern officials refused food to her family during the peoriod of starvation in the 1950s. What about Canada’s most widely admired Inuit artist whose works are honoured internationally who was now ill, forced to live on city streets and was so badly beaten by police he carried a lump on his forehead for weeks. They and/or their families still live in houses where the entire contents of their fridges are a plastic bottle of ketchup and mustard. The have developed diabetes. A few have become violent and abusive. So many Inuit artists are in the Baffin Correction Centre at any given time that local people suggest a visit as part of the itinerary for Iqaluit, Nunavut’s art scene. Then let’s see some footage of the renowned Inuit elder and activist, as he describes through his son, artist and interpretor, his trip to New York or his interpretation of one of his carvings. Let’s hear him sing with tears in his eyes, the song he wrote for the homeless man on the streets of New York. Where is the strong articulate voice of Sheila Watt-Cloutier in any contemporary site claiming to represent to Inuit culture? If you do not know this name you should. She has made history. What about Paul Okalik, Peter Erniq. These are names all Canadians should know. Let’s begin with something simple: honest, inclusive timelines. Let’s contextualize stories about Inuit culture. Stop funding Inuit studies unless there is a critical component that examines issues, not as tidy sanitized disciplines that claim to be protecting Inuit art and culture from the sordid truths of everyday life. Inuit art and culture are dynamic, alive, robust. The Inuit art and culture market will survive but perhaps not by continuing to enrich southerers or those who live decades in the north, return to the south and continue to become enriched on their insider knowledge. If Inuit benefited fully from their own art production in a sustainable, equitable fashion there would be far less need of so much government intervention. There is more percapita talent in the tiny hamlet of Clyde River waiting for a venue than there is many southern cities. There is also far more youth suicide, violence against women and despair.

Footnotes:

The private Atkinson Foundation, founded in 1942 by former publisher of The Toronto Star, promotes social and economic justice in the tradition Joseph E. Atkinson. This includes the work of Armine Yalnizyan, (2000), “Inequality Rises As More Families Slide To The Bottom Of The Income Scale: Tax cuts don’t address economic reality says new report,” Centre of Social Justice, January 27, 2000 http://www.atkinsonfoundation.ca/publications/The_Great_Divide_Armine_
Yallnizyan.htm