Monday, March 1, 2010


Marriam-Webster has this to say about society: a) an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another b) a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.

and government is defined as: a) the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions and which is usually classified according to the distribution of power within it b) the complex of political institutions, laws, and customs through which the function of governing is carried out.

I want the first, not the second.

We talk about Nunavut all the time and some of us have even talked about an Inuit government. I am from NWT, not Nunavut, so i have some animosity towards Nunavut and how it is addressing Inuit issues and concerns. I am not a culture of society, i am a society of culture. My society decides what is my culture is, not my culture deciding what my society should be.

So, i have been thinking about culture and society for a while and how we make them out to be the same when they are not even on the same coin. Society and culture work side by side, they don't work with each other and never will, so might as well separate the both of them from each other.

Let's talk about culture for a bit here. And of course, i will go personal into the issue. My history as an Inuk coming from Pang is a history of it's own, doesn't say that Inuit cultural history is homogenous. I grew up in a place where throat singing and drum dancing were nonexistent. I didn't hear any of those when i was growing up unless it was on TV. Actually i remember that we would change the channel whenever there was throat singing and drum dancing, so i grew up thinking that those were never really part of my culture and society. Only when i was 22 and moved to Ottawa did i actually hear those activities being done and i did partake in some drum dancing, but i never associated myself with those activities.

That does not diminish my cultural awareness one bit at all. Actually, i was stronger in many other cultural activities, than my peers that were living in Ottawa at the time. I knew how to speak inuktitut and knew about hunting much more than my peers too. But that does not mean i am more Inuk than my other peers or they were more Inuk than i am. Cultural identity is always changing because as i am 27 now, throat singing is much part of my community now as much other community but drum dancing is taking longer.

the reason i am bringing these up is because we as Nunavummiut are pushing this cultural card so strong to our own people. Culture doesn't need pushing, it's society that needs pushing. The thing i can't agree with about Nunavut is that we are trying to be so cultural. am i the only one that has such strong confidence in Inuit culture that i don't see it as threatened? Maybe it was once threatened but not so now when we have many Inuit performers.

We are even creating laws and regulations that will make other people speak inuktitut if they like it or not. We are so pushing the issue of cultural survival that we are instituting government policies and regulations that restrict people into using whatever language they prefer. I am trying to think of the whole world and not be so limited to Nunavut. I am just in favour of freedom to do whatever and that means deciding if i will speak inuktitut to whom and where.

I even think, sometimes, that we are propagandizing our people to care about Inuit culture. We are using such words that the Nazi government could have been using to spread their message. We have accepted that propaganda and accepted the issue that the government is here to fix our problems.

A society acts as a family and cares for the members of a society.

A government is a set of people pushing their agenda on the mass of people they claim to represent and make laws that might curtail the people from their societal base: such as the Arctic Exiles that were moved from Inukjuak to Resolute Bay.

I want a society that cares about being happy. I don't want a government that tells us how to be happy. I want an Inuit elder telling me the mistakes i did. I don't want a "report card" on the performance of the government. I want to be told to eat healthy and exercise regularly by a father and mother, not by some government poster. I want to hunt as much polar bear and doing it sustainably with my father and brothers, rather than each winter where the government says "okay, 4 bears for you this year".

I want people think of the people in their community, rather than going to the government and asks for money to do a program. I want people to train dog teams with other dog team owners, rathet than the government making a law about the purity of a dog's blood.

I just want to be people and not the Nunavut government.


Robin said...

No one said you had to be the Government.

Society and Culture don't work together? That's news to me. Where does culture come from? I don't mean the Ottawa drum-dance/throat-sing culture, I mean REAL culture? It doesn't just appear, societies create it.

You see the culture as being so strong because you have it. Not everyone is as 'cultured' as you are.

"We are using such words that the Nazi government could have been using to spread their message." Chill out with the Nazi reference - you cheapen it when you compare it to GN PR.

Blaming Government is easy. It never fights back. It's usually more useful to blame the people that elect governments.

And I thought this was a blog. No one ever comments but me.

Anonymous said...

I kind of feel: why bother commenting after "Robin" did? I just feel kinda depressed after reading her/his comment.... She/he seems so defensive and insecure.
Lighten up Sister!

Anywho, this is an interesting blog; and it makes me laugh sometimes too!

So, as for telling K+K to "chill out" --since when does Robbin qualify as the politicol correct-police?
Gee whiz.

So I say: Keep up the Good Work K+K! Some of us appreciating your insight and making a different point of view in a laffing way.

BTW; I kinda like what Raymond Williams sez about "culture":
"Faced by this complex and still active history of the word, it is easy to react by selecting one 'true or 'proper or 'scientific sense and dismissing other senses as loose or confused."

Robin said...

Sorry to make you depressed - I guess that happens when someone says something you disagree with.

Defensive and insecure - awesome! So defensive so as to challenge something someone else said? So insecure as to post using my name rather than anonymously? Hah!

Re: Chill out. I guess throwing Nazi references around is perfectly acceptable. My apologies.

So chill out "Anonymous" - if that is your real name.

Tommy Eh said...

I never said i was cultured, man. I just wrote that there were levels of knowledge about our culture.

and its the first time i've referenced Nazis and that's because such laws that are being passed in Nunavut are pretty authoritarian if obeyed properly, which i doubt will be the case. I mean i don't really agree with Bill 101 either and it's much more authoritarian than what Nunavut has.

I just think there are ways to preserve and practice culture without passing and creating legislation and not imposing them on people.

Robin said...

I know you never said you were cultured - you don't have you. You have a strong connection to our culture - you were raised with it. For you, it's effortless. But folks like me have to work at it.

Nunavut's language are pretty good I think. I say this without being able to speak Inuktitut. I like the principle behind the laws - especially considering the transient workforce and the steady stream of teachers who teach Nunavut's youth who don't understand a word of it. It's about as authoritarian as making sure kids can read and write before they graduate high school.

Re: Preserving and practicing culture without legislation. You are right, there are many ways to do it. But for some reason, I think we collectively aren't doing them. Some communities have lost so much Inuktitut already. Places like Pang and Igloolik are lucky. Places like Cambridge and Rankin haven't preserved culture so well.

Robin said...

Should read "Nunavut's language laws*..."