Interview with Inuit guide
Russell Atagootak was our Inuit guide on the Arctic expedition I have just returned from.
I was really interested to spend time with him to try to work out how a small ethnic group fits into modern Canada. The trite yet apt conundrum faced by people of the far north is that they are torn between the igloo and the internet.
Russell was born and bred in the Arctic. All his friends and family are there. He was desperate to save up for an iPhone and he dreamed of taking a big road trip.
Listen to what he had to say about the Arctic and about life.
Apologies for the poor audio quality - it was hard to get things perfect up in the Arctic.
February 16, 2005 12:00 AM
Q Why do Eskimos rub noses rather than kiss?
A It’s not so much rubbing noses as sniffing someone you love — their nose, cheeks, forehead — in a nuzzily show of affection.
And it’s not done instead of kissing. It’s usually a greeting rather than a romantic overture. In fact, in some northern cultures this is only done between mothers and children.
So the mental image we might have had of the “Eskimo kiss” was misleading. And that’s true of some other stereotypes.
For instance, there’s not one Eskimo people. There’s the Kalaallit in Greenland, the Inuvialuit in Canada, and the Inupiaq, Yuplit, and Alutiiq in Alaska — just to name a few. Some Alaskan indigenous people accept the term Eskimo. Other peoples consider it offensive, because it was a label applied by Europeans and others. The arctic peoples of Canada and Greenland in general prefer the term Inuit.
And while some peoples did once live in ice-block houses in central and eastern Canada, igloos were rare in Greenland and unknown in Alaska. Few remain anywhere now.
Sometimes our mental images are a little cartoonish, not to mention unfair.
So what is behind nose-rubbing?
David Joanasi, information officer of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a group representing the Inuit, says he grew up with this custom in northern Canada.
In his culture “it’s called a kunik,” he says. “When you’re an infant and a little kid, your parents and grandparents and older siblings sniff you and rub your face with their nose.”
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