Kinship and the Inuit People
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 3.3). 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...
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