Understanding Eskimo Science

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In Richard Nelson's "Understanding Eskimo Science" a man, Nelson, traveled

below the Arctic Circle in the boreal forest of interior Alaska were he lived, studied

and interacted with a few native Eskimos groups during the mid-1960's. Throughout

the article Nelson provides an abundance of interesting and relevant information

about Eskimo survival coming about through the understanding of one's

environment. Nelson's best argument is the simple fact that these people have

managed to survive in one the, if not the, harshest environment on the planet. There

knowledge is useful, tested and true to the groups as this truly unique understanding

of there world has permitted them to thrive well in these parts. Although the

vegetation is rather scarce the Eskimo's made due with a diet based mostly on

hunting. But as we find out in the article Nelson describes how these people are well

adapted to the art of hunting. The relationship between man and animal is described

to be one of intricate understanding and respect: "Koyukon hunters know that an

animal's life ebbs slowly, that it remains aware and sensitive to how people treat its


The Eskimo people have accumulated a massive memory based archive of

scientifically valid knowledge concerning the diverse workings of the landscape of

Alaska. Unfortunately Nelson makes it all too clear that this knowledge is

disappearing and he fears that once gone there will never again be such a deep link

between man and land. On a side note, this arcticle also makes it clear that the

Eskimo's respect there elders and place them at the head of all that is important as

there knowledge and experience is treasured. They are the teachers of there people

and the identity of the Eskimo is reflected in stores of experience in the minds of

elders like Igruk.

Nelson is most obviously a rational man saying rational things, but as is often

the case...
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