Inuit Gift Exchange

Topics: Inuit, Gift, Hunting Pages: 4 (1554 words) Published: September 29, 2013
Inuit communities are comprised of individuals who think independently and have few restrictions on what the way they may behave. There are no defined rules or formal regulations holding the community together; the coherence of a group of Inuit people stems from shared values and the interdependence created by the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Appropriately, the Inuit have no formal rituals of gift exchange. But the concept of positive reciprocity lies behind many aspects of an Inuit community and is central to the relationships and behavior of the Inuit people. In an agricultural society, it is to the farmer’s advantage to accumulate personal wealth and to look to achieve personal gain through economic transactions. But while farming communities are based on competition and emphasize individual status, hunter-gatherer societies rely on cooperation. In the case of hunters and gatherers, it benefits the individual to act in the interest of the group. Storing up private wealth would result in isolation from the group and the need to fend for oneself; giving to the group increases the wealth of the whole, which circulates back to the individual. The inter-reliance of Inuit groups is conducive to positive reciprocity and favors liberal sharing of truth, respect, and equal treatment. Although truth is not a concrete object to be exchanged, it is a gift that the Inuit people share with one another freely and can trust they will receive from others. A chief esteemed by his or her people is one who is known to be open with knowledge and truthful in negotiations (Brody 198). This quality is valued highly in the rest of the community as well. The sharing of truth originated from necessity: hunters and gatherers must have a vast number of details about their land in order to successfully use the resources available to them (Brody 185). If individuals kept discoveries of the areas for best fishing or for the most edible plants to themselves, the small private pools...
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