Book Review: Too Many People by Willem Rasing

mainlogo  JIM BELL August 09, 2017

Thirty-year study looks at the breakdown of Inuit customary rules and the rise of criminality and disorder
Willem Rasing’s Too Many People, published this past spring by Nunavut Arctic College, arrives at a timely moment: a year when the people of Nunavut and Nunavik find themselves suffering once more from the painful consequences of yet another rash of anti-social behaviour and lethal violence.

Since the beginning of May, Nunavut has suffered the death by homicide of an 11-year-old boy in Rankin Inlet, the death by homicide of a 51-year woman near Pond Inlet, the police shooting of a 39-year-old Hall Beach man who said on Facebook he wished to die via “suicide by cop,” and the stabbing death of a 30-year-old man in Gjoa Haven.
That’s from a period of only three months. It doesn’t include all the lesser mayhem: multiple property crimes, aggravated assaults, arsons, standoffs and weekly firearm scares.TooManyPeople-e1457704851200
There’s also the recent explosion of violence in neighbouring Nunavik, where this past June, a knife-wielding Akulivik youth was shot to death by police after he killed three people and wounded two others, and where in July, a 14-year-old girl in Inukjuak was beaten to death, producing nation-wide media headlines.
Where does all this disorder come from? Why does it emerge from a culture in which traits like modesty, non-interference and the willingness to share were essential tools for preserving harmony and ensuring group survival?
Rasing, an anthropologist based at Radboud University in the Netherlands, uses this book, which flows from 30 years of research, to answer those difficult questions. Though his work is confined to Igloolik, Rasing’s observations are likely applicable to numerous other eastern Arctic communities in which culture shock, colonialism and modernization have inflicted similar damage.
He describes how the customary methods of social control that helped the Iglulingmiut survive in small camps for generations, more or less harmoniously, began to disintegrate after the middle of the 1950s, when the Inuit who lived in camps stretching from Fury and Hecla Strait to the Melville Peninsula coast were concentrated into the artificial government-created communities of Igloolik and Hall Beach.
There, the old forms of maintaining social control began to collapse under the enormous weight of new rules and new laws brought by a colonizing federal government, especially after the mid-1980s, when the crime rate began to soar. Traditional camp leaders lost their prestige and a culture gap emerged between those raised in camps and those who went to government schools. Children stopped listening to their parents.
One of the worst developments was the emergence of large numbers of young people, especially young males, pursuing an aimless “thrill-seeking” lifestyle.
He attributes this to a “sequence of interrelated changes,” which include changes in the importance of hunting, religious divisions between Anglicans and Catholics, the trauma suffered by Catholic Iglulingmiut at the Chesterfield Inlet residential school, and the effect of “too many people” jammed together too quickly into one community.
Rasing also delves without fear into well-known examples of cultural conflict between Iglulingmiut and British-Canadian law that more politically sensitive observers might be too timid to confront.
That includes incomprehensible restrictions on hunting, such as the much-derided Migratory Birds Act, along with restrictions on hunting walrus and polar bear that all Igloolik hunters considered to be wrong “because they contravened their moral obligation to hunt.
But it was the application of Criminal Code laws intended to regulate marriage and sexual behavior that produced some of the most bitter controversies of the 1980s, when the crime rate in Igloolik and the rest of the eastern Arctic began to rise.
The strongest disagreement with the law involved specific sex laws, notably those that prohibit sexual intercourse with underage females. Iglulingmiut of both sexes and of all ages rejected these regulations,” Rasing said.
He cites the famous case of the three young men who pleaded guilty in 1984 to having sex with a 13-year-old girl—and did not know that what they did was against the law. When a territorial court judge took that into account when imposing a sentence of one week in jail followed by nine months of probation, a moral panic ensued, fueled by lurid stories in News North, the Edmonton Journal and the Ottawa Citizen.
He also cites the case of a mother whose 13-year-old daughter had sexual intercourse with two males, aged 16 and 21, both of whom were charged under the Criminal Code after social workers were informed. The mother got angry with the police.
She considered the girl old enough to decide for herself; when she was her daughter’s age, she had done the same. Then she left, slamming the door,” Rasing said.
Adding to the confusion, some types of behavior that seriously transgress important Iglulingmiut norms are not usually illegal under Canadian law, such as refusing to share food, lying, bragging or overly assertive behavior, Rasing said.
The differences between Iglulingmiut culture and Canadian laws have hampered the proper administration of criminal justice,” Rasing said.
He found that one consequence of modernization is an absence of community-wide values and norms: revealed by many different approaches to childrearing, attitudes to material possessions, the preferred language spoken at home, and the value of country food. All that diversity means there are few role models, if any. “There is no uniform, unequivocal standard for acquiring or measuring prestige,” he said.
Another phenomenon is “hidden crime,” such as widespread cannabis use by up to 75 per cent of the population. While that’s been illegal under the Criminal Code for years, many Iglulingmiut believe that using cannabis is harmless, especially compared with alcohol.
With so many people involved, very few are willing to inform the police about trafficking or possession, as my operational police files analysis confirmed,” Rasing said.
Other “hidden crime” includes domestic violence, some of which is related to residential school trauma, and worst of all, the long-hidden sex crimes committed by the former Oblate priest, Eric Dejaeger on the Roman Catholic side of the community.
At the same time, Rasing praises the resilience of Iglulingmiut, noting that although there are few full-time hunters, nearly everyone, including those who rarely go out on the land, identify with the hunting culture. He also acknowledges a long list of community-based Igloolik institutions created to strengthen and celebrate Inuit culture: the Isuma film company, Artcirq, the Igloolik Oral History Project, the Return of the Sun Festival, and the Rockin’ Walrus music festival.
To do his research, between 1986 and 2014 Rasing conducted extensive interviews with Igloolik Inuit, including elders like Noah Piugattuq, Rosie Iqallijuq, Francois Quassa and many others.
I visited households; played cards; joined weekly basketball games, teen dances and square dances; frequented the local coffee shop; attended services at the Pentecostal, Anglican and Catholic churches; participated in hunting and fishing trips; and tried to grasp Inuktitut, the Inuit language, as best I could,” Rasing wrote.
He consulted diaries, books, police reports, transcripts from proceedings at the Nunavut Court of Justice and historical documents, including the journals of William Parry and G.F. Lyon, two British naval commanders whose crews, in 1822, were the first Europeans to make contact with the people who lived in and around Igloolik Island.
Though it’s an academic publication, Too Many People is accessible to any reader with at least a Grade 10 level of English comprehension. He avoids theoretical and ideological jargon and uses an empirical approach in which his conclusions flow, without embellishment, from verifiable facts and data.
Rasing published the first version of this book in 1994, but updated it after visiting Igloolik at various times between 1999 and 2015.

You can order a copy from Amazon or from Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd.
And you can find other Nunavut Arctic College publications listed at this web page.

Willem Rasing
Too Many People: Contact, Disorder, Change in an Inuit Society, 1822-2015
Paperback: 568 pages
ISBN-10: 1897568401
ISBN-13: 978-1897568408
$32.95, published by Nunavut Arctic College.

Too Many People: Contact, Disorder, Change in an Inuit Society, 1822–2015 examines the history of contact between the outside world and a group of Inuit, the Iglulingmiut, living in Canada’s Eastern Arctic. The nature of these encounters and their impact is described and analyzed from 1822 to 2015. Seeking to understand how order was brought about and maintained during this period of nearly two centuries, the ongoing historical narrative that evolves displays a pattern of interconnected social, economic, political, cognitive, and volitional changes in Iglulingmiut society.
This volume includes a foreword by George Wenzel, author of Animal Rights, Human Rights: Ecology, Economy, and Ideology in the Canadian Arctic.

Willem Rasing is a social studies and philosophy teacher and an associated researcher with the Department of Religious Studies, Theology, and Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands). He is also a member of the Dutch research group Circumpolar Cultures. Willem’s research for Too Many People has helped establish the Igloolik Oral History Project as the leading archive of Inuit traditional knowledge and oral history.

Indigenous peoples’ organization declared as foreign agents

ЦС КМНС / РИТЦIndigenous peoples’ organization declared as foreign agents. An organization supporting indigenous peoples in Russia’s northern regions has been fined 300,000 rubles for failing to register as foreign agent.

January 28, 2016, by Trude Pettersen Independent Barents Observer

The organization “Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North” (CSIPN) has been fined 300,000 rubles for breaking Russia´s much-criticized law on foreign agents, Gazeta writes. The organization had failed to register itself, and was in November 2015 declared “foreign agent” by Russia´s Ministry of Justice.
I can only regret that yet another organization for indigenous people is hit by the implementation of this law”, says Christina Henriksen, leader of the Working Group for Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) in the Barents Region, to Independent Barents Observer. “I am going to raise this issue with Russian authorities next time I meet with them”, Henriksen says.
In the Barents Region, seven groups are have been branded “foreign agent” by Russia’s Ministry of Justice. In September 2015 the organization Yasavey Manzara in Nenets Autonomous Okrug became the first Indegenous Peoples NGO to get the stamp.
Although WGIP doesn´t have any formal cooperation with CSIPN, Henriksen knows the leader of CSIPN, Rodion Sulyandziga well after many years of cooperation through RAIPON, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, where he used to be part of the leader team.
CSIPN was established in 2001 as a non-governmental organization that provided help to indigenous peoples and their communities in the transfer to the market economy conditions of present-day Russia. It offered practical training in institution-building, economic development, land and natural resources use, legislation, environmental protection, and cultural heritage, according to University of the Arctic.
Henriksen hopes that the issue of persecution of organizations that support indigenous peoples will be brought to a higher political level: “I hope that Russia´s partners in the Barents Council and the Arctic Council will address this case with their Russian colleagues. WGIP raises this question whenever we can, but it would definitely help if Norwegian authorities would improve their relations to our neighbouring country, so that there would be room for constructive discussions on such challenges”.
The law that came into force in 2012, imposed organizations receiving funding from abroad or engaging in political activity to register as foreign agents. Very few organizations voluntarily agreed to designate themselves as such, and from 2014 the Ministry of Justice was granted powers to name agents of their own.
The number of NGOs operating in Russia has declined with more than 30 percent during the last three years, Interfax reported.

1595 Nova Zembla

Hulsius spie010bijn01ill50

Gerrit de Veer – Levinus Hulsius: De tocht van 1595: het kielhalen. Twee bemanningsleden, die huiden gestolen hebben van Nenets (Lappen), worden gekielhaald. Van de ene blijkt na het ophalen slechts een half lichaam te resten, de ander wordt nat aan land gezet.
Gerrit de Veer – Levinus Hulsius: The Journey of 1595: the keelhaul. Two crew members, who have stolen skins of Nenets (Lapps), are keelhauling. From one after getting hauled only half a body was left, the other put ashore wet.

Yacutia: Indigenous Peoples prevent Diamond Mining

Evenk are an indigenous community in the republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in Russia’s far east. As described by The Red Book of the People of Russia: the Evenks inhabit a huge territory of the Siberian taiga from the River Ob in the west to the Okhotsk Sea in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north, to Manchuria and Sakhalin in the south.
The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Sakha Republic (Yakutia), has reported the news (in Russian) that the Evenk community has eventually managed to stop the mining company “Almazy Anbara” from starting a diamond mine on their sacred river. As reported by the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Yakutia, Yakutia’s Minister of nature protection of Sakhamin Afanasyev, announced the denial of a license to the company at a parliamentary session on 16 June in Yakutsk.
Earlier this year, at a public hearing held March 23, 2015 the inhabitants of Zhilinda village in Olenek Evenki district had voted unanimously against allowing the exploration work along the the sacred river Malaya Kuonapka and its tributary Maspaky. This is the first time for indigenous peoples in Yakutia to halt the issuing of a license to an extractive industries enterprise.
Before this vote, the villagers had approved three of the planned sites and only voted against the fourth. The river is revered by the Evenks as a sacred site. Furthermore, it is their only source of clean drinking water and as an important hunting and fishing site. Source:The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Sakha Republic. 
Written by Federica  | 26 June 2015