Accepted Paper:

"Treating others good": well-being of land and animals in northern Canada  

Authors:

Robert Wishart (University of Aberdeen)
Jan Peter Laurens Loovers (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Well being for the Gwich'in of northern Canada is encapsulated in a local sensibility of treating people and all other things 'good.' We explore this overarching philosophy by focusing on the way people work with dogs and how they position this work as part of a larger effort to maintain a healthy world.

Paper long abstract:

Gwich'in, Dene people in subarctic Canada have often emphasised the notion of 'treating others good'. This not only comprises fellow humans, but other persons including animals, the land (including rivers and lakes), other beings and materials. Focusing on the relations between Gwich'in, dogs and the land, we tease out what such treatment of others entails as well as elaborate on the local sensibility of 'good' treatment. We commence with an account of Gwich'in and working dogs and situate this in a broader discussion on well-being, the land, resource extraction initiatives, and apocalyptic prophecies. Gwich'in recount caring for their dogs through feeding, respectful communication, and shared activities in order to craft 'good dogs': dogs that work together and with people. Mistreatment can lead to uncooperative dogs or, crucially, to misfortune or bad health for humans. The treatment and well-being of dogs is similar to that of other animals as well as the land but a key difference lies in the practices or recognisable domestication: feeding, breeding, housing, etc. The feeding of the dogs, like that of humans, depends on healthy land, rivers and skies because fish, caribou, birds and other animals are situated as being part of a 'good' diet. The well-being of the dogs and people is thus immediately connected with the well-being of the land. In this sense, Gwich'in have become particularly concerned with resource extraction initiatives in the upper Peel River as it undermines the notion of 'treating good' and gwiinzii kwundei (good life/well-being).

Panel P122
Living well together: considering connections of health, wellbeing and work in the lives of humans and other living beings [Humans and Other Living Beings]