Accepted Paper:

The Inuit bowhead whale hunt and indigenous rights in Canada  

Author:

Nobuhiro Kishigami (National Museum of Ethnology)

Paper short abstract:

An indigenous group of Canada, the Inuit, revived bowhead whale hunting in the 1990s. This paper discusses the meanings of the revival in relation to the nation state, indigenous rights, and international society, with cases from the hunts of the Nunavik (Northern Quebec) and Nunavut Inuit.

Paper long abstract:

The Inuit of Canada revived bowhead whale hunting in the 1990s after a more than 50 year interruption of the hunt. This paper discusses the meanings of the revival in relation to the nation state, indigenous rights, and international society, with cases from the hunts of the Nunavik (Northern Quebec) and Nunavut Inuit. Contemporary Inuit hunters lost knowledge and techniques on how to hunt, butcher and share a bowhead whale due to the long interruption of the hunt. Also, several Inuit did not like the taste of the whale. Furthermore, the whale hunt required a lot of money for preparing for and carrying out the whale hunt itself. In spite of these difficulties, Inuit had been eager to resume bowhead whale hunts in Canada. In response to requests from the Inuit, the government of Canada gave permission for the hunt to the Inuit as an indigenous right. Although I doubt that bowhead whale hunts contribute to obtaining essential food for contemporary Inuit's physical survival, I argue that the hunts and distribution of whale products among the Inuit contribute to maintaining or enhancing their Inuit identity. Also, I insist that whale hunts of the Inuit have a symbolic political effect to visualize their indigenous rights. On the other hand, the government of Canada shows its political position concerning the current indigenous policy through giving the Inuit permission to hunt bowhead whales.

Panel P003
Anthropology of whaling issues: the present and future of whaling cultures (NME panel)