Re: Natives

Reto Blumer (rblumer@VTX.CH)
Tue, 20 Feb 1996 17:42:30 +0000

On Mon, 19 Feb 1996, Adrian Tanner wrote :
> ...
> Racialism would also account for why Eskimo
> (or now Inuit) are not generally categorized as being simply one regional
> cultural and linguistic sub-grouping of Indians (like Dene), but as being an
> entirely separate group. That is, although there are some differences in
> physical appearence between "Indians" of different North American 'tribal'
> groupings, there are no obvious racial division lines, as there are with
> between Indians and Inuit. Does anyone have a better explanation?
> ...

Interesting to see that this kind of explanation is given by an
anthropologist. What about the origins of the different Ethnic groups ? Is
it really not known that there where several imigration waves during the
process of peopling the north American continent ?
The Thule culture (originator of the actual Inuit ethnic group) was one of
the last of these waves, crossing from Alaska to Greenland in about 1000
years. A. Tanner was right when he wrote that the Inuit are one regional
cultural and linguistic sub-grouping, but they are a sub-group of Eskimo,
and not of "Indians". The other main sub-group pertaining to the "Eskimo"
(awfull term) is the Yuit (yupik speaking) living in Alaska, St. Lawrence
Island and also on Chukchi Peninsula (only about 1700 people), northeastern
Thus, saying Inuit are just a sub-group of "Indians" is simply wrong, except
if we modify the definition of the already wrong term "Indian" to "all
people living on the American continent" ! What about just trying to forget
the term "Indian". I'm quite sure it would need only one or two genarations
to get rid of it, but only if we start right now.
As to the term "Eskimo", I would like to say it's just as badly chosen as
"Indian". When we have to call someone by her/his name, we ask his/her name
before. It should be the same for group of people. Unfortunately, most of
the time, when someone "discovered" [sic!] some "unknown" [sic!] group of
people, he first gave them a generic name, and then started (sometimes) to
learn the unknown language.
I'm an archaeologist working on Subarctic and Arctic prehistory (defined by
the lacking of written sources, and not by primitiveness !), and I deal
everyday with names given by archaeologists to ancient cultures. But what
would these ancient people say about the name we artificially gave them ?
Perhaps they hear them.....
Our freedom should simply stop where the freedom of others starts. Or it
will be a neverending story !

Thanks for reading until here, Reto Blumer

Reto Blumer
Rochena #8
CH-1667 Enney FR
t-f: +41.29.690.09