Readiness and skill in an arctic environment : procurement, distribution and game playing
In this dissertation I provide an ethnographic account of life in Coral Harbour, a predominantly Inuit community in Nunavut, Canada. I specifically address aspects of procurement and everyday life that have often been under-represented in other Canadian Arctic ethnographies. Whereas Arctic research commonly emphasises the importance of hunting as a major procurement activity, I focus specifically on other procurement activities that are separate from hunting. Through an examination of women’s, children’s, and men’s activities in procurement, I address a lacuna in the literature and provide insight into how Inuit in Coral Harbour engage in procurement activities. I specifically explore the interrelated activities of procurement, sharing, and game playing. My intention is to provide a balanced ethnographic account of life in Coral Harbour and to utilize this ethnographic material in order to explore anthropological understandings of Inuit and hunter-gatherers more generally. I provide detailed examinations of fishing and fishing derbies as a procurement activity in which women, children, and men all participate. Mobility, readiness, and opportunism are shown to be important aspects of procurement. I suggest that Inuit in Coral Harbour engage in procurement activities by maintaining a state of readiness. Inuit in Coral Harbour have awareness and skill, and are ready to seize an opportunity when it presents itself. As a consequence of understanding procurement as opportunistic, I examine the notion of the ‘giving environment’. I explore how Inuit share, transfer, and exchange a variety of resources within the community. Games provide a mechanism for distribution within the entire community, based upon egalitarian principles. By examining game playing within an Inuit cultural context, I show how it relates to both procurement and distribution. Many contests involve some type of procurement activity, such as the fishing derby. Skill and readiness to seize an opportunity are important both in games and in activities of livelihood.