In Order to Live Untroubled: Inuit of the Central Arctic, 1550-1940/nunavik: Inuit-Controlled Education in Arctic Quebec

Article excerpt

Renée Fossett, In Order to Live Untroubled: Inuit of the Central Arctic, 1550- 1940 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2001), xxii + 336pp. Cloth. $55. ISBN 0-8873-5171-8. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 0-8875-5647-7.

Ann Vick-Westgate, Nunavik: Inuit-Controlled Education in Arctic Quebec (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2002), xx + 337pp. Cloth. $39.95. ISBN 1-5523-8056-4.

It could be inferred from the titles of these two books that they are complementary to some extent, with the difficult changes in historical times experienced by the Inuit in one region being compared with the current changes being experienced by another group as a result of educational innovation. Such complementarity is tenuous, of course, for neither work is intended to go beyond the rather narrow confines of its subject matter. This is a pity in many ways, for Fossett's work could have benefited from a strong and updating conclusion, while Vick- Westgate's summary of the history of education in Nunavik is tantalisingly brief.

Fossett attempts to identify the aspects of society and culture that the peoples of the central Arctic chose to change, and those they chose to maintain, focusing on periods when the Inuit of the central Arctic still retained their corporate autonomy. This is set in an environment where lives were far from untroubled, with high death rates from conflict and starvation, and where climactic fluctuations of only a few degrees over the decades had a major influence on the availability of food and other necessities.

The narrative is somewhat hard going at times, with account after account of trading post records in particular, but with actually very little on such topics as Inuit customs, religion and lifestyles. The concluding chapter gives an indication of how this work could have been developed into a more comprehensive history when the author considers, very briefly, social organisations among the Inuit of this region. This, then, is a somewhat limited study that will nevertheless be of interest to students of Inuit history, particularly given its extensive bibliography. …

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