Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Way of Life That Does Not Exist: Canada and the Extinguishment of the Innu

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Way of Life That Does Not Exist: Canada and the Extinguishment of the Innu

Article excerpt

C. Samson, A Way of Life that Does Not Exist: Canada and the Extinguishment of the Innu (London and New York: Verso, 2003), 388pp. Cloth. $27. £16. ISBN 1-8598-4525-8.

This book follows hard on the heals of the controversial report produced by C. Samson, J. Wilson and J. Mazower, Canada's Tibet: The Killing of the Innu, Survival for Tribal Peoples (London: Survival International, 1999). That publication was not happily received by many Canadian government officials. This later book is a substantive work based on the author's personal contact with the Innu communities in Labrador over many years. It is a detailed account of the relations of Innu people with government, developers, explorers, missionaries, educators, health care workers, as well as the justice system. Policies of assimilation by the Canadian government from the 1950s and 1960s led to the collapse of traditional nomadic hunting as a way of life that gave the Innu an independent, self-sufficient and sustainable existence over large areas of the sub-Arctic.The 'tragedy' is couched in terms of a replacement existence that is neither Innu nor Canadian, and which has led to grave social problems epitomised in high suicide rates, chronic alcoholism, gasoline-sniffing by young children, and an overall dependency on welfare payments. The loss of the traditional lifestyle based on a culture of subsistence with 'country foods' from caribou herds, other wildlife and fishing, has led to a general hopelessness for elders and young people alike. The dichotomy of beliefs and attitudes between white, urbanised Canadians and the unfortunate Innu is demonstrated by Colin Samson's use of a quotation at the start of his prologue. This is taken from an editorial in the Globe and Mail, 27 November 2000, 'Isn't it Time they joined the Modern World?' - 'Does it make sense, in the year 2000 for people to be living a marginal existence in such a remote place? Would it be better for its residents to move to bigger communities where there might be jobs to be had? …

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