Arctic Anthropology Journal’s Web Site has Moved

You can find our current web site at

Please update your links and bookmarks.


Notes for the Upcoming Volume 51(1)

Arctic Anthropology Production Notes: Volume 51(1) is now being typeset and should be out in the late summer to subscribers. The articles to appear are as follows:

Upcoming Volume 51(1) Table of Contents

Dorset Sled-Shoe Design and Cold-Season Transport at Phillip’s Garden (EeBi-1), Northwestern Newfoundland
–Patricia J. Wells and M.A.P. Renouf

“It Is Not Our Reindeer but Our Politicians that are Wild:” Contests over Reindeer and Categories in the Kola Peninsula, Northwestern Russia
–Vladislava Vladimirova

Regional Variation in Thule and Colonial Caribou Hunting in West Greenland
–Clemens Pasda

Nitrogen Isotope Composition of Peat Samples as a Proxy for Determining Human Colonization of Islands
–Arkady B. Savinetsky, Bulat F. Khasanov, Dixie L. West, Nina K. Kiseleva, and Olga A. Krylovich

Specialized Processing of Aquatic Resources in Prehistoric Alaskan Pottery? A Lipid-Residue Analysis of Ceramic Sherds from the Thule-Period Site of Nunalleq, Alaska
–Thomas F. G. Farrell, Peter Jordan, Karine Taché, Alexandre Lucquin, Kevin Gibbs, Ana Jorge, Kate Britton, Oliver E Craig, and Rick Knecht

Early Thule Winter Houses: An Archaeoentomological Analysis
–Frédéric Dussault, Allison Bain, and Genevieve LeMoine

Book Review

sanaaq cover art

Review by Diana Ewing, Department of Anthropology UNLV

Published by:

University of Manitoba Press
301 St. John’s College
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2M5 Canada
Phone: (204) 474-9495
Fax: (204) 474-7566                                                              

Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk is the first novel written in the Inuit language.  It has been translated into English from French by Peter Frost and published by the University of Manitoba Press in 2014.  Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel was first translated into French by Bernard Saladin d’Anglure.

The author Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk was born in the early 1930’s and passed away in May of 2007.  Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel grew out of her work helping a Catholic priest learn the Inuit language, in helping him with translations, and with the creation of an Inuit/French dictionary.  She began writing down not just a list of words but a narrative which included insight into Inuit culture.  She created a compelling story set during an era of cultural changes.  The novel delves into the changes in Inuit lifeways which happened during Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk’s lifetime with the seldom recorded perspective of a native woman.

This novel is unique not only because it is the first novel written in the Inuit language, but also due to the crisp vignette style the author chose for her chapter construction.  Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel is comprised of 48 chapters and a glossary.  Each chapter is a short literary snapshot of Inuit life during the first half of the 20th century.  While interconnected, each of these short chapters has a distinct stand-alone quality in which an activity, occurrence, or personal character struggle occurs.  The novel is a very quick read which is written in a deceptively simple style.

This vignette style clearly highlights an event with specific cultural significance.  Hunting and gathering activities are described with attention not only to the significance of the foodstuffs but to the personal aspects as well (the pride felt by children at their first success or the disappointment of failure.)  Dangers associated with hunting or gathering are described in succinct detail as are the simple acts of taking a break and having tea.  The chapter A Daughter is Adopted is sharp and poignant in the matter of fact description of a young girl leaving her birth family to live with her new parents.  In the same crisp detailed manner the author describes the coming of missionaries or the death of a young hunter.

Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel follows the adult life of Sanaaq, an Inuit woman, her family, and friends.  The swift style of writing employed by Mititarjuk Nappaaluk draws in the reader emotionally while painting a clear picture of Inuit life as experienced by the characters.  While succinct, each chapter is compelling in the way in which the author emphasizes a point of cultural significance.  Even topics as sensitive as domestic violence are explored in crisp straightforward detail by the author.  This novel would be of particular value to anyone interested in understanding Inuit culture and early 20th century contact.  I think it would be of specific importance to anyone teaching a course which included Inuit culture or subsistence.  The detail and clarity with which Mititarjuk Nappaaluk describes the lives of her characters is invaluable to understanding the era about which she writes.

Society for American Archaeology 79th Annual Meeting

From April 23rd through April 28th 2014 Archaeologists converged on the city of Austin, Texas for the 79th Annual Meeting.  There archaeologists from varying nations and institutions shared research, presented awards, awarded scholarships and fellowships, exhibitors and publishers hawked their wares, and people reconnected with friends and rivals.  I am here on Arctic Anthropology’s blog to recount the presentations I attended related to the Arctic.  All abstracts for these presentations can be found by following the link to the SAA website provided:

Thursday April 24th

This was the most busy day for the SAA’s.  Not only were there presentations from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm, but there were also receptions and dinners.  Attendees were forced to choose whether to attend the evening presentations or social networking engagements.  As always the overlapping presentations and events made it difficult to pick which presentations to attend.

I chose to spend the morning of the 24th in the Symposium: Resilience, Collapse, and Survival in Interesting Times: Viking Age to Medieval Transitions in the Norse North Atlantic (a four hour symposium.)  One presentation that stood out for me was at 9:00 am The Impact of Volcanic Events on the Landnám: Did Eldgjá 938±4 A.D. Stop the Colonization of Iceland? by Magdalena Schmid of the University of Iceland.  Ms. Schmid looked at a major volcanic event in the geology and history of Iceland for the impact that event had on the lives of the recent inhabitants of that island.

Thursday afternoon I attended Using Portable Antiquities to Understand Identity Creation: A Case Study from Viking Age Scotland by Courtney Buchanan of the California State University Channel Islands.  This paper presentation stood out for me because of the key points in Ms. Buchanan’s research focusing on how material culture can inform archaeologists not only about trade and contact but also the cultural identity of the peoples involved.  Her abstract clearly laid out the grounds of her presentation which focused on an Arctic people’s interaction with and settlement of a non-Arctic region (in fact one traditionally thought to have had little direct contact with Vikings).   

Friday April 25th

I found many conference attendees myself included up early in spite of evenings spent socializing.  I was back to the Austin Convention Center for the 8:30 am General Session: Northwestern North America.  This session included topics on the Western Arctic and Alaska.  Several of these papers stood out in my mind.

Celeste Giordano presented her and Dr. Liam Frink’s of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas research on the safety of traditional versus modern food storage among the Yup’ik, The Effects of the Traditional Yup’ik Seal Poke Storage System on the Safety of Seal Oil Consumption.  This paper combines experimental archaeology with chemical analysis of stored foodstuffs to compare the health risks incurred by food storage practices.

James Kari of the Alaska Native Language Center and Ben Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks put forth the paper The Prehistoric Implications of The Proto-Dene Lex Loci which looked at Dene/Athabaskan place names in central Alaska.  This linguistics based paper looked at the way in which Dene place names are indicative of not only geography but use-patterns.  While heavy in linguistic jargon this paper informed upon how place names play a role in understanding cultural patterns of land use.

This Friday morning session was ended with University of Toronto student Lauren Norman’s paper on faunal remains. Study of a House: Spatial Patterning of a Western Thule Winter Dwelling looked at faunal counts from a house at Cape Espenberg, Alaska.  These counts were used in accordance with their deposition position to determine activity areas within the house.

In the afternoon I made a foray into the 2:00–4:00 Poster Session: Ethnoarchaeology, Replicative Studies, and Site Formation Processes.  I was particularly excited to see a poster being presented on bone and antler needles, but was disappointed in that the replicated tools were actually awls.  Though it was an interesting exercise, in that the young students learned that boiling bone created a brittle material not  suited for working leather (which I had previously believed to be common knowledge) I think the lack of success in creating a working needle greatly discouraged the students from further experimental work. 

Saturday April 26th

The afternoon Symposium: Lonesome Landscapes: The Archaeology of Remoteness and Isolation contained the paper presentation of Brian Wygal of Adelphi University and Kathryn Krasinski of Fordham University titled Late Glacial Exploration and Colonization of the Last Beringian Frontier.  This paper looked at the earliest inhabitants of Eastern Beringia.  Focusing specifically upon the Susitna Valley and looking at lithic sources as evidence this paper suggested that isolation and lack of trade networks characterized the early inhabitants of this region during the Late Pleistocene.  Sadly the presentation in this same Symposium by David Yesner of the University of Alaska Anchorage titledIsolation and Cultural Complexity: Key Arguments from Coastal Alaska, NE Asia and Tierra del Fuego a cross-cultural comparison looking at the stability of isolated cultures was cancelled.

Sunday April 27th

The morning symposium titled Back for More: New Investigations and Perspectives in the North Atlantic was the most full of Arctic related papers of any session or symposium I attended this year.  Each paper in this time-slot related in some way to Arctic peoples be they Native American or European. Here I am choosing to focus on the presentation I most enjoyed.  That of Dr. Kevin Smith.

Saving the best for last, I really did enjoy one of the last presentations I attended the most.  Kevin Smith of the Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University presented Den of Thieves or the Temple of Doom? The Creation of Mythic Landscapes at Surtshellir Cave, Iceland.  This paper told the exciting tale of the discovery of a sacrificial site deep within Surtshellir Cave, Iceland.  For years tourists had braved the cave to loot sacks of bone as souvenirs, bone that proved to be the remains of enough animals to feast 7500 people… This paper presentation was the tale of how the true nature of the Surtshellir Cave was discovered.  Long thought to be a thieves/outlaw den according to local folklore, what Dr. Smith found was a sacrificial site to the eldjötunn Surtr, the fire jötunn who during Ragnarök would burn all the arable lands and kill the Aesir god Frey.  Outside in front of the cave mouth were the remains of an amphitheater.  Surthellir Cave itself contained two impressive structures within.  First 120 meters in there was a massive stone wall.  Beyond the stone wall and through a 70 centimeter crawl space was a stone structure with a floor of sand all which had to be carried in.  In the sand floor of the structure was the largest non-mortuary cache of beads yet found in a Viking site along with a set of lead weights (a type only possessed by chieftains and used for measuring the value of human slaves.) The site is theorized to be in offering to Surtr after a volcanic eruption on Iceland that destroyed at least six farms and a great deal of arable valley land soon after Iceland was colonized.

Book Review: “Anthropological Studies of Whaling”


Kishigami, Nobuhiro, Hisashi Hamaguchi, and James M. Savelle (eds.). 2013. Anthropological Studies of Whaling. Senri Ethnological Studies, 84. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.

Reviewed by Jeremy C. Foin, Department of Anthropology, UC Davis

To obtain copies of this or other volumes of Senri Ethnological Studies, contact:

Publications Office
National Museum of Ethnology
Senri Expo Park, Suita City, Osaka, 565-8511 JAPAN
fax: +81-6-6878-7503

Senri Ethnological Studies is “an occasional series published by the National Museum of Ethnology of Japan…[that] presents in-depth anthropological, ethnological, and related studies written by the Museum staff, research associates, and visiting scholars.”  SES 84, Anthropological Studies of Whaling, is the product of an International Symposium (“Whaling Cultures of the World: Past, Present, and Future”) jointly hosted by the National Institute for Humanities and the National Museum of Ethnology, during which “the history and current status of various whaling cultures [were] discussed and their future considered” (Kishigami et al. 2013:ii). Below is a brief summary of each of the papers included in the volume.


Anthropological Research on Whaling: Prehistoric, Historic and Current Contexts
James M. Savelle and Nobuhiro Kishigami

The bulk of the introduction to the volume is dedicated to a summary of the prehistoric and historic exploitation of whales, including a review of archaeological approaches to prehistoric whaling (parts 1-5). The authors then briefly summarize the place of whaling in the current international political milieu (part 6), followed by an extensive review of Japanese contributions to the anthropology of whaling and “the whaling problem” (part 7).

A Hawaiian Perspective on Whaling in the North Pacific
Susan A. Lebo

In this paper, Lebo uses 19th century archival records from Honolulu’s English-language newspapers to explore the critical economic importance of whaling to the Kingdom of Hawaii. These records reveal that, by mid-century, native Hawaiians dominated the crews of the Honolulu-based pelagic whaling fleet, but native participation declined after a series of maritime disasters in the 1870s crippled the industry. Lebo asserts that these newspaper data provide a valuable local perspective on the development of whaling in Hawaii, and will form a critical component of any future synthetic studies.


Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Revisited
Hisashi Hamaguchi

This paper explores the concept of “aboriginal subsistence whaling” and how its definition has changed over time with respect to the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Hamaguchi argues that it is effectively impossible to come up with a definition “that encompasses all forms of aboriginal subsistence whaling approved by Schedule to the ICRW,” and an unfortunate consequence is that indigenous whaling groups become entangled in the highly-polarized debate between pro- and anti-whaling forces. Hamaguchi concludes by proposing that all whaling for which there is a demonstrated cultural, nutritional, or economic need should be approved, so long as the target species is not under threat of extinction.

Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling in Barrow, Alaska
Nobuhiro Kishigami

In this paper, Kishigami summarizes his ethnographic studies of Inupiaq subsistence whaling practices in Barrow, Alaska, where bowhead whales have been hunted for more than a thousand years. Kishigami briefly reviews the history and status of whaling in Alaska, then goes on to detail the organization and management of the hunting and distribution of whales and whale products within the community. Kishigami concludes by stating that the traditional bowhead hunt is an essential part of Inupiaq cultural identity that must not be infringed upon.

Whale Hunting and Use among the Chukchi in Northeastern Siberia
Kazunobu Ikeya

This paper examines changes in aboriginal subsistence whaling practices among the Chukchi of Northeastern Siberia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its associated system of state- and okrug-run collectives. Using data collected over a three-year period in the Chukotkan village of Lorino, Ikeya shows how whale products – which cannot be directly sold for cash – play a critical role in the village economy (e.g., food for dog teams and the okrug-run fox farm). Ikeya also explores the relationship between the Soviet-era okrug-run whale fishery and a new privately-held whaling company started by Lorino villagers in 2003. Recent reductions in catch quotas by IWC have led to problems within the community about how to divide the reduced number of whales between the two business units.

Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Hisashi Hamaguchi

This paper presents a case study of aboriginal whaling in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where whaling was introduced by American whalers in 1875 or 1876. Hamaguchi makes the case that Bequian whalers, much like other subsistence-whaling groups, have become enmeshed in the politically-charged feud between pro- and anti-whaling forces, and that much of the internal debate within the IWC is driven by politics rather than science.

Traditional Whaling Culture and Social Change in Lamalera, Indonesia: An Analysis of the Catch Record of Whaling 1994–2010
Tomoko Egami and Kotaro Kojima

Egami and Kojima analyze Lamaleran sperm whale catch records over a seventeen-year period (1994-2010) to examine how increasing modernization in Indonesia is driving changes in whale hunting methods in this traditional whaling community. Lamaleran whaling, once strictly regulated by a system of taboos and customary laws, has begun to change in lockstep with cultural and technological innovations (e.g., whaling on Sundays, fitting traditionally-rowed peledangs with outboard motors) ushered along by a series of long-term infrastructure improvement projects instituted during the Suharto regime. Despite the fact that these changes have altered the way that Lamalerans hunt whales, the traditional system of whale meat distribution has remained intact despite the ever-increasing rate of modernization.

Beluga Hunting Practices of the Indigenous People in Kamchatka: Characterization of Sea Mammal Hunting in Northeastern Asia
Yutaka Watanabe

Watanabe examines the differing forms of beluga hunting practiced by the Itelmen and Koryak on the Kamchatka peninsula, noting that the beluga procurement techniques of both of these groups share many similarities with those of the Nivkh, who live in the lower Amur region. Watanabe concludes by arguing that the dietary importance of blubber, along with broad similarities in the ritual treatment of harvested whales (particularly with regard to heads of the animals), are the common thread that tie these regions together.


Whaling in the Northern Seas off Japan
Masami Iwasaki-Goodman and Masahiro Nomoto

In this paper, Iwasaki-Goodman and Nomoto examine the history of whaling off Hokkaido from two perspectives: the northern whaling tradition of the Ainu, and the whaling tradition that is rooted in southern part of Japan. While Ainu whaling generally ceased in the modern era, the southern whaling tradition (which encompasses net whaling and both Large-type- and Small-type Coastal Whaling [LTCW and STCW, respectively]) diffused northward and subsequently became an important part of the economic and socio-cultural fabric of many coastal communities on Hokkaido. The implementation of the moratorium on commercial whaling by the IWC in 1988 wrought many sudden changes upon those communities.

Intangible Food Heritage: Dynamics of Whale Meat Foodways in an Age of Whale Meat Rarity
Jun Akamine

In this paper, Akamine examines the historical roots of whale meat consumption in Japan, which some have argued is not “traditional” practice, but rather a ploy to justify a much more recently acquired taste for whales and whale products by Japanese citizens. Drawing upon cookbooks and recipes developed during the Edo Period (1603–1868), Akamine demonstrates that the Japanese taste for whale meat is not a modern phenomenon but is in fact deeply rooted in traditional Japanese culture.

A Review of Changes in the Use of Whale Resources Over Time in Japan, with a Specific Example of the Hand-harpoon Fishery of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture
Aiko Endo

This paper examines the effects of the whaling moratorium on the coastal community of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, where Small-type Coastal Whaling has been traditionally practiced since the beginning of the Meiji Era (1868–1912). Species-specific changes in catch quotas have dramatically increased the value of short-finned pilot whales and false killer whales, and high demand for these species on the Japanese mainland has drastically reduced the availability of the meat of these species for local consumption. This, coupled with increasing capital outlays and operating costs associated with whale hunting, has had a negative influence on the local economy.

How the Japanese Appetite for Whale-related Foods is Rooted in Their Culture: Findings Revealed from the Data (N=560) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area in 2008
Dai Tanno and Toshihide Hamazaki

This paper examines how demand for whale meat by Japanese consumers has persisted in the post-moratorium era, which for the past thirty-two years has effectively eliminated whale products as a viable culinary option. Using data collected via questionnaire, Tanno and Hamazaki find that two particular elements encourage the consumption of whale: one, that Japanese public opinion considers whales caught off the coast of the archipelago to be marine resources that rightfully belong to Japan, and two, that whale-related foods are an essential component of Japan’s culinary heritage.

Whale Food Culture in Korea: A Case Study in Ulsan Jangsaengpo
Sun-ae Ii

This paper draws upon a case study of whale consumption in Ulsan Jangsaenpo, South Korea, to examine how the IWC moratorium has influenced whale food culture in contemporary Korean society. Whaling is deeply ingrained in the Ulsan area, and is thus considered to be a vital part of the region’s cultural identity. In an effort to maintain the traditional whale food culture in the face of the international ban on whaling, the South Korean government permits the sale of whales accidentally caught in fishing nets. While some South Koreans hope that the continuing global recovery of many whale stocks will result in the eventual resumption of commercial whaling, others contend that a declining taste for whale meat among the younger generation means that traditional whale food culture is probably heading for extinction.


Unleashing the Beast: Whaling in the Contemporary Australia-Japan Relationship
Michael Heazle

Heazle examines the blowup in Australia-Japan relations following the Rudd government’s decision to take Japan before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to stop their scientific whaling program in the Southern Ocean. Previous Australian administrations had followed a policy of containment: opposing whaling on scientific and economic grounds, but limiting disputes with Japan – one of Australia’s most important trading partners – to the realm of the IWC. Heazle concludes that the Rudd administration, facing roadblocks to its domestic agenda on climate change, escalated the fight with Japan to appease the Green Party faction within the ruling coalition.

Law-Enforcing Vigilantes in the Media Era?: An Investigation of Sea Shepherd’s Anti-Whaling Campaign
Motohiro Kawashima

Kawashima reviews the history of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and its controversial founder, former Greenpeace board member Paul Watson, and then compares the organization’s goals, tactics, fundraising agenda, governance structure, and campaign methods with those of Greenpeace. While the two organizations share many similarities, Sea Shepherd differs in some key respects: they tend to focus on individual charismatic species, they pursue a policy of direct confrontation, and they spend nearly all of their funding on campaigns. Ultimately, Kawashima asserts that Sea Shepherd’s willingness to use risky tactics (e.g., fouling propellers, ramming ships) and to operate outside the law means that it is most accurately described as a vigilante group.

Japanese Whaling and International Politics
Dan Goodman

Goodman reviews the issues surrounding Japan’s controversial scientific whaling program in order to examine the role of NGOs in the collapse of “The Future of the IWC Process,” a forum that was designed to extract compromises from both pro- and anti-whaling forces in order to overcome some of the long-standing obstacles faces by the Commission. During negotiations, the Japanese government put substantial compromises on the table, including an offer to reduce its annual Antarctic harvest by fifty percent. However, anti-whaling members of the IWC – under heavy pressure from NGOs – offered no compromises in return, and the process quickly fell apart. Goodman concludes by noting the ironic nature of the outcome: by rejecting the process designed to change the status quo, anti-whaling NGOs ensured that the status quo would remain in place.

The Truth about the Commercial Whaling Moratorium
Joji Morishita

Morishita takes an in-depth look at the history of the whaling moratorium in order to explore how pro- and anti-whaling forces have very different ideas about the motivations behind the ban on whaling. The author argues that the widespread public perception of the moratorium – that it permanently bans whaling on a moral and ethical basis, that it was enacted because all species of whale are endangered, that whales are an exceptional species deserving special protection – amount to a fundamental misreading of its intended purpose, which in reality is to suspend whaling activities until populations can again support a resumption of commercial harvesting. This fundamental misunderstanding, Morishita argues, is at the heart of the perennial disputes that have paralyzed the IWC for the past thirty years.

Concluding Remarks
Hisashi Hamaguchi, James M. Savelle, and Nobuhiro Kishigami

 The editors conclude the volume by noting that anthropology is uniquely positioned to contribute to the whaling debate by bringing indigenous and other non-western perspectives to the table, which is currently dominated by a viewpoint that is both Eurocentric and anti-whaling. While anthropologists understand that whaling was a culturally-legitimate activity in the past and present, this view is not widely held outside of the discipline. Cultural anthropologists can help to change this by stressing “that anti-whaling arguments or the notion that whales are not a human food resource is one view only, and that many societies worldwide harvest and consume whales” (Hamaguchi et al. 2013:356). The editors conclude by stating their hope that this volume will lead to a complete re-thinking of the “whaling problem,” and then suggest several avenues of further inquiry.

New Volume: 50(2)

The new issue  of Arctic Anthropology is out! Check out the following abstracts:

Subsistence Practices of Pioneering Thule–Inuit: A Faunal Analysis of Tiktalik

– John F. Moody and Lisa M. Hodgetts

This paper examines faunal material from Tiktalik (NkRi-3), an early Thule–Inuit site on the southern coast of Amundsen Gulf, Northwest Territories. This region was the gateway through which Thule–Inuit pioneers entered the Canadian Arctic from Alaska and therefore has the potential to help us understand how they adapted to the challenges of moving into an unknown landscape. Despite recent research, many gaps in our knowledge of the Thule–Inuit occupation of Amundsen Gulf remain, including detailed studies of subsistence practices. Tiktalik’s faunal material reveals that its occupants relied almost exclusively on ringed seals. Bone modification, ringed seal skeletal-element representation, and the age distribution of hunted ringed seals are also explored. The Tiktalik data provide a baseline for comparison with later sites on Amundsen Gulf and other early Thule–Inuit sites across the North American Arctic.

From Hunting to Herding: Land Use, Ecosystem Processes, and Social Transformation among Sami AD 800–1500

– Ingela Bergman, Olle Zackrisson, and Lars Liedgren

This study focuses on the transitional steps leading from a hunter-gatherer economy to reindeer pastoralism among the Sami of northern Sweden. Changes in land use and settlement patterns are interpreted from an ecological perspective taking into account the ecosystem dynamics of the alpine zone. During the initial phase of pastoralism, land-use strategies included the requisitioning of previously unused ecological niches. Exploitation of forest resources near the tree line catalyzed an ecosystem degradation process that eventually necessitated a shift in land use towards more flexible and sustainable strategies. During the period AD 800–1500 a combination of economic, social, and ecological processes resulted in a splitting up of village communities into small mobile units and more sustainable forms of land use.

Towards a Multiangled Study of Reindeer Agency, Overlapping Environments, and Human–Animal Relationships

– Jukka Nyyssönen and Anna-Kaisa Salmi

This paper discusses the applicability of theories about animal agency to studies of human–animal relationships in the academic disciplines of environmental history and archaeology. Both disciplines have a traditional epistemological stance that neglects the perceptual worlds of the animal. One example is presented of efforts to write from the other side of the epistemological chasm, on the environment of the animal, as well as Morten Tønnessen’s (2010) concepts of semiotic and ontological niches. There is also a critical discussion as to whether these concepts are applicable to the relationship between reindeer and humans. The second part of the text is devoted to an effort to recover the human presence in the scheme, with examples from sacrificial animals. It is argued that the human presence illuminates certain aspects of the animal agency, which theorizing on the animal Umwelt (environment) tends to neglect. In addition, these theories provide a heuristic foundation where species-specific environments, in all of which the reindeer dwells, provide a multiangled view of the limits of animal agency and the ways in which species, humans included, affect each other’s behavior in animal-to-animal and human–animal settings.

Mourning the Land: Archaeology and the Campsites of an Iiyiyuu-Iinuu (Cree) Family, Northern Québec

– François Guindon

This paper explores the memorial practices of an Iiyiyuu-Iinuu (Cree) family of Québec and the positive addition of archaeology in these practices during the Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Program. The project was organized by the Cree Regional Authority and aimed to preserve local heritage affected by the forthcoming flood of the Rupert River diversion. Fieldwork went on from 2006 to 2009 and adopted a specific focus on the recent past of the Neeposh family particularly affected by this development. Campsites inhabited approximately from the 1940s to the present were investigated with the collaboration of the former occupants who are now Neeposh elders. Interacting with the campsite remains during archaeological fieldwork turned out to be for them a unique opportunity to remember their lives at these places and revealed the existence of deep attachments to these places. Participation of archaeology in the family’s remembrance added an unsuspected dimension to archaeological fieldwork, which suggests potential contributions of the discipline to contemporary challenges faced by Aboriginal peoples.

Alphonse Louis Pinart in Alaska

– Alphonse Louis Pinart

In the late 1800s European exploration of the “unknown” parts of the world was being conducted in attempts to obtain lands for their various empires but especially lands that produced wealth. The rush was on to acquire valuable resources. This included the Northwest Coast of North America. As Europeans arrived, native cultures began to disappear. Scholars became interested in saving the remaining vestiges of native cultures. France was represented by Alphonse Louis Pinart, who traveled twice to Alaska and published several articles on his findings. Below are translations of three of his works.

Book Review: “About the Hearth”


Anderson, David G., Wishart, Robert P., and Virginie Vaté (eds). 2013. About the Hearth: Perspectives on the Home, Hearth and Household in the Circumpolar North. New York: Berghahn. 

Review by Kelly A. Eldridge, Department of Anthropology, UC Davis

The new book About the Hearth is an edited volume about how people of the circumpolar regions conceive, build, memorialize, and live in dwellings. Based in large part off of research associated with the HHH (Home, Hearth and Household) Project of the BOREAS Program, the book provides a unique, multidisciplinary look at topics of the home. The HHH Project was inspired by the book About the House (Carsten and Hugh-Jones 1995), which used ethnographic examples from Latin America and Southeast Asia to focus on household dynamics. Some reasons behind the creation of this book are aptly described by a passage in the introductory chapter by Wishart:

A common frustration expressed by almost all the authors is how these various attentions [to building a home, making a fire in the hearth, being part of a household] can also often present themselves in ‘unhealthy’ ways. Whether it is in a portrayal of the primitive north, and obsession with reform and domestication, or a state-sponsored snapshot of its northern peoples, of where and with whom they live, there has been an ossification of the home as form, of transforming the hearth into its base utilitarian necessity, and fixing the household in time as a human resource of a social problem. Each of the chapters in this collection deals in some way with the problem of eclipse, and each is also trying to bring to light the problems of ossification so that we might understand the relationships between homes, the hearth and the household as sites of ‘becoming’ that have very deep foundations” (p. 2).

An important idiom common across the circumpolar North is “the centrality of the hearth in social life and of commensality with the home fire itself” (p. 262). The diverse topics discussed in the book intertwine to show how ‘home’ is defined as something that encompasses the entire cultural landscape in the circumpolar north.

Table of Contents

  • Ch. 1 – Building a Home for Circumpolar Architecture: An Introduction (Robert Wishart)
  • Ch. 2 – The Conical Lodge at the Centre of the Earth-Sky World (Tim Ingold)
  • Ch. 3 – Mobile Architecture, Improvization and Museum Practice: Revitalizing the Tłįchǫ Caribou Skin Lodge (Thomas Andrews)
  • Ch. 4 – Building Log Cabins in Teetł’it Gwich’in Country: Vernacular Architecture and Articulations of Presence (Robert Wishart and Jan Peter Laurens Loovers)
  • Ch. 5 – The Mobile Sámi Dwelling: From Pastoral Necessity to Ethno-political Master Paradigm (Ivar Bjørklund)
  • Ch. 6 – The Devitalization and Revitalization of Sámi Dwellings in Sweden (Hugh Beach)
  • Ch. 7 – Family Matters: Representation of Swedish Sámi  Households at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century (Isabelle Brännlund and Per Axelsson)
  • Ch. 8 – The Life Histories of Intergenerational Households in Northern Norway 1865-1900: Gender and Household Leadership (Hilde Jåstad)
  • Ch. 9 – Hunters in Transition: Sámi Hearth Row Sites, Reindeer Economies and the Organization of Domestic Space, 800-1300 AD (Petri Halinen, Sven-Donald Hedman, Bjørnar Olsen)
  • Ch. 10 – Building a Home for the Hearth: An Analysis of a Chukchi Reindeer Herding Ritual (Virginie Vaté)
  • Ch. 11 – The Perception of the Built Environment by Permanent Residents, Seasonal In-migrants and Casual Incomers in a Village in Northwest Russia (Maria Nakhshina)
  • Ch. 12 – The Hearth, the Home and the Homeland: An Integrated Strategy for Memory Storage in Circumpolar Landscapes (Gerald Oetelaar, David Anderson, Peter Dawson)
  • Ch. 13 – The Fire is our Grandfather: Virtuous Practice and Narrative in Northern Siberia (John Ziker)
  • Ch. 14 – Home, Hearth and Household in the Circumpolar North (David Anderson)

Chapter 2 – Ingold discusses the role of the conical lodge in terms of relationality. The lack of horizons in the conical lodge unifies the earth and sky, producing a different sense of ‘landscape’ than that felt in modern Western buildings. He argues that, instead of understanding the lodge as an ideal form projected upon the material world, it should be viewed as a “binding together of materials in movement… Instead of thinking of the lodge… as a material artefact set in a landscape, it would be better understood as a nexus of materials in a world of earth and sky” (p.15).

Chapter 3 – Andrews writes about the repatriation and revitalization of a Tłįchǫ caribou skin lodge at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in the Northwest Territories. Only two Tłįchǫ lodge coverings, originally purchased in 1893 and 1923, are known to exist in museum collections today; the 1893 covering was donated by the University of Iowa Natural History Museum to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in 1998. The return of the lodge covering to the north sparked a revitalization project which produced two replica lodges through community participation. Andrews holds up the project as an example of how museums can develop mutually beneficial relationship with the communities who are the source of exhibited materials.

Chapter 4 – Wishart and Loovers discuss the log cabins of the Teetł’it Gwich’in, providing a history of the vernacular architectural purposes of wood and examining how the cabins represent important elements in Gwich’in human-land relationships. They note how “cabins become alive and are constituted by movements, narratives, skills and knowledge” (p. 66), and are part of the articulations of tradition and political jurisdiction.

Chapter 5 – Bjørklund discusses how certain architectural forms become linked to indigenous identity, using the Northern Sámi conical lodge (lávvu) as an example of a well-established cultural stereotype. He argues that, while the emphasis on the conical lodge ignores the historic diversity of Sámi architecture, this is outweighed by its value as a symbol in Sámi ethnopolitics, promoting international indigenous rights discourses.

Chapter 6 – Beach explores the historic determinants of change to architecture forms among Sámi reindeer herders. He focuses on a detailed, longitudinal study (1973-2008) of Staloluokta in northern Sweden. Beach argues that changes in house design usually occur in response to practical concerns rather than an outward projection of tradition, and that revitalization and devitalization are not mutually exclusive.

Chapter 7 – Brännlund and Axelsson discuss an anthropological problem concerning Sámi demography in Sweden.  The historic Swedish census of 1900 suggests that there was little difference in the composition of Sámi and non-Sámi households at the turn of the twentieth century; however, Sámi literature suggests otherwise. The authors show how, by reorganizing the data in a way acknowledges that households were not closed production and consumption units, the picture changes.

Chapter 8 – Jåstad uses historical records of rural households in northern Norway to discuss how and why the Sámi, Kvens, and Norwegians of the region changed the way they structured their households around the turn of the twentieth century. She focuses on whether or not there was a change towards the creation of nuclear families at the expense of ‘traditional’ family structures.

Chapter 9 – Halinen, Hedman and Olsen discuss the archaeology of Sámi hearth row sites dating to the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Period. During this time period settlement patterns changed drastically; this can be seen especially in the linear-patterned, large, rectangular hearths. The authors explore why settlement patterns changed and how they’re associated with changes in subsistence and emerging social stratification. Additionally, the linear organization of the rectangular hearths challenges the “stereotyped conceptions of Sámi culture as static and spatially disorganized” (p. 181).

Chapter 10 – Vaté describes a reindeer herding ritual of the inland Chukchi of northeastern Siberia. Analysis of this ritual, Ƞênrir”un, demonstrates how the hearth connects people, the material world, and the cosmos, and also the importance of the nomadic tent (iaranga) as the physical and symbolic center of ritual organization.

Chapter 11 – Nakhshina explores the attitudes people in the small village of Kuzomen’ in northwest Russia hold towards their homes. The village is characterized by a high degree of both seasonal and long term population fluctuation; Nakhshina discusses the differences in perception of the home based on the length and regularity of residence.

Chapter 12 – Oetelaar, Anderson and Dawson discuss how cosmology and social organization are “imprinted in the design of the house, the location and orientation of the camp, and the perception of the landscape” (p. 223). Using folklore and oral histories of the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic and the Evenkis of Siberia, the authors show how, despite environmental and subsistence differences, both groups use water and aquatic images to frame their cosmological ideas. They suggest that the overlapping motif of seeing the land repeated in the homespace may be because “the landscape itself whispers clues to hunters about how it is best attended to” (p. 247).

Chapter 13 – Ziker looks at how narratives can be used to suggest virtuous practice in the Taimyr region of northern Siberia. The chapter is based off of 15 years of research in Ust’-Avam, a multi-ethnic indigenous community. Ziker applies the formal process of logical abduction to examples of conservation practice to show that “what is commonly categorized as traditional ecological knowledge is but one manifestation of the social norms that are communicated, accepted and recommunicated as a process in which social goods are inferred from virtuous practices” (p. 260).

The contributors are associated variously with the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (Canada), Umeå University (Sweden), Uppsala University (Sweden), University of Tromsø (Norway), University of Calgary (Canada), University of Helsinki (Finland), Sogn and Fjordane University College (Norway), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), and Boise State University (USA).