Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eskimo Family, Pt. Hope, Alaska, 1949

This black and white film clip from 1949, titled "Eskimo Hunters (Northwestern Alaska)," shows an Eskimo family in Point Hope, Alaska, going about their daily lives as they hunt seals and seabirds, go shopping at the local trading post, and take a dogteam on a caribou hunt. The film raises many questions, such as did the family members actually wear those beautiful parkas and other gear on typical hunts? Probably not, just as the father probably didn't hit a seal or a bird or a caribou with every shot, and the dog sounds and other effects are obviously dubbed in. Still, this is a fascinating bit of footage showing many old ways which still make sense.

There's an interesting explanation of the origin of the term 'eskimo' at Wikipedia, but further discussion of the word quotes Lawrence Kaplan's "Inuit or Eskimo: Which names to use?" ((2002, Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks): "...while Inuit describes all of the Eskimo peoples in Canada and Greenland, that is not true in Alaska and Siberia. In Alaska the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat (which technically is Inuit). No universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, is accepted across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples."

This YouTube video is part of the many films available from The Travel Film Archive, a collection of travelogues and educational and industrial films -- many of them in color - that show the world the way it was between 1900 and 1970. Their holdings include archives of the renowned travel filmmakers Burton Holmes, Andre de la Varre, and James A. FitzPatrick, as well as footage shot by many other intinerant cameramen. There's a disclaimer on their YouTube page which reminds viewers:
Please keep in mind that the narration for some of these films was written over 75 years ago and reflects the colonial attitudes of the time, some of which may seem offensive today.
At any rate, this is an interesting video - and the huskies are beautiful! Appreciation for this film clip to Donna Quante and Bonnie Foster.

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