Lisa Moore reports in from our 2016 Greenland & Wild Labrador expedition:
Before leaving the Ocean Endeavour, we watched a tremendously sad and powerful documentary by France Rivet called “Trapped in a Human Zoo.”
The “human zoo” was created by German Carl Hagenbeck in the 1880s. Hagenbeck, an entrepenure, endeavoured to feed a growing euro-centric appetite for the “exotic” by sending head hunters to remote corners of the globe in search of people who would become “human specimen” for his zoo. These people were exhibited in traditional, indigenous clothing, and made to “perform” traditional hunting and gathering practices as well as rituals, alongside wild animals from the same regions.
This nightmarish and grotesque appetite for the exotic shaped decades of systemic racism and stereotypes about cultures and people from all over the world. For a time, a small group of Inuit from Labrador formed the most popular ‘display’ in Hagenbeck’s exhibition and as a result were trapped by the voracious crowds, with sometimes as many as 17,000 viewers. Filmmaker France Rivet traces the journey of this small group Inuit travellers, who quickly succumbed to smallpox.
Derrick Pottle gave us a presentation about modern-day Inuit lifestyle, including hunting and gathering practices. Seal meat is still the major staple in the Inuit diet. The animals are harvested using humane hunting practices to ensure the animals do not suffer. All parts of the seal are used in cooking, except the gallbladder and lungs. In communities where a twelve pound turkey might sell for $70, Derrick says, “We couldn’t be here without the seal.” Duck eggs, gathered in season, are considered a delicacy, and the bright orange yolks look like you’d be eating undiluted sunshine. Inuit hunters apply annually for a license to hunt polar bear. Twelve polar bears licenses are given out each year, shared among a community of 8,000.
The sun blasted down on our short Zodiac ride to Hopedale and we landed on a gorgeous mound of gneiss rock (pink as strawberry ice cream, swirled of blacks and greys). We were greeted on the dock by the community and treated to generous hospitality of Hopedale. Traditional snacks were on offer at the Inn (bannock with partridgeberry sauce, a pork and molasses cake with caramel sauce) and we ate some tasty pitsik in the gorgeous new building which houses the Legislative Assembly.
Inuit students demonstrated traditional games for us. We saw the one-armed push-up competition, the musk ox, and the one-foot high kick. Very dramatic!
The church in Hopedale was built in 1865—and whether it is the balanced dimensions of the building, or the bright white paint, old beams and floor boards, or the lived experience those walls have seen, one experiences an undeniably good feeling inside there. The church has an aura. The pipe organ has been there since 1847.
Back on the ship we celebrated Explorers night with a conga line of Explorers in costume. There were two Mina Hubbards, a Marilyn Monroe (go figure! I didn’t know she had another career as an explorer but Blair makes a very convincing Marilyn!), a couple of James Cooks, ( one with a spatula) A Carl Jung, ( who was exploring the inner recesses of the mind and soul), several Vikings ( including “Broom” hilda) and Billy, who explored the tickle chest and came out wearing a fuzzy wig and nightdress which was very becoming.
And…all of this was followed by the Newfoundland Bluff! Jason, Billy, and Kevin are all liars extraordinaire. After last night I wouldn’t believe a word coming out of their mouths! They were hilarious. Thankfully, Dennis kept them in line. And if you don’t know what a hinderdatter is, don’t let anybody try to tell you that the etymological root has something to do with the word “daughter”. Come on, who would believe that? I laughed so hard I nearly split my sish.
Guest post by Lisa Moore