Our Journey - Page 2
The Inuit word Isuma means ‘to have a thought.’ Igloolik Isuma Productions, the film’s producer, is Thinking Productions. Their headquarters in Igloolik has a sign over the door that greets visitors and passers-by alike, in Inuktitut letters saying, ISUMA. Think! Why is it important if The Journals of Knud Rasmussen proves Inuit had Isuma even before they were ‘civilized’? Why not just get over past injustices no one can do anything about and get on with the present where Justice now rules?
In fact, by recovering the past with new clarity, The Journals IS about the present. Much of the New World’s wealth today was extracted from its Aboriginal citizens, who by every measure now are the most destitute populations in these countries. If the Inuit of Fast Runner ended up in 1922 in church, the Inuit of The Journals ended up in today’s newspapers stories, living in Third World ghettos scattered across the wealthiest First World nations.
Different cultures, different memories, tell different stories. We recover the past not to change it then but to change it now, to stop doing it again today and avoid making our own present a shameful past for future generations. 500 years of New World History has been shaped by policies that disconnect Aboriginal people from their own cultural memories: criminalizing leaders for performing traditional ceremonies; assimilating children in residential schools where pedophilia and abuse destroyed their identity, language and self-respect; Christianizing ancestral religions by demonizing myths, taboos and profound spiritual beliefs; and entrenching demeaning stereotypes in popular culture which persist even today. Major sports teams still use names like Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves and Edmonton Eskimos, while names like Boston Blackfaces or Kansas City Kikes would be unthinkable in modern civilized society.
For European settlers, intent on possessing valuable land rich in natural resources, it was a necessary and natural conceit to perceive people who lived there first as primitive, thoughtless and not quite human, without historical memory, spiritual sophistication or legal rights, and holding no world-view worth carrying forward into the modern future. How else could decent, church-going pioneers displace them without guilt, unless they believed Aboriginal peoples don’t really think like human beings?
Even today the law, education, religion and media continue to efface living memories of Aboriginal cultural history. Was the land empty, terra nullius, justifying settlement without compensation? Or full, as new discoveries estimate more than 100 million people in the New World before Columbus? Were indigenous people savages, like John Wayne’s bloodthirsty Indians in The Searchers? Simple-minded, like Robert Flaherty’s perpetually cheerful Nanook of the North? Or sophisticated, like the Iroquois Confederacy whose constitutional government preceded the American Constitution by two centuries? Answers to these essential questions – of civilization and brainpower - depend on who’s telling the story and who’s listening to it.