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July 30, 1948





Short Description:

An exclusive meat diet makes it necessary to procure relatively large numbers of animals. Three men and six dogs require about two seals a week.





The Eskimo's Fight against Hunger and Cold by Erwin H. Ackerknecht, M.D.

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Facultative Carnivore
Carnivore Diet

Important Text:

The Eskimo is one of the great triumphs of our species. He has succeeded in adapting himself to an environment which offers to man but the poorest chance of survival. Even under most trying conditions he has maintained rudiments of ar and religion. His technical solutions of problems of the Arctic are so excellent that white settlers would have perished had they not adopted many elements of Eskimo technology. Study of the Eskimo way of life is not only fascinating, but of ever increasing practical importance, as the Arctic has suddenly shifted from the periphery into the center this brave new air world; and it harbors great, still untapped, economic potentialities. The Eskimos inhabit the American part mainly, that is two-fifths of the Arctic Circle. While the Eurasian Aric people are reindeer-raising nomads, the Eskimo is primarily a hunter sea mammals. He represents an adaptation to the Arctic climate that is specific to the New World. In addition to hunger, the Eskimo fights another, perhaps even mightier, enemy: the cold. Besides the problem of procuring foad, he is therefore faced by the problems of ade- quate ciothing and housing, problems which most other primitive people, the naked sov. can solve with relative ease further. more, he has to solve all these problems on the very narrow economic basis of one single activ- ity: hunting. In his world no agriculture, husbandry, no food gathering are possible; and even hunting is not always practicable. The Polar issimos for instance are unadlesto hunt curing two of the four sunless winter months It is therefore not surprising to learn that every winter in most every iskimo trbe several families die of starvation. Chaplins joke of eating boots has all too often become a grim reality in Eskimo life. Even cannibalism occurs during famines. The climate in the region inhabited by the Eskimos shows great seasonal variations, even with regard to daylight and darkness. In the northernmost parts of the Eskimo territory, sun- light is continuous tor four months, while for 3 months in winter no sun shines at all. and light is provided only by the moon and The summers are short and cool, lasting from June to August, and the temperature does 60 P. even under lavomble conditions. The development of plant life is almost explosive when the snow starts melting Mosquitoes are plentiful and quite bothersome. In winter the samo territory is covered by snow. The coastal region does not become as cold as certain parts of the Siberian interior Nevertheless averse winter temperatures of -009 10 -30 L: are quite common. Boas rives the following description of the mood of the Eskimo in the wintertime: While in the time of plenty the home life is quite cheerful, the house presents a sad and gloomy appearance if stormy weather prevents the men from hunting. The stores are quickly consumed, one lamp after another is extinguished and everybody sits motionless in the dark hat. Nevertheless the women and men do not stop humming their monotonous amna ad and their storism in enduring pangs of hunger is really wonderful."

The name Eskimo, derived from an Indian word meanine characteries well those who call these vee . i men The greater part of the exclusive meat diet of the Eskimos is indeed eaten raw. The meat is often frozen , and not seldom decayed, when it comes from old caches, Fuel which consists mostly of the blubber of seals and other sca mammals is too scarce to allow cooking of all the meat consumed. An exclusive meat diet makes it necessary to procure relatively large numbers of animals. Three men and six dogs require about two seals a week. Like the polar bear, the Eskimo is a land animal that lives at the edge of the son and mainly preys upon the denizens of the latter From the sea the Eskimo not only obtains his food, clothing, and fuel, but ivory and what little wood he has, that IS, driftwood. The wood shifts from Siberia as far as Greenland. Eskimos do not go farther than 50 miles inland. The principal source of the Eskimo food supply is the seal, especially the ringed scal (Pboca foetila) and the bearded seal (Eri- gnathus barbats). During the long winter when the fjords are covered with ice the Eskimo has to wait for long hours at the breathing hole, which the seal maintains in the ice. He spears the animal through the snow covccing the breathing hole, when it comes to the surface. This strenuous method of hunting seals is called man pol. In the spring when the ice breaks up, the seals are killed at the edge of the floe, where they bask in the sun. This hunting technique is called utol (see illustration, p. 897). During the short summer, at least in the more southern parts of the Eskimo territory, when the water is open. sez are hund the well-known Eskimo hunting boat, the kayak. In hunting the seal the Eskimo uses an admirably constructed harpoon, consisting of a shaft and a detachable ivory (now icon) head* to which a long line is fastened, so that the stricken animal cannot escape The harpoon may be propelled by throwing board. 2 contrivance known from