Matiusi Sakiagak

Several years ago I used to be active, doing a lot of hunting in a Peterhead boat.  If the market for sealskins was good, you wouldn’t see me in town today.  I’d be out hunting seals.

It can’t be our fault that this happened, that the sealskin market disappeared.  This family’s situation now, which is not much different from other people in the village, is that we have had to run up debts at the stores for supplies.  In the past we could have broken even or made a little profit selling sealskins.  If the stores were not flexible in helping the people, we would not be able to put food on the table.

Most of the older people make their living from traditional activities.  The younger people are not used to the traditional ways, having gone through the educational system.  Most can only find odd jobs.  The old people have experienced very hard times, sometimes even starvation.  They can always find strength deep inside them to keep going through difficult times, to continue their hunting activities.  The only assistance is welfare and it goes to pay rent for the house or to start to pay off the debt at stores.

The younger people don’t have a chance against society.  Even if they tried to live like the old times, they don’t know enough to succeed.

We used to just sell the raw sealskins, not the finished products.  We could never do better than the factories down south at tanning sealskins.  They make the sealskins as soft as cloth.

In the old days, we used to have to get seals for our dogs and all the people in the community.  That is no longer required.  People say there’s fewer seals- that’s a joke.  Seal hunting is not harmful to the seal population.  When Inuit go out, even if there’s an abundance of seals, there’s not enough fish.  With people eating store-bought food now there’s less pressure to hunt and consequently less pressure on the wildlife.

(Taqralik, June 1985, page 39)