Inuit and the Parable of the Hunt

I am reading the book, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. This morning I read a piece by Inuit activist, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, “The Inuit Right to Culture Based on Ice and Snow”. It is timely for this Minnesotan as I look out on our temperature gauge which tells me that it is 2 degrees this morning and our yard has mounds of show 4 feet high. Watt-Cloutier laments the impact of global warming on the arctic and the demise of her nation’s culture and its threat to their existence, says, “We want to be cold.” It is not easy for me to relate.

She offers only a thin slice of Inuit culture. The arctic’s ice and snow that comprise roadways are disappearing  The marine mammals, the polar bears and walrus that feed their people are in demise.  Several communities have been displaced to the cost of millions of dollar, she says. There is a long list that she cites of changes that result in sickness and the loss of human life and of their culture. There are about 155,000 Inuit who live in Canada, the United States, Greenland and Russia.  Such a small portion of the world’s population, but their portion is made up of human beings that share the same life that we all value. It is good to have my awareness of these people lifted up today.

It would be easy for us to be willy-nilly and say that the Inuit will simply have to adapt, to learn to go to the grocery store and get their meat in the freezer department like the rest of us. But, this is what she says about the Inuit’s hunting:

Of course, the hunting culture is so misunderstood, and I know that I am in a roomful of my own fellow indigenous peoples who understand that a hunting culture is not just about the killing of animals. It is about teaching our young children, our children, about the opportunities and challenges of life on the land, but also about teaching them very transferable skills, such as patience, courage, how to be bold under pressure, how to withstand stress, how not to be impulsive, how to have sound judgment, and ultimately, wisdom. Those are the very things that traditional knowledge of hunting cultures teachers and passes on to the younger generation. And these skills are so transferable and, in fact, a requirement to surviving a transitioning culture such as ours and many others around the world.

I am thinking about the many hunters in our family. “We hunt to put food on the table,” says my son who introduces each of his children to hunting as soon as they come of age.  I am a person who appreciates the idea of harvesting animals as part of caring for the earth. And I am grateful those who watch closely the balance of nature and put temporary restrictions on the hunters to maintain that balance. But I see here that there is more to the activity of hunting than putting food on the table. There are life lessons to be learned if our spiritual eyes are open.

Jesus lived in an agricultural area of the world. The gospels are full of his little parables about seeds and trees and soil, all with life lessons to grow on. I would guess if he’d been born an Inuit, the parables might have been about the long teeth of the Walrus or the gift of a frozen stream.