UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The social organization of the Clyde Inlet Eskimos Stevenson, David


This dissertation is concerned with the interpretation and clarification of a particular set of data dealing with the social organization and behaviour of two groups of Eskimos trading into the post at Clyde River, northeast Baffin Island. An attempt is made to show that both kinship and what I call extra-kinship factors are important in gaining an understanding of otherwise inexplicable behaviour. The kinship system, it is posited, is only one system of behaviour and is closely linked with the extra-kinship system with its involvement of spouse-exchange and the production of half-siblings thus creating kinship ties where none had existed before. These ties, in turn, fade at the boundaries so that each succeeding generation must create its own extra-kinship ties. Within the bounds of either the kinship or the extra-kinship systems the people operate in terms of dyadic pairs. This is most clearly demonstrated for the kinship system but is also shown for the extra-kinship system. Still other systems of information dispersal and social control could be seen in a) the gossip circle and in b) the adult-exclusive peer groups among the unmarried population. Further to this is the existence of a well-defined hierarchical system of status and influence. The latter system functions to specify who is the legitimate authority figure in various situations. The two groups of Eskimos mentioned show unique bonding across kinship lines through the operation of the extra-kinship system, the iligit system. This bonding is what serves to give a degree of cohesion to the entire population. The existence of two groups in the area is a direct result of historical events beginning with the initial depopulation of the area and ending, essentially, with the return of Eskimos about one hundred years later. By .that time the whaling operations on the northeast coast of Baffin Island had ceased and the fur-traders had arrived. The effects of whaler and trader contacts in recent historical times is shown to have had important consequences for the developing economy and the ecology of the area. It is further suggested that this in turn, has had equally important effects upon the social organization. These results, for example, had direct impact upon residence patterns and camp formation. It is presumed that marriage patterns were affected and as a further consequence, kinship patterns and obligations were in turn subject to modification. Chapter I sets out the problems to be investigated and discusses the modus operandi. Chapter II presents the contemporary kinship system in the light of terminology and behaviour. Chapter III describes the extra-kinship system and attempts to show how this is linked with the kinship system of Chapter II. Chapter IV presents the historical background as a partial explanation of contemporary social organization especially in the area of the subsistence or economic system. Chapter V draws together the major conclusions arrived at during the analysis of materials in Chapters II, III, and IV, and particularly important is the conclusion that the relationship between the ilagit and the iligit systems cannot be overstressed as a major factor in lending cohesion and a sense of community for the larger social system. This cohesion is especially crucial for the exchange of information concerning vital-relations between the indigeneous population and the itinerant White population.

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