UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social flexibility and integration in a Canadian Inuit settlement : Lake Harbour, M.W.T. ; 1970 Lange, Phillip Allen


The flexibility of Inuit social organization may be defined as a lack of societal preference among several different courses of action. Although the concept of flexibility has wide application to Inuit social organization this does not suggest that there is a complete lack of structure and order. Some of the parameters of flexibility are described through behaviour which is either disapproved or required. Two theses are advanced. One is that flexibility allows creative action which is potentially adaptive and/or integrative. This point is developed by showing a variety of ways in which different Inuit men in Lake Harbour effectively utilize combinations of hunting, trapping, carving and wage-labour, each in a manner unique to himself. The other thesis is that Inuit society is integrated wholly through mutually consensual dyadic relationships. There are two ways in which the importance of these relationships are shown in Inuit life. One is lack of imposed authority; the other is the rich variety of ritual and other relationships which are either based or seen to be based on the consensus of the two participants for the initiation and content, of the relationship. Local group leadership shows this clearly as men recognize a man as leader only while he provides them benefits. The characterisitc attributes of leadership (age, skill in hunting, knowledge, position as head of a large kin group and ownership of a boat) do not result in leadership if a man is unable to provide resources to others. The importance of mutually consensual dyadic relationships is shown through descriptions of rejected children and orphans, who receive what Euro-Canadians consider to be trauma-inducing abuse and rejection, yet appear to develop helathy personalities through acceptance and nurturance on the part of peers and sympathetic adults. Because of the dyadic consensual nature of Inuit social organization, its integration relies critically on Inuit voluntarily establishing ties of dependence and support.

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