Inspired by the Arctic: What should our society learn from Inuits?
By Carlos Hernanz García and Raquel Ramos González
Snowy plateaus and miles of uninhabited tundra make one of the biggest, yet unknown to many, regions on our planet. While harshly inhabited, the Arctic is home to some of the richest Indigenous cultures, some of which are on the verge of extinction. Their mostly nomad lifestyle and rich history has lead to some very interesting socio-economic systems from which other societies, such as ours, could get inspiration to make changes for the better, some of which are about to be discussed in this article. Due to the immense diversity of ethnicities and cultures around the Arctic, we have selected three main regions from the arctic to analyze:
The Nunavummiuq are the inhabitants of the Canadian region of Nunavut. Out of the nine main Inuit groups in Canada, we have decided to analyze two ideas from the Kivallirmiut and the Netsilingmiut.
Firstly, the Netsilingmiut have a non-hierarchical social organization, which means they have no formal government and no institutionalized group relations. This applies to work groups and can have multiple benefits when it comes to productivity; since horizontal structures focus on tasks and decision-making rather than a company’s main interest). These structures work best with startups and small social groups, since everyone is encouraged to voice their opinions and develop their creativity so that they can reduce administrative costs. Even though this cannot be applied to every social organization due to the need of specialization for certain jobs, a wider spread of these might be beneficial for countless businesses.
Besides, the Kivallirmiut are historically committed to defending the environment. They have been fighting against the building of an uranium mine that would pollute the community’s water supply and would be a threat to the caribou’s habitat, which is essentially one of the main livelihoods in the community. Environmentally conscious societies are needed in a world where climate change among other threats to natural resources are on the increase.
Greenlandic Inuits are some of the most isolated people in the world. This Thule-descendents’ society is arranged in a way that it is highly clustered, since solitude is considered to be an anomaly and it is one of their main objectives to tackle. Loneliness is a condition that affects many people worldwide, especially the Inuits and their approach ), in which their main effort is to avoid it is something other societies ought to learn from. Psychologically speaking, loneliness can have devastating effects not only in one’s mental health, but also in the person’s physical health due to the related diseases such as diabetes it can connote. A generalized access to therapy and mental healthcare investment could help overcome the challenge and stigma loneliness generally means in most cultures.
The Sámi Parliament is the representative body for the Sámi community. This ethnic group native to the geographical region of Lappland, in Northern Scandinavia has made increasing efforts to revive and protect their language and culture through the establishment of the parliament. The first gathering took place in 1917, which is considered to be the start of the Sámi’s political movement. It gathered more than 150 Sámi people from Norway and Sweden with the purpose of discussing their issues. Nowadays, the Council of the Sámi Parliament is formed by the Sámi parliaments of Sweden, Finland and Norway as members, with the collaboration of the Russian Sámi community as observers and it is in charge of preserving their culture, especially their language. This institution has libraries with a special collection of books open to all the members of the community, some of which are hundreds of years old. The growing loss of diversity of cultures in many parts of the world has created a need for institutions like this, where in cooperation with the local government an effort is made to preserve their culture for the offspring to maintain.
On the whole, there is a plethora of underrepresented cultures around the world and we, as a society, should analyze more socio-economic systems around the world so that we can critically adapt ideas to our own societies and therefore, progress. The Arctic is a hub of an extensive number of them and it is our job as humanity to support their conservation and fight against their disappearance.