Directed by Michael Grigsby .
For the Eskimos of Pond Inlet – a new village in North Baffin Island in which they have been settled by the Canadian Government – the life of the semi-nomadic hunter has given way to that of wage-labourer, in what appears as a pre-fabricated ‘township’. Although hunting provides an important supplement to the Eskimos’ income, it is now a part-time activity, and since 1975 (ten years after the start of the government’s housing programme) nobody has lived all year round in hunting camps. For the older inhabitants of Pond Inlet, the old way of life is still vivid (in 1935 only 37 Eskimos lived in the village) and their reminiscences and recollections form part of a powerful statement about the present situation. These statements take the form of monologues, or comments addressed to friends and family about the effects of fifty years of contact with whites. Apart from these ‘interviews’ with the Eskimos, the film accompanies one family – grandfather, father, mother and children – as they go out hunting seals and jigging for fish. The visual contrast between the splendours of the open spaces of snow and water and the township of Pond Inlet is a startling one which reinforces the Eskimos’ statements. We also see one member of this family selling seal skins in a trade store, and captioned information is given about the cost of maintaining the hunter’s equipment and what he can expect to earn in any one year. The material was filmed during a seven week period in June and July 1975. A sophisticated observational style is used, with long takes, few pans, no commentary or formal interviews and full subtitling. Caption cards are used to good effect, conveying necessary information without intruding on the narrative. These ‘technical’ factors have important consequences for the film’s anthropological value, not least because one of the aims was to enable the Eskimos to ‘speak for themselves’. Although it would be naive to suggest that the ‘people’s voice’ manages to override the exigencies of making such a film for a 52 minute television slot, the Eskimos did have a say in the making of the film, and one of them was also involved in the editing. The striking oratorical style of the Eskimos awakens the viewer to the point that in this film they are addressing the Whites, voicing their distrust, having overcome the fear with which they first encountered these ‘visitors’ to the people’s land.North America Indigenous peoples / First Nations peoples Hunting / Gathering / Fishing Collective / Community identity Social Conflict