Understanding Eskimo Science

503 Words3 Pages
In Richard Nelson’s “Understanding Eskimo Science” a man, Nelson, traveled below the Arctic Circle in the boreal forest of interior Alaska were he lived, studied and interacted with a few native Eskimos groups during the mid-1960’s. Throughout the article Nelson provides an abundance of interesting and relevant information about Eskimo survival coming about through the understanding of one’s environment. Nelson’s best argument is the simple fact that these people have managed to survive in one the, if not the, harshest environment on the planet. There knowledge is useful, tested and true to the groups as this truly unique understanding of there world has permitted them to thrive well in these parts. Although the vegetation is rather scarce the Eskimo’s made due with a diet based mostly on hunting. But as we find out in the article Nelson describes how these people are well adapted to the art of hunting. The relationship between man and animal is described to be one of intricate understanding and respect: “Koyukon hunters know that an animal’s life ebbs slowly, that it remains aware and sensitive to how people treat its body”. The Eskimo people have accumulated a massive memory based archive of scientifically valid knowledge concerning the diverse workings of the landscape of Alaska. Unfortunately Nelson makes it all too clear that this knowledge is disappearing and he fears that once gone there will never again be such a deep link between man and land. On a side note, this arcticle also makes it clear that the Eskimo’s respect there elders and place them at the head of all that is important as there knowledge and experience is treasured. They are the teachers of there people and the identity of the Eskimo is reflected in stores of experience in the minds of elders like Igruk. Nelson is most obviously a rational man saying rational things, but as is often the case with topics concerning native people, this knowledge will probably be lost in time. This article makes one think about man as a hole. Are we truly happy in our jungles of steel? Have we not lost something of great importance, something the Eskimo people have managed to conserve through all these millennia. We have lost contact with the spirit of nature. We have lost it to a point where our scientist do not consider Eskimo science (general knowledge) as a valid enough foundation for
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