We have seen in the past how such agreements are put aside by governments, especially in the United States, in those instances where the natural resources become the focus of business.
However, the agreement does return to the aboriginals the hope that they might create for themselves an economy that sustain them and it provides an opportunity for them to recreate themselves in a modern world, but to practice life in a way that is compatible with their own traditions. The challenges they face socially and economically are large and only time will tell if they are as overwhelming for a people who have lost much of what their ancestors had as they are large.
The article does not say whether or not the financial package is one that is lump sum or disbursed over a period of years, and that would make a difference as to what might be concluded about the aboriginal peoples' ability to make a success out of what they have gained through the agreement.
The problem of creating a space for themselves with the idea of living a way of life that has long ceased to exist for them casts doubt over their ability to thrive under the agreement.
Polar Bears and the Nunavat
Bob Weber's article in the Canadian Press casts light on the problems that impact aboriginal life when it comes into conflict with new ideas on the environment and conservation. The Nunavat in Canada have long sustained themselves on hunting and marketing polar bears, but, as many of us are aware, in the U.S. animal rights activists and environmentalists are focused on the polar bears. Some believe that the polar bears are now an endangered species, and they have also become the poster children of the global warming activists who believe that global warming is wiping out the environments of the polar bears. The U.S. Government has given in to the pressures of environmentalists, and is attempting to use trade agreements to bring an end to polar bear hunting anywhere in the world.
Polar bears have been an economic source of income for the Nunavat, and Weber reports that one hunt can earn as much as $30,000 for the Nunavat guide or business. To eliminate the income source would devastate the Nunavat's economy. The Nunavat maintain that there is no evidence that the polar bear is an endangered species, and say that Canada's bear population is well managed, mitigating the claims that the bear is endangered. However, there are approximately 25,000 polar bears in the wild, according to the report, and the number does suggest that there is reason to be concerned about the polar bear. Whether it is climate change impacting the bear's natural habitat, or sport hunting, a population of 25,000 animals has the sound of an endangered species when we consider the size of the lands that they populate.
While no one wants to see the polar bear come to the brink of extinction, the use of trade agreements to wipe out an industry with the stroke of a pen is bringing to the brink of destruction human beings. It is creating, once again, the philosophy that mankind has no right to the planet on which he lives, and that the right of nature and animals comes above and beyond the rights of mankind. This competition between nature and man comes about when peoples' resources, their economies, are wiped out with the stroke of a trade agreement pen, without putting into place a plan that offsets the harm done to the local aboriginal people.
Once again, the aboriginal people are subjected to a greater society's goals without being included in those goals. With just 25,000 polar bears in comparison to the size of the Arctic and other frozen lands they occupy, there is a suggestion even in the mind of a novice on climate change and animal rights that there is reason to be concerned about for the survival of the polar bear. However, it also suggests that there is time to put into place management strategies that could perhaps save the polar bear without impacting or devastating the economic needs of the aboriginal people who rely on the polar bear industry -- an industry that up until now has been legal.
The dilemma of how to balance the needs of the animals with the needs of the aboriginal people is how this article ends. Unfortunately, it is reporting only the facts, and calling attention to the problem. It is up to the people and the government to find a solution. Unfortunately, it appears the solution will come after the impact, as is so often the case in these kinds of situations.
Intuit and G7
Pita Atami's (2010) article found in the Globe and Mail is yet another article that brings into focus the plight of the Intuit in the face of a changing mind-set on animal rights and hunting. Atami's article gives credit where credit is due, lauding the Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's efforts to bring the G7 to the frozen lands and life of the Intuit so that they might gain insights as to how the Intuit live, and how prosperous their seal hunting economy is, which stands threatened, again, by environmentalists and animal rights advocates.
Unfortunately, Atami's remarks about how the seal hunting Intuits are providing a valuable and necessary product to everyone will fall on deaf ears when Atami discusses seal fur. The response to that from animal rights groups will be that there is no longer a need to use animal fur to keep the chill from one's bones, because man-made products can do that without killing animals. However, the seal is to the Intuit as beef cattle are to Americans: a food source. This should make sense to people, but, again, because seals are not raised on farms and because their numbers depend on their ability to thrive on nature, the Intuit will face a challenge in preserving their right to hunt the seals.
The seals are not an endangered species, although they probably do rely upon some food sources, some kinds of fish that might be endangered species. The article does not go so far as to make that kind of connection. But the Intuit are, once again, being subjected to changes in social perspective that will impact their way of life without consideration for the rights of people over animals.
Unfortunately, the language used in the article will gain little support for the Intuit cause. Even if the seal hunt is reserved as a right for the Intuits, their ability to market seal products, such as fur, will probably be eliminated, and in so doing, they will suffer an economic setback.
Here, again, decisions being made by groups who do not live in the geographic location of the people their decisions will have an impact on, and those people do not rely upon the natural resources of the land as do the people whom their decisions will have an adverse impact on. Even the sacrifice of time and place in meeting on the Intuit's land is met with resistance; it is not a way of life that members of the G7 understand, and they do not show any desire to want to understand it. This does not bode well for the Intuit.
The article, of course, presents the case of the Intuit, but it is not likely to have an impact on the people who have the power to prevent changes from being made that will change their way of life. Atami ends the article with a statement as to the resilience of the Intuit people, and they will probably have to demonstrate further their resilience when the G7 ultimately bans seal hunting and the sale of seal products beyond the Intuit culture and living space. Seal hunting and products might be allowed for the Intuits, but it will probably be banned in the rest of the…