Friday, 13 April 2012


As some of you know, aajiiqatigiingniq is one of the IQ (Inuit Knowledge) principles that has been explained in English as "decision-making through discussion and consensus" - at least, in one of the Government of Nunavut pamphlets. But aajiiqatigiingniq means more than the terms used in the government-speak (ie, as Western conceptions of "discussion" and "consensus" - which usually means to try and "persuade" or "defend" an argument or position).

In IQ, expert-knowledge carries a heavier weight than is obvious because usually the notion of "expertise" is not tied to ego-indulgence, proprietary privileges nor is it just an impressive title. Expertise, rather, is a practitioner's privilege - whether it be hunting, healing, thinking, etc. There is a notion of "free agency" in Inuit expertise, of piqqusiq (or, a way of being), where efficacy and ethical behaviour rather than appearance matters.

When governments say they want to "consult" (ie, aajiiqatigiit) with Inuit there is usually a misunderstanding on both sides (Inuit-government) of what a "consultation" actually means. Government officials already have a set position and only want to argue and defend that position because they've "done" all the work by then; for Inuit, a "consultation" is more open-ended. It is a subjecting a line-of-reasoning to expert scrunity.

There is all that "expert" analysis with impressive sounding but deliberately obscure terminology and contrived logic replete with provisos and whereats, but it usually nothing more than a Rube Goldberg affair (ie, deliberately over-engineered machines that churn out a number). Time and again, Inuit look at the number - ie, not the machine - and offer alternative (usually more realistic) arguments that fall on deaf ears. But time is the great equalizer, impervious to positions and interests.

People who keep up with the wildlife management discourse in Nunavut know what I'm talking about: The Wizard of Oz is a foreigner; the smoke machines and mirrors give a frightening show, but the wizard is still a foreigner who finds himself in a frightening world, whose "knowledge" is alienating rather than liberating.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not speaking out against people per se. But the autistic stubbornness of professional wizardry that clouds the world in its own dysfunctional terms. Greed, hunger for power, unexamined value systems, have not only wreak destruction on the planet and its animals but it also assumes and transfers its own guilty conscience upon other human beings, other cultures (which it mistrusts because it mistrusts itself and knows that what it has done is unconscionable).

Almost invariably the need for "healing" comes up where Inuit are involved. They aren't so much talking about abstractions and airy-fairy notions but the need for truth-telling and authenticity - about addressing the alienation. Inuit, and indigenous peoples, belong to a place, to an ecology. Money and commodification of animals and other resources perverts that sense of place. But it's very complicated and there are no pat solutions. Ideally, everything is negotiated in good faith.

This is aajiiqatigiingniq also.


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