ESKIMOS: Growing Up in a Changing Culture by Carolyn Meyer

ESKIMOS: Growing Up in a Changing Culture

Email this review


From last year's visit with Amish People, Meyer moves to an Alaskan village--where snowmobiles, CB radios, down jackets and, yes, freezers (often on the porch where they're not plugged in) co-exist with the little girls' story knives, the potlatch (not an exercise in oneupmanship as with the West Coast Indians but a community party where everyone gives--anonymously--and everyone gets), and the ""Eskimo adoption""--children are frequently given away if one family has too many (or too many girls) and another has lost a child or already raised their own. The tradition of sharing lingers too in the classroom, where gussak teachers can't stop the children from helping each other with assignments (though they have been more successful at introducing competitive games in the gym). Meyer highlights the Eskimos' largely irrelevant American education (for Christmas little Andy receives from his sympathetic gussak teacher a book on the birds of North America--robins, blue jays, orioles: ""He cannot find any ptarmigans""), and she touches on the problems of poverty (jobs are scarce, most houses have no plumbing), the young peoples' lack of direction, the widespread alcoholism which is not much affected by the passage of local dry laws (but do Eskimos really ""seem to have a physical intolerance""?), and the special frustrations of the women who are still segregated and bullied. It's all presented via the artificial device of a year-in-the-life of a composite family, but to Meyer's credit you often forget that the Koonuks are fictitious. Though without the immediacy and the impact of Jenness' Dwellers of the Tundra (1970), this provides a reasonable, competently constructed profile.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1977
Publisher: Atheneum