The shift from hunting to farming is a major watershed in human history. Here, an anthropologist describes the worldview of surviving hunting cultures.
Brody (Living Arctic, not reviewed) has lived in several hunter/gatherer cultures, notably among the Inuit (Eskimos) and the Dunne-za of sub-Arctic Canada. Civilized peoples (i.e., those whose cultures are rooted in farming and the building of cities) have not only written the history books, they have also created the mythical accounts of the days when the farming cultures swept across much of the world. Thus, the account in Genesis of the Garden of Eden, and of the subsequent conflict between Cain and Abel, is the farmer’s tale of his triumph over the hunter. As a correction to this account, Brody offers insights into the ways of the last hunters. Anaviapik, his tutor in Inuit, not only took him into the wilds for hunting, but also led him to see the complexities of social relationships in Inuit society (such as to whom one may make jokes, and of what sort). Jimmy Field, a hunter of the Dunne-za, possessed an awe-inspiring level of lore and skill; one of the most poignant (and infuriating) sections is a brief, bald account of his murder by three white teenagers. Brody takes care to give the reader a sense of the nuances between different hunting cultures as well as between the European and other farming cultures with which they coexist. The reader is likely to end by sharing Brody’s strong sense that the hunting cultures are our last link to a way of life that embodies riches that a farmer or city-dweller can only dream of—except on the page.
Vividly told, full of striking detail, and utterly fascinating.