A historical analysis of the emergence of social class among the Inuit.
From Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite traces the development of class relations and collective identity among Canadian Inuit over several centuries of contact with Western capitalism. Marybelle Mitchell provides a complete history of Inuit-white relations, starting with the first contact with European explorers in the sixteenth century and ending with ratification of the Nunavut proposal to create an Inuit homeland through division of the Northwest Territories.
Mitchell demonstrates the transformation of relationships -- both between the Inuit and Europeans and among the Inuit themselves -- that has occurred since contact with the West, focusing on the intersection of class and nation. This intersection provides a unifying framework to order the history of Inuit-European contact. At the heart of the book is a detailed and original presentation of the Inuit cooperative movement. Mitchell's skilful blending of primary sources with personal experience and secondary literature provides a compelling analysis of the Inuit co-op as a development tool used by the state. In the final chapters, she provides an astute evaluation of contemporary Inuit land claims, concluding that the Inuit have been unequally incorporated into the Canadian class system because of their ethnic status and lack of capital.
Growing nationalism among the Inuit and demands for self-government make From Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite a timely and important addition to the field of Native studies. It will be of great interest to both scholars and general readers.