First, you need to understand that this culture existed well before colonization, and it existed in peace. Secondly, the culture's history and knowledge, specifically on how to survive in such a harsh environment, was oral as the Inuit did not pass things on by reading and writing. This is a key point.
It's not that it's impossible to survive in the Arctic, it's that that are many requirements, and these requirements were passed on generation after generation. Much like an Astronaut has to pass tests to ensure that they can survive the remoteness of space, the same can be said here.
What happened next is that the people, who were the 'books' of knowledge were taken away, put in schools, killed, imprisoned, etc. The requirements to be able to live in this environment were no longer being met because the people responsible for the oral transmission of the requirements and knowledge, were no longer capable of doing so. The fragile ecosystem of the Inuit and the remote environment was disrupted.
I don't think people are getting the idea that their oral traditions were essentially what we would call religion. When religion was put forth a long, long time ago, it was there to shepard our civilization by providing requirements so that people can survive, and to enable them to deal with trauma, for example death, anger, etc.
If you were to rip out religion from a population thousands of years ago, burn all their books, and make them forget it, they probably would descent into chaos. This what happened here. The Inuit had their oral traditions, i.e. akin to religion in this example, removed, and the memory or books, disappeared as the information was in the people, and not in a book.
The alcoholism, violence, etc. are symptoms of our current society applied onto theirs. This problem will span generations, and the situation will only improve once they are able to get back their oral traditions, their religion, their way of structuring their life in order to survive in the remote location. Of course, this is more complicated than that because we've now injected our modern way of life into the mix. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I do think once they are able to find their oral traditions, and to remember the stories from the old, they will be better than they are now.
Just my 2 cents.
I believe it's more that just the oral tradition. The small insular nature of the communities is also lost and I don't believe the traditional approach would scale to the large urban centres they find themselves in.
Once the line is broken, it is gone.
Much like how after a tragedy, people talk about it to get over it, the next talk has to be about what happened to them, so that they can move forward.
This, along with remember the ways of the old, can give them roots, and a feeling of belonging, a feeling of who they were, and a feeling that traditions can evolve and continue on.
In addition, I think I knew and have worked with Bonnie who is mentioned in the article. Iqaluit/Nunavut is a small place, so even by first name, I think I'm kind of sure who it is. If she is who she is, then she knows a lot about this topic and I would trust her words.
I suspect that the reason the Yukon and the Northwest Territories don't see the huge rate that Nunavut sees is because Whitehorse and Yellowknife (to a lesser extent) represent such a huge portion of the population, compared to Iqaluit.
- Isolation/ lack of community connection: Isolated individuals tend to have less social feedback loops, which impacts their perception of the world around them.
- Alcohol and Drug abuse: This can be a byproduct of other areas, as an attempt to help alleviate the perceived suffering, boredom, etc. In my opinion, in the long run, alcohol and drug abuse tend to exacerbate the issue.
- Lack of Vitamin D and Sun: A lack in this areas has been associated with increased bouts and feeling of depression, which can increase thoughts of suicide.
Lack of sun exposure probably does play a role, though, because I suspect that the average adult doesn't spend enough time in the sun during the time of the year when we can produce vitamin D.
There would be obvious confounders, like the despair of knowing that humans decimated the planet's habitability.
When that happens, the deaths from first-order climate related causes (floods and droughts, extreme weather phenomena, raised temperatures, etc) would be so many, that the increase in suicides due to migration to higher latitude zones would be a drop in the bucket...
I'm terrified of climate change. I'm also terrified of nuclear power. I'm not really against nuclear power in theory, but I'm afraid about how we're unable to think about, plan, or prepare for longer than an election cycle. If we're heading for a collapse then a lot of abandoned nuclear power plants are going to cause a lot of damage.
I'm pro-nuclear power, but it's foolish to act like their motivations or beliefs are less real than yours because they have a different risk assessment.
It isn't statistics, but cold hard math.
This is an unsupportable assertion. Nuclear power costs far more than the alternatives (mainly Wind/Solar), none of which impoverish people nor drastically increase the price of food.
As GP said, nuclear is the only option.
Can you suggest some reading material that would tell me how wind and solar do those things?
This issue is a sociocultural one. There has never been any proof that Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can increase suicide rates that much. Living up north, I can assure you that everyone is aware of SAD and is taking steps to minimize it. Omega-3, vitamin supplements, light therapy, etc.
> Something cultural got lost when they transitioned away from their nomadic lifestyle.
As with many problems, the cause is likely mosaic.
I can tell you anecdotally that I would surely devolve into substance abuse and suicide were I to live in an Alaskan / Canadian environment like that. Just working from home on a permanent basis was enough to send me out to the bar on a daily basis. Similarly, when I spent time unemployed my only solace was substance. I cannot imagine being stuck in such an environment, little contact and little to do.
Some people just can't handle a certain lifestyle.
One wonders were we to leave the natives to their nomadic lifestyle if we wouldn't be seeing criticisms for any inevitable fallout and suffering that lifestyle might bring to members of the population.
I had some friends who did summers in Alaskan canneries, they said all there was to do was drink.
I wanted to emigrate to Sweden due to the high quality of life but the dark, drizzly, windy weather really put me off and some locals I talked to said they were really depressed by it and were either trying to emigrate or work remotely from Southern Europe.
In the Blatics it's probably worse as the economic situational is not positive for some people.
Except the Nordic countries have a lower suicide rates than the US. The whole high rates of suicide in the Nordics is a myth.
Only if you have money. Otherwise there wouldn't be such a mass migration of youths from the Mediterranean moving for work in the Nordics.
A good example is the corruption index published every year, when the US always comes out as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. We all know for a fact there's tons of corruption in this country, we just decided to legalize most of it. Doesn't mean the US can teach anything to any other country about corruption.
But anyway, I'm sure there are great reasons to discount the corruption studies and the studies of quality of life.
I haven't seen any of them in this thread, though.
People tend to say that they get depressed by the winter, but I believe that it is similar to how people tended to say that exercise was bad for you not too long ago. Cold helps against depression in many cases, for example cold showers. If you asked people if they would be happy trading their warm showers for cold showers they would say that it would be horrible even though it likely would improve their overall happiness.
In the fall and winter, you have an excuse to stay in. Everybody else is doing the same, so you're not missing out on much.
Plus part of it is academic. For k-12 and university, you see your 'friends' and 'acquaintances' very often. During the non-academic season, you don't see people as much which can be isolating.
Plus summer and spring, has the expectation of "you're supposed to be happy". So if you're not, then this can be devastating. Winter everybody has this "we're all in this gloomy mood together".
The rest of the seasons are equally important for your well being and coming from southern Austria in April where I was in T-Shirt, shorts and sunglasses to Stockholm & Copenhagen where I had to wear my winter jacket and apply lip balm and hand cream to counteract the skin cracking from the wind was quite a shock.
I love visiting Scandinavia and the Baltics but as a person who enjoys the outdoors all year round, the weather there would be way to depressing for me.
What is the main reason then?
Your single case does not apply to the population at large.
98.7 - Kusilvak Census Area, AK;
75.1 - Nome Census Area, AK;
64.2 - Sioux County, ND;
58.9 - Buffalo County, SD;
49.3 - Carbon County, UT
Extend the list and you see lots of high latitudes, low incomes, remote rural settings, and indigenous American populations (e.g. Yupik and Inupiaq in Alaska, Sioux in the Dakotas).
Alcoholism is often common in these places, although survey data do not show it affecting the groups in northern Alaska so heavily. Deaths due to chronic liver disease are not particularly high for them, either. There's a distinct history in Nunavut, though, so the story might be different.
Also, a large chunk of the suicides are young people who didn't leave through the eras where oppression occurred. I am not sure why somebody would commit suicide because something happened to their ancestors.
I wasn't trying to say anything about anywhere else.
>Also, a large chunk of the suicides are young people who didn't leave through the eras where oppression occurred. I am not sure why somebody would commit suicide because something happened to their ancestors.
Oppression still occurring, thanks.
Side note, I have family in Sioux county as well. I'll be blunt and say, if you've only grew up on the coasts, kindly butt the fuck out of why the suicide is high. I could name 10 people in and out of Sioux county I know that ate a bullet, if all you're going to do is use this for internet points piss off.
Over centuries, evolution acts to produce a population less prone to it, since people who drink themselves to death don't tend to reproduce.
The population that has had access to alcohol for the longest (8000 years, according to a guess I saw somewhere) is the Chinese, where the "asian red flush" gene has developed as a protection against alcoholism.
Evolutionary pressures / adaptations over 8000 years would just as likely make a population less likely to suffer adverse effects from, for example, alcohol. (see sickle cell tradeoffs in malaria-risky areas). This genetic syndrome you reference makes damage from alcohol 4x more likely over time.
We'd expect long-time drinking societies to have higher alcohol tolerance to better avoid adverse effects of drinking.
That said, the surviving populations probably also have a higher alcohol tolerance than their sober ancestors. That seems hard to measure though.
Is this a supposition? Or is there any evidence for this effect being real and/or it being significant over such evolutionarily short timescales?
For a recent example of evolution on a practically real time scale see this . Scientists released millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes into the wild. The genetically engineered mosquitoes were all male and engineered to produce infertile offspring. However, rare abnormalities allowed some mosquitoes to end up producing fertile offspring. The entire target population (in the wild) then began to adopt these characteristics and ended up rebounding from near extermination to near pre-release numbers.
That is evolution in fast forward due to a rapid reproduction rate, but even on a generational level this would have been an extremely rapid evolutionary adaptation.
And the same applies to humans. A seemingly ever larger number of things have major genetic factors -- alcoholism being one we've known about for quite some time. Alcoholics are less likely to live to successfully reproduce, and even when producing may produce defective offspring as a result of their alcoholism. So it creates an evolutionary imperative against susceptibility to alcoholism.
 - https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-49660-6
In addition to lower concentration, I'd imagine the mollusk and tobacco wine wouldn't have been as palatable as contemporaneous whiskey, but I'm not a fan of seafood in general so YMMV. Sounds like indigenous peoples in temperate climates tended to only use alcoholic beverages ceremonially rather than multiple-times-daily of colonists.
I don't have any source links handy. Do you have any sources for your disbelief? :)
Agreed. I don't have the time/energy to look up any sources, and I support anyone being skeptical about exotic claims made by anonymous forum posters :)
1) These specific counties could be flukes because of their small population.
We can account for that by making multiple observations--i.e. look at multiple years of data--and seeing if the counties change rank. The visualization has yearly data for 1980-2014, and the specified counties are consistently high compared to the national average
2) The 'rural' component of these counties isn't necessarily a factor, since the counties with lowest rates may be rural as well.
A bit of searching turns up a clear correlation between population density and suicide:
That last graph is a really nice one, as it shows more variance on low populations, but on average still way higher than on high populations.
Thanks for the clarification! :)
Gloomy weather, little opportunity for future economic advancement exacerbated by a government hundreds of miles away made up of people nothing like you making up rules for you that make life harder (rural area generally make money on resource extraction and western government are regulating that more tightly for climate reasons) and it's been this way for generations.
This isn't quite shocked pikachu territory but it should come as no surprise people living like this kill themselves more than the baseline.
This is a dark chapter in the history of Canada.
But it was indeed a dark chapter in the history of Canada. For those of you curious about the residential schools a basic introduction can be found at: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/residentia...
A better characterization is that Pierre Trudeau oversaw the dismantling of the residential schools.
Given that this is an election year in Canada, Justin Trudeau is a candidate and that this is a very deceptive portrayal of the situation, I'm going to assume this is intentional and report.
> Alcohol and drug use among Inuit increased significantly between 1992 and 2004, particularly among young adults. Alcohol users consumed significantly more alcohol per drinking episode than other Canadians in both time periods. Considerable cannabis use was widespread. In 2004, no significant differences in frequencies of heavy drinking episodes were observed by gender, with 60% of drug users consuming alcohol on a regular basis.
and the link between alcoholism and suicide is well documented:
> Various classical studies found an excess of suicide among alcoholics [73–80]. Beck and Steer  and Beck et al.  found that alcoholism was the strongest single predictor of subsequent completed suicide in a sample of attempted suicides.
> In 1997, Harris and Barraclough, in their unusually comprehensive meta-analysis analyzed 32 papers related to alcohol dependence and abuse, comprising a population of over 45,000 individuals . They found that combining the studies gave a suicide risk almost six times that expected but with variation of 1–60 times. Specifically, they found that the suicide risk for females was very much greater than for males, about 20 times that expected compared with four for males. Suicide risk among alcohol-dependent individuals has been estimated to be 7% (comparable with 6% for mood disorders; ). Of 40,000 Norwegian conscripts followed prospectively over 40 years, the probability of suicide was 4.76% (relative risk +6.9) among those classified as alcohol abusers compared with 0.63 for non-drinkers . Similar finding have been made worldwide . Murphy et al. studied 50 suicides and found that an alcohol use disorder was the primary diagnosis in 23% and a co-occurring diagnosis in 37% . Conwell et al. performed a study in New York City and reported that alcohol misuse was present in the history of 56% of individuals who completed suicide .
EDIT: even in Japan where there is a significant correlation between alcoholism and suicide rates (in Japanese men at least): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5865438_Alcohol_con...
Living like it's the 1700s only works if you aren't aware that the rest of the world exists. Put youth in very remote locations and teach them that maintaining a lost culture is their most important reason for existing -- but they're aware of a wide world that will embrace them [^1] yet they're told that it reviles them -- and it has to be pretty self-defeating. Add horrendous weather most of the year, harsh conditions, and it just isn't conducive to happiness.
^1 - Aboriginal racism comes up a lot, and rightly so. But it's often a stereotype of reserves and remote communities (one very sadly backed by data -- if you live near a reserve, property crime is likely significantly higher than if you didn't), and not about a peoples. Canada is a very multicultural society and any of these people would be just another shade in Canada, but because of the clutching to the "old ways", much as if I was wearing a Kilt and trying to raise sheep, it's tough to do and these youth bear the burden of their ancestors more than most of us do.
It must be hard to have that put on you. The outside people who express the most interest in your welfare seem bent on curating you like an artifact. Meanwhile, there's very little economy if you want to stay, and if you go, you'll be going into a partly alien culture where you know you will encounter bias.
Speaking about America rather than Canada, I think to most Americans the idea of ethnic bias against Native Americans seems like "just" a matter of the quaint and damaging stereotypes we carry, but near reservations it takes a similar form to racism against African-Americans: fear and resentment of the socioeconomic issues in the community, fear and resentment of the historical culpability of white people, an implicit assumption that something must be inferior about them because white people operating under the same historical burden would have had it all straightened out by now. If I were a young person on a reservation judging white people by the ones I encountered nearby, I think it would make leaving into a predominately white world a scary prospect.
You’re describing the outcome of a centuries long, at many points explicitly genocidal, settler-colonialist project and then hand-washing it away as “clinging to the old ways.” These circumstances are literally what was designed for indigenous people in Canada by those who have profited from the dispossession, not those of their choosing. I don’t think indigenous people are backward or inherently inferior. I think Canada lies about its own history and crimes against these people, and then projects its own blame upon them.
Weird that you drop this bizarre and incredibly offensive statement.
Countless indigenous people are simply Canadians. They live in cities, have jobs, and are enjoying lives as normal Canadians. Many Canadians have often significant aboriginal ancestry in their blood. People just living as a mixed bag of peoples in one of the richer countries on the Earth, enjoying life.
What I'm talking about are very remote settlements and reservations. This is situational, not about genetics. The situation of reservations and those far flung settlements just isn't conducive to happiness. No amount of government spending will change that.
Why not buy them bus tickets to Ontario? There's some value in preserving cultures as a matter of record, but that's not worth unnecessary suffering to make it happen.
There are no roads to any of the 25 towns in Nunavut.
GP may have had a better intention with their comment, but the way it was worded is extremely ignorant of what it's actually like to be born into a remote community that has existed for thousands of years.
Reserves did not exist for 1000s of years. The indigenous were nomads, and now are more grounded in territory.
>The outside people who express the most interest in your welfare seem bent on curating you like an artifact.
I think you might have let your bias alter your reception of their comment.
Maybe such attitudes combined with bleak social and economic prospects and general feelings of purposelessness and uselessness could well contribute to the phenomenon?
Yours truly, Captain Obvious.
Ok, that's bad.
But we can connect that to the US: white males with no college, aged 45-54, have a suicide rate of 38.8 and a poisoning (overdose) rate of 58.0. Put those together and that's pushing 100 per 100,000. That's enough to start asking some cultural questions.
However, "During 1999–2003, the suicide rate among Nunavut males aged 15 to 19 was estimated to exceed 800 per 100,000 population, compared to around 14 for the general Canadian male population in that age group."
800 per 100,000? This statistic is staggering for a couple of reasons: its magnitude and the age range.
The graphs in  show just how young and male the suicides among the Inuit are. It's no surprise that it's primarily male, because it almost always is, but it is surprising to see an 8:1 ratio and that it's affecting the youth so heavily. For comparison, in the United States the 15-24 age range is near the bottom of the suicide statistics.
These are boys born in the 1980's. As bad as the crimes against the Inuits may have been in the 1950's it's a strange territory to wander into where an effect of an atrocity shows up 50 years late in a population that wasn't alive yet. From wikipedia: "...to about 170 in 2002. Some of the reasons given include adverse childhood experiences involving emotional neglect and abuse, family violence and substance abuse, as well as social inequalities brought on by government intervention." (referencing ) I can see the argument the author is making here but I don't have the time to address it.
The article is giving the "white guilt" narrative and for whatever reason is dancing around the massive gender disparity in suicide rates. When I see articles like this I wonder how much the author cares about suicide and how much they see it as a platform to write about anti-colonialism.
 - Table 1 https://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Canada
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Canada#Among_the_In...
 - https://www.iwgia.org/images/publications//IA_4_07.pdf#page=...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crude_US_suicide_rate_by_...
The outsiders brought with them diseases like tuberculosis and influenza, and these diseases were devastating. In many villages, up to 70% of the population died in the span of a few generations. It's hard to imagine how hard this would be to live through. I live in a town of 10,000 and I imagine waking up at some point to only have 3,000 people around, not because people move but because all of those people we knew were dead.
That wasn't all, though. Almost all of the missionaries blamed the survivors for what happened. They said their people died because they worshipped the devil. They took the surviving children away, telling parents they weren't fit to raise their own children. They banned the use of Native languages, and all aspects of Native culture such as dancing, regalia, ceremonies, and more. All of this has led to despair and a disconnect with a rich culture that existed for ~10,000 years before this.
Life for Native people before contact was not perfect. But this is the root of alcoholism and suicide in Alaska, and in many areas with indigenous populations around the world. If you're interested in learning more about this history, I recommend Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being by Harold Napoleon , and Chills and Fever: Health and Disease in the Early History of Alaska by Robert Fortuine .
> Most Inuit look back very differently on this period. Their version begins shortly after World War II, when the US and Canada jointly established a line of radar stations across the Arctic in order to spy on the Soviets and monitor the skies for potential attacks via the North Pole. The Canadian government, keen to prevent the US from claiming sovereignty over this potentially mineral- and natural gas–rich area, hastily established towns and forced the Inuit to settle in them. Older Inuit told me they remember armed police officers arriving at their camps unannounced and ordering everyone to leave. Sled dogs—even healthy ones—were slaughtered before their owners’ eyes.
> The government concedes that thousands of Inuit children, some as young as five, were sent to boarding, or “residential,” schools, where they were cut off from their families, given Christian names and ID numbers, punished for speaking their native Inuktitut language, required to wear Western clothes, and taught a Canadian curriculum that had no relevance to the world they’d been born into. Many were also beaten and raped by their teachers. Some went to the schools willingly, but many reluctant parents, informed that if they didn’t send their children off, they’d be denied government welfare benefits or credit from fur traders, surrendered them in tears.
> Memories of these horrors haunt the lives of older Inuit today. [...]
Anyway, if you're interested in more about what FNMI life is like in Canada, the APTN First Contact show is a pretty great place to start:
Do you have any citations for this? I have read a lot of missionary stories, and have friends and family who have been or are missionaries themselves, and have never heard of anything so heinous. That's exactly the opposite of what missionaries are supposed to be; it sounds more like a particularly brutal form of western imperialism and exploitation than anything else.
Here's the top link I found when googling 'first nations canada banned language': https://www.facinghistory.org/stolen-lives-indigenous-people...
Here's another source from The Guardian (not my favorite paper, but generally publishes true things): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/02/canada-indigen... - "Children inducted into residential schools were forbidden from speaking their native languages and subjected to routine physical abuse, inadequate nutrition and neglect. Sexual abuse was common, according to the survivors who testified at commission hearings throughout the country."
Edit: The history of missionaries is inextricably linked with the history of Western imperialism and exploitation. These accounts are by no means limited to the Canada or even the Americas - there are many accounts of the brutal treatment of indigenous people in Africa, Australia and Oceania committed by missionaries.
I'm not really sure about Alaska in particular, but the Catholic Church for example was definitely complicit in the attempted cultural genocide undertaking by the Canadian government against indigenous peoples (and resists issuing a formal apology for that role, even to this day: https://globalnews.ca/news/4110276/canada-residential-school...).
More accurately, conditions today ripe for alcoholism and suicide may be borne out events following contact. There's similar issues in Canada, Siberia.
Crazy to think that hundreds of years of violence and extraction had nothing to do with this, and it's just due to cultural faults.
There's no world in which their legacy of oppression wouldn't affect their present day material conditions.
> Modern technology coming around and wiping out the need for most of your tribe to hunt and gather is going to have a big impact on cultures like that.
Culture isn't static, it evolves over time. It's not just "their time to die out," or whatever the subtext of a statement like this is.
> when we try to pin all of the blame on western influence in the past, when these people are quite capable of fucking up their own lives without your help thank you very much.
Guess we'll never know because of all the rape and pillage.
I'll never understand how people come to so deeply fetishize the subjective that they're entirely willing to cast off the shackles of the objective.
Generally speaking, wiping out large amounts of any population whether intentional or not is probably going to have negative multigenerational effects.
It's extremely easy to see other groups of people who suffered the same thing, and have extremely low suicide rates. At which point you could create the same post-hoc explanation for the opposite outcome, about how hundreds of years of violence created very tough and mentally strong people.
This is pure ideology: we were actually helping them when we were chopping their children's hands off in the congo when they didn't produce enough.
I don't have any ideology, I was just pointing out how post-hoc explanations always fit the data. But that you could take other examples and come to opposite conclusions.
Yes, you do. Regardless of if you want to or not, you have an ideology.
In the words of Bender, you want me to do two things??
I think this is actually an interesting point. One I hadn't considered before. I doubt it really explains it, but it wouldn't surprise me if this was a contributing factor.
Why are you posting your anecdotes like this? You have access to the internet after all:
For example, on that list the US rates _worse_ than Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and are about the same as Finland.
So one in 1,000 kills himself and nearly everyone has a relative that did it? Pretty big families over there.
Say, a person has roughly 32 relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews). It's fairly easy to get to 32.
Then the probability of at least one relative committing suicide is 1-(1-71/1000)^32 = 91%. Which is indeed "virtually every Inuit". With 50 relatives it is 97%.