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The Inuit (more popularly known as Eskimos) are the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic. Spread across the northern regions of Canada, Denmark and the US state of Alaskta, the Inuit people have their own distinct language, culture, customs and lifestyle. The !kung, on the other hand, are the indigenous people of the Kalahari Desert in Central Africa. They used to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, employing crude tools for gathering food and living in small communities of no more than three dozen individuals. They would move constantly from place to place in search of water, food and shelter.
Creeping technology, industrialization and globalization always threaten local cultures and the Inuit and !kung were also not spared in this regard. As both the cultures failed to keep pace with the times, soon they saw themselves outgunned and overwhelmed by outsiders. In both the cases, the prevalent government slowly and gradually took over the lands of these people through a variety of coercive and non-coercive means.
In case of the kung people, the federal governments in their lands prevented their frequent migration and instead encouraged them to live in permanent housing units. Many of the !kung people, tempted by generation of wealth in the current economic system, chose to live in these settlements and forgo the ancient ways of their forefathers. As a result, the centuries old lifestyle of the !kung people is slowly and gradually vanishing away.
In addition, the onset of labor-based economy has meant that men and women of the !kung tribe have their traditional roles changed. With men working outside the house, women must now take care of the home. Previously, both men and women of the !kung tribe used to work together side by side in collecting food and erecting shelters. Since women are now confined to their homes, issues of domestic violence have also increased. To make matters worse, significant amounts of lands owned by the !kunga tribes have been taken over by local governments for official purposes or converted into nature reserves. This has been extremely devastating to the !kunga culture. Therefore, the costs of acculturation to the !kunga far outweigh the benefits which have been limited to increased wealth, decreased hunger and better healthcare.
In case of the Inuit, they were gradually brought into the fold of the Canadian government through administrative measures. The Inuit were forced to abandon their previous lifestyles and were instead encouraged to live in large communities. When encouragement didn’t work, jobs and the prospect of wealth were used to woo them. In addition, law enforcement was also used to force the Inuit to live in these communities. A significant proportion of the Inuit population was also converted to Christianity in a further blow to their centuries old culture. Inuit children were forced to attend public schools and soon a generation of young Inuit men and women was raised who were completely oblivious to the traditions of their forefathers (Jones, 2016). Like the !kunga, the Inuit too achieved economic prosperity and better healthcare at the cost of thier culture and tradition.
While the kunga remain mired in their problems, the Inuit have begun to fight back using the very tools that were used to take away their identity. Through a continued civil rights and protest movement, not only have the Inuit achieved significant administrative autonomy in their lands but have also forced the Canadian government to apologize for its earlier actions of forced acculturation. Acculturation has come at a significantly heavy price for these communities.
You may wish to discuss whether or not some cultures are better than others. If so, why? If not, why not?
Every culture is unique and special in its own way as the local environment, flora, fauna and customs blend together to create its own unique look and feel. That is why no one culture is better than the other and all are special in their own unique ways.
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