The documentary “Angry Inuk” is about voices seldom heard but that need to be heard. Watching this changed my mind about seal hunting, solidified my skepticism toward The Humane Society of America and other organizations and made me interested in seal-skin wear.
Written and directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, the documentary starts in the spring of 2008.
“I love spring,” Arnaquq-Baril says. “Some of my earliest memories is seal-hunting with my family.” She takes us on an Inuit family seal hunt which isn’t aided by high-powered machinery and backed by big money or even particularly brutal.
Now I don’t know how you feel about hunting or shooting guns. To make full disclosure, I’ve shot a gun, but not at living things, at targets. I got for the heart. I was told I was a natural and better than the boyfriend who brought me. I shot three different guns. My then-boyfriend never brought me back to the range. My father was an avid hunter (deer, geese and ducks). My brother is a biologist and fishermanwho might be better at killing animals than caring for them.
I’ve never been to Alaska and have been against commercial seal hunting, although not hunting in general. This documentary changed my mind.
The title of the movie is explained early on: “Inuit anger is much quieter” we’re told. Think of it more “like a modern day rap battle.” And “if you lost your temper, you lost the battle” because “losing your temper could mean you have a guilty conscience.”
If anyone should have a guilty conscience it is the machines behind certain animal rights organizations. The seal hunting portrayed here is subsistence hunting. The bloodied grins of children are cute in this culture, not gruesome as we might think in the lower 48. We’re reminded that the Inuit peoples are divided by colonial powers into US, Canadian, Russian and European. Their livelihood is unlike ours, but they have been touched by modernization. They can’t live on hunting alone. They need industries and goods to sell. That used to be sealskins and their products, but everything changed in 1983 when the European Union banned goods made from white seal pups.
Now, you, like I, have probably been raised on images of clubbing white seal pups to death. That’s been illegal and you won’t see that here. You will be reminded that seals are not on the endangered species list and that “it has been illegal for years to hunt for white seal pups.” Yet the campaign against the white skins “ruined the reputation for all types of seal skins.”
The film takes us from kill, to feast, to tanning and stitching. And then we plunge into politics which pitches the Inuit against heavyweights like PETA and Greenpeace who can stake out a city for months and hand out white seal stuffed animals. The campaign became “us versus the little white seal dolls” and “no one asked Inuit to be part of the discussion.”
What once went for $100 became worth only $10. And the Inuit live in an area where a head of cabbage can cost twenty-odd dollars or $18 for Cheese-whiz. The Inuit have already survived residential school abuse, forced relocation and other indignities. Their communities have impoverished and yet face a high cost of living.
While they hunt, they also care about their environment. Caring about them means, they are against seismic testing (in the search for oil) which drives away marine animals, can send whales into the ice, trapping them under it and cause deafness. One man says, “We hunt animals for food, but we still care about them.”
If you’re interested in sealskin goods, you can find information for newbies at Unikkaat Studios. There’s a difference between rawhide and tanned/treated seal skins.
In Inuit with English subtitles. “Angry Inuk” is available on Amazon Prime Video for rental.