flag france Jean-Michel Huctin
Anthropologist • France

“ The ancient wisdom of the peoples of the Pole can teach us a deeper respect for the Planet ”

Jean-Michel Huctin is member of the European Center for the Arctic (CEARC) at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines where he teaches anthropology. He has participated in the development of the first international and interdisciplinary Master programme of Arctic studies in France which welcome indigenous students. He is cofounder of the Uummannaq Polar Institute (UPI) in a Greenlandic community of which he speaks the language. His research interests include the study of education and Inuit culture. He is also coauthor and coproducer of the internationally awarded Greenlandic-French feature film "Inuk".

I discovered the Arctic with the best guides that one can dream: those who have an intimate knowledge because they have always lived there. Thus, sharing life with the Inuit for many years, I have felt deep inside the vital link that connects us with our Mother Earth. This link, so difficult to grasp for those born in a big city, becomes so obvious far away on the ice or in the middle of the tundra...
This connection to nature is now also disrupted among the Inuit. In Uummannaq, a small island in the northwest coast of Greenland, I attended the show of climate change live and in full-scale. Indeed, the 15 years I have enjoyed long stays there are those of the general retreat of sea-ice. How many times have I seen Inuit hunters taking risks with dogsled or snowmobile on the ice increasingly fragile? How much do I regret that they are forced to replace the seal meat they love by exported frozen food? How much have I also been moved to see them shoot some of their sled dogs much more difficult to feed and no longer useful? Although climate change is brutal with the landscapes and peoples of the Arctic, it is however only one of the major challenges threatening this precious connection to nature that Inuit succeeded to preserve until today: increasing pollution and urbanization, endangered biological and cultural diversity, mercantile globalization, etc.
That is why we should rejoice to see a growing and irreversible aspiration in the world for environmental protection and greater justice between humans. At the Pole as anywhere else on the planet, the awareness of the environmental risk and the quest for a better humanity also go through the education of all, especially to the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples. It is not a crazy idea because, from Montaigne to Malaurie, all ages have seen illustrious and visionary scholars who understood that all these peoples, formerly considered as "primitive" but now called "first nations", have much to teach us. Last heirs of this ancient wisdom that expressed consciousness of belonging to a remarkably complex ecosystem, they have known how to preserve balance between humans and nature.
We really need this wisdom carried by the peoples of the Pole to adapt it to our new world. It inspires my research today both as an anthropologist and as a man.

© Le Cercle Polaire - Septembre 2012 - Tous droits réservés

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