Collective memory: The meaning of sila, Part 2 of 4

An Inuksut, arrangement of stones representing a human being, in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada (©Flickr/Christoph Ulanski )

As part of a series on the collective memory, Michele Ernsting presents the meaning of sila: the Inuit perspective on climate change. In what now seems like a distant past, sila was the most powerful force in the lives of the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic. Two generations ago, most Inuit lived as nomads. They depended on highly honed skills to hunt caribou, seal and whale. They depended on good weather to get them safely through another season – in other words, they depended on sila.

An Inuit elder might describe sila as the natural forces which push and pull a person through life. It takes years of observation and a deep knowledge of the Inuktitut language to understand this rich concept. But in one generation the Inuit language and culture has come under pressure from another overwhelming force, the English language and southern culture. 

Producer: Michele Ernsting

Broadcast: December 16, 2001