Hare - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Distinctions of status and wealth seem always to have been minimal among the Hare. The Nuclear family was the basic unit of social life, joining with (or departing from) others on the basis of kinship and affinity in a highly flexible fashion. In the class society that emerged in the post-European-contact era, patron-client relations developed between, on the one hand, traders, missionaries, and governmental agents who controlled the distribution of valued imported resources and, on the other, the Hare. In some instances, the control was so great that castelike relations developed.

Political Organization. Hare leaders lack power but possess authority, which, however, may be highly ephemeral. Their leadership derives from special hunting, fighting, trading, or shamanic skills, from their ability to influence others suggestively, or from their kinship connections. This has always been the case. Political action at the level of "the Hare" is unknown. Whereas a particular band might take action, the same principals are not consistently involved because band membership fluctuates. The Hudson's Bay Company introduced the position of trading chief and, later, the Canadian government the band chief; in each case, the title has been a misnomer because the person in whom it resided has been a spokesman at best. In 1921, the Hare signed Treaty 11 with the Canadian government, and the Hare Band at Fort Good Hope was created. Today, the Hare count themselves, with other Northwest Territories Athapaskans, as members of the Dene Nation, which for years has been pressing for the settlement of outstanding and conflicting treaty rights and for self-determination. In 1988, the Dene Nation and the Metis Association of the Northwest Territories signed an agreement-in-principle with the government of Canada in which the former would receive cash, surface rights to (and a share of mineral royalties from) over seventy thousand square miles of land, and other guarantees.

Social Control. The Hare depended heavily on gossip, ridicule, and other diffuse negative sanctions to effect control. Shamans, who had the power to kill, could also exercise social control. In the twentieth century, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Northwest Territories courts have provided formai sanctions for the Hare, although the informal diffuse negative sanctions have remained important in daily life.

Conflict. In their relations with others, especially the Inuit, the Hare traditionally have possessed a reputation for timidity. They have withdrawn rather than fought. Perhaps because of the emphasis placed on emotional restraint and the dependence on diffuse negative sanctions, drinking today—culturally constructed as a sociable, generous activity up to a point—frequently becomes violent as suppressed conflicts find expression. Since 1970, the Hare and other native people in the Northwest Territories have become increasingly vocal concerning the exploitation of natural resources and treaty and political rights.

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