Skin for Skin

Death and Life for Inuit and Innu

Skin for Skin

Narrating Native Histories

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Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 18 illustrations Published: March 2014

Author: Gerald M. Sider

American Studies, Anthropology > Ethnohistory, Native and Indigenous Studies

Since the 1960s, the Native peoples of northeastern Canada, both Inuit and Innu, have experienced epidemics of substance abuse, domestic violence, and youth suicide. Seeking to understand these transformations in the capacities of Native communities to resist cultural, economic, and political domination, Gerald M. Sider offers an ethnographic analysis of aboriginal Canadians' changing experiences of historical violence. He relates acts of communal self-destruction to colonial and postcolonial policies and practices, as well as to the end of the fur and sealskin trades. Autonomy and dignity within Native communities have eroded as individuals have been deprived of their livelihoods and treated by the state and corporations as if they were disposable. Yet Native peoples' possession of valuable resources provides them with some income and power to negotiate with state and business interests. Sider's assessment of the health of Native communities in the Canadian province of Labrador is filled with potentially useful findings for Native peoples there and elsewhere. While harrowing, his account also suggests hope, which he finds in the expressiveness and power of Native peoples to struggle for a better tomorrow within and against domination.


Skin for Skin is a volume that everyone who interacts with the native communities  in this province should read, including the Innu and Inuit themselves if possible. The voice is passionate, intense, and very personal, bordering on aggressively confrontational at times." — Robin McGrath, The Telegram (Newfoundland)

“What makes the book truly compelling is twofold. The two final chapters acknowledge the author's own evolution as an anthropologist and researcher who came to better understand how to witness and reflect indigenous peoples' capacities to resist cultural, economic, and political domination. Secondly, there is a complex, nuanced recognition of those Inuit and Innu who have struggled to create some kind of new and reestablished old order out of the chaos that comes with imposed colonial and neocolonial order. Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries.”  — G. Bruyere, Choice

"A historically grounded and methodologically nuanced account of the indigenous peoples of Labrador."  — Colin Samson, AlterNative

“I welcome Sider’s scrutiny of megadevelopment projects, key sites where the neocolonial interests of state and capital continue to divest indigenous peoples of equitable economic revenues within their own territories. His attention to the forms of indigenous ‘semisovereignty’ (170) emerging in the wake of asymmetrical land claims agreements is also urgent and necessary.” — Arie Molema, North American Dialogue

“The first half of Sider’s text is a rough but important read. The reader is given a thorough journey through a colonial history badly in need of deconstruction. Sider delivers." — Frank Tester, Arctic

“[T]he book deserves in-depth discussion because it thoroughly presents a critical and engaging study of a particular process that can be read as a generalized trait of the current production in capitalism of disposable populations (Žižek 2014) while at the same time relating it to the historical background of European expansion. The great merit of Gerald Sider is his ability to maintain, with mastery and dexterity, the tensions that surrounds those historical and partial processes of violence in which dependency and autonomy, dignity and vexation, control and chaos, past and future, and life and death, constitute parts of a fragmented totality with which Innu and Inuit have had to deal both within and against.” — Ulises Villafuerte, Dialectical Anthropology

“Overall, this book is thick and rich with material that will be of interest to a wide range of readers. For me, a non-Aboriginal political scientist who occasionally writes about Indigenous–settler politics in Canada, the most interesting contribution of this book is its challenge to researchers to think more carefully about how we carry out research involving Indigenous communities.” — Christopher Alcantara, Journal of American Ethnic History

"This is a very enjoyable book to read in spite of its difficult subject matter.... If you read this book in its entirety, you will understand, and have compassion for, the Native peoples who underwent and continue to experience the trauma of racism and imperialism. I highly recommend this book as a way to look at present-day trauma that is rooted in history and past abuses of Native peoples." — Mary Hampton, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"Skin for Skin, as a polemic, provides scholars with an important agenda for future research." — Lisa Stevenson, PoLAR

"This is an excellent book, passionate, compassionate, yet compiled with attention to great detail and careful argument; as we would expect from this outstanding anthropologist." — Chris Haynes, Anthropological Forum

"In this provocative and insightful book, Gerald M. Sider addresses the complex issue of epidemic self-destruction among Canada's Innu and Inuit communities. Combining careful, innovative research and socially engaged ethnography, Skin for Skin is a valuable contribution to the field of indigenous anthropology. Writing in an accessible narrative style, Sider utilizes a holistic approach to understanding the historical violence experienced by indigenous peoples and its consequences, while also creating spaces for hope to be nourished." — L. Jane McMillan, St. Francis Xavier University

"Skin for Skin is a remarkable work. Gerald M. Sider challenges both anthropological and more general understandings of what 'culture' is. In this deeply respectful engagement with the Innu and Inuit of Labrador, Sider turns their perpetual oppression into a devastating critique of the Canadian state. At the same time, he makes an exemplary contribution by identifying potential opportunities for better lives for the increasing number of people designated the residuum of our ravaging world." — Gavin Smith, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, and author of Confronting the Present and Intellectuals and (Counter-) Politics (forthcoming)


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gerald M. Sider is Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. His books include Between History and Tomorrow: Making and Breaking Everyday Life in Rural Newfoundland and Living Indian Histories: Lumbee and Tuscarora People in North Carolina, both in second editions.

Table of Contents Back to Top


1. Historical Violence

2. Owning Death and Life: Making "Indians" and "Eskimos" from Native Peoples

3. Living within and against Tradition, 1800–1920

4. The Peoples without a Country

5. Mapping Dignity

6. Life in a Concentration Village

7. Today May Become Tomorrow

8. Warriors of Wisdom



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5536-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5521-2
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