Inuits in Canada whose lives are sustainably supported by the hunting and use of seals have started a campaign tweeting “sealfies” in a unique protest against Ellen Degeneres’ record-breaking “selfie” taken the night of the Oscars. The proceeds of the retweeted selfie were partially donated to the Humane Society of the United States, one of the most dominant forces against the Canadian seal hunt.
With 3 million tweets, the celebrity Oscar selfie is currently the champion of the most retweeted posts ever. Complimented by the generated activity, Samsung, the tech gurus whose Galaxy smartphone captured the image, promised to donate $1 to the Oscar host’s charity of choice every time the selfie was retweeted. Degeneres strongly promoted the retweeting of the selfie in her characteristically jovial and competitive manner.
In response to the seemingly light-hearted endeavor, the Inuit culture is posting “sealfies” of themselves dressed in seal-skin clothing and in true-life photos and videos of individuals harvesting seals to showcase how their livelihood relies on the prominence of the seal hunt. There is even a sealfie of a seal-skin bow tie, which indicates the both the variety of uses and the seal skin can provide, as well as its waste-not-want-not properties. As part of the campaign, Inuits in head-to-toe regalia strike stunning poses against the northern landscape, which has become threatened by proliferation of Degeneres’ Oscar night selfie, due to the catapulted protest against seal hunting.
The Inuit “sealfie” agenda is attempting to direct attention to the cultural and financial advantages of the seal hunt, which they see as a sustainable and ethical choice. Many households within Inuit territories face food scarcity issues, and the seal meat is needed to feed the families. In a Council of Canadian Academies report, 35 percent of Inuit households in Nunavut, a large native territory in northern Canada, also referred to as the Canadian arctic, do not have enough food to eat. The report also states that 76 percent of preschoolers skip meals and 60 percent have gone a day without eating.
“In Inuit culture, it is believed seals have souls and offer themselves to you. Humanely and with gratitude we accepted this gift,” says Sandi Vincent, a sealfie participant and seal hunt supporter. After her first seal hunt at age 15, she said, “My uncle placed some snow in the seal’s mouth when it was dead, so its soul would not be thirsty. If there is one word to describe seal-hunting, I would suggest ‘respectful’.”
According to a blog post from 2011 on Degeneres’ website, Canadian seal-hunting is called “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government”.
Within the last few days hundreds of sealfies of Inuits in seal skin have been posted to social media sites, hashtag #sealfie. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have all been utilized in the sealfie protest. Included in the protest is sealer who is pleading with Newfoundland and Labrador to boycott Degeneres’ show. It is the Inuit hope that a human face is put on the harvesting of seals for food and clothing.
In a direct response to Degeneres herself, Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss, a self-described, 17-year-old “huge fan” of Degeneres, posted a video to YouTube this week, entitled Dear Ellen. “I’m doing this to hopefully share my perspective and educate you a bit on seal hunting in the Canadian Arctic,” she says. The video is posted below.
Degeneres has not as of yet responded to the Inuit campaign of sealfies protesting her Oscar night selfie, but chances are, regarding Degeneres’ penchant for audience appeal, Enuaraq-Strauss’ video and the hundreds of social media posts from the indigenous group may receive the attention and support their culture needs and deserves.
Opinion By Stacy Feder