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Tuning in on Civilization »
“…An American Eskimo, Tahl clashed with authority for the first time at age three, after deliberately hurling a brick through a window. More arrests followed, but his crimes remained petty until the spring of 1965, when unexpected violent urges surfaced at the age of twenty-seven.
On April Fool’s Day, Tahl, approached his man-and-wife employers, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Bowen, at the Mission Bay Yacht Club in San Diego, California. Brandishing a shotgun, he demanded cash, and was indignantly refused. Impulsively, Tahl shot both victims, killing Mrs. Bowen instantly; her husband would survive just long enough to name the gunman for police. …”
MURDER (ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY) ACT 1965
HL Deb 17 December 1969 vol 306 cc1106-258
My Lords, I am moved by the excellent and very moving account by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, of his own experience and of his anthropological studies on hanging, and I will tell one story which I hope your Lordships will appreciate. In the Eskimo code, with which the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, and I happen to be familiar (I think the Eskimos are our only constituents) in the Eskimo language, there is no word for “war”. They are an extremely peaceful people. Under their ethic they kill for two reasons only: one is for stealing, which would sacrifice and destroy the group in a state of famine; and the other is for madness. They would kill a madman as they would kill a rabid dog.
To return to my story, it so happened that two Eskimos killed two priests who, according to the Eskimos, in their attitude were behaving like mad dogs. They insisted on going on when it was quite obvious that a blizzard was blowing up and they started to beat the Eskimos with whips—but that is the least of it. The Eskimos killed them, and the Canadian Mounted Police arrested the Eskimos. They did not have to chase them. Under the Canadian Mounted Police practice, they apply Ottawa law according to the Eskimo ethics, but in this case Ottawa insisted upon sending a hanging judge to override what had been the convention, and the two Eskimos were sentenced to be hanged. They were hanged on Herschel Island. They built their own gallows; they cooked not only their own breakfast but the breakfast of the Canadian Mounted Police, and they went on to the scaffold and were hanged.
I quote that story because the one group of people who feel most strongly about it happens to be the Canadian Mounted Police. They felt that this was the greatest mistake Ottawa had ever committed. In the first place, it was introducing a punishment for something which, according to the Eskimo ethic, was justifiable homicide. But apart from that it showed complete ignorance of what in fact the Eskimos were, of how they behaved; and certainly it was not 1209 going to deter them from killing other people because they do not go around killing people….”
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