Barry Lopez’ masterful Arctic Dreams gave me an inkling of a richly philosophical seam in Eskimo language. If you watch, read or listen to the news, you may despair at the apparent absence of anything resembling an isumataq in the upper echelons of government, corporate and other vaunted leadership.

I was struck that it doesn’t focus on the wisdom of a leader per se, but on their capacity to create a context in which wisdom can appear. Not people telling us what to do because they’re smarter than we, but rather eliciting latent collective wisdom in the underlings of the world – and in our interactions with each other.

Something worth exercising quinuituq for!  And while I wait patiently, I’ll sign up to the Isumataq School of Leadership.  If I can find it.

Feel free to send me a brief description of anyone you know who embodies this type of leadership.

For a rich mosaic of quotations from this wise book, see the bestellar review at WritingRedux.


Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams (London: Picador, 1987), p. 298

Photo credit: Shane Rounce at


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And once in a great while an isumataq becomes apparent, a person who can create an atmosphere in which wisdom shows itself. This is a timeless wisdom that survives failed human economies. It survives war. It survives definition. It is a nameless wisdom esteemed by all people. It is understanding how to live a decent life, how to behave properly toward other people and toward the land. It is, further, a wisdom not owned by anyone, nor about which one culture is more insightful or articulate.

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