Urgent Evoke

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Food Sharing in Inuit Communities.

An introduction....

Food sharing is a key component to Inuit culture, not everyone in the community has the ability or freedom to hunt, the process of sharing harvested food such as meat, fish and berries has been part of the Inuit lifestyle for generations. When hunters return to their towns it is customary to share meat with their family and neighbours

Inuit regard resource sharing for mutual help as one of their traditional social characteristics. (Kishigami)

According to the mayor of Akulivik, if more than 10 caribou are available, they are divided and delivered to all the households. If fewer than 10 caribou are available, meat goes first to the households of elders, widows and persons with providing them with money or gasoline, and only then to other households in need of meat.


Contemporary Adaptations....

According to tradition, food should be shared, not sold, and many still view selling country food as ‘unethical’. Presently this is controversial, but since the conditions around the Inuit economy are changing, the Inuit appear to adapt (Minogue, 2005). Chabot did a study in 2004 and suggested that in Nunavik redistribution of wealth is less in larger communities, “where salaried workers may reinvest their money in marketed production equipment and vehicles. This may represent a hindrance to solidarity and sharing” Direct sales of country food were seldom reported by the informants (in Nunavut) . It can be argued that the lack of data does not implicitly indicate that the phenomenon of direct sale of food is exceptional, but that people may avoid mentioning it because it is socially unacceptable. (Chabot 2002) In, Montreal Inuit volunteers prepare Inuit country food for Montreal based Inuit once a month. The country food is donated by hunters in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) and Nunavut, and sent to Montreal through Inuit-controlled airlines (Air Inuit and First Air) on a non-revenue basis (Lowi, 2001).

Cultural shift...

With the use of freezers townspeople are now receiving their meat from unknown hunters, “thus weakening reciprocal obligations or responsibilities to food givers.” The fact that the hunter is no longer engaging in the act of sharing the ties and reciprocity is not being emphasized. In some communities the cost of running a centralized freezer / and traveling to and from the freezer was so expensive that commmunities bought smaller freezer for every household.

Harvesting is impacted by the following employment factors

  • Flexibility / Type of Employment
  • Timing
  • Location of job (on and off the land)

Seasonal and part-time employment offer the most flexibility to accommodate harvesting activities.

Full-time employment

Challenges - frustrated by lack of free time on the land

Benefits - Income, Ability to purchase supplies and equipment

Part-time Employment

Challenges - Still have to arrange harvesting around work and other factors

Benefits - More flexibility ability to harvest at crucial time


Challenges - Income for equipment and supplies can be mitigated through social networks(access to resources in order to harvest)

Benefits - Availability of time

(presentation by Zoe Todd, University of Alberta MSc Candidate Rural economy)

Views: 673

Comment by Jane A.W. on March 21, 2010 at 12:07am
Wow, I hadn't even considered the social impacts and cultural implications of converting a sharing based trade for 'country food' when I was thinking of creating a cash market for the equivalent. D'oh! But even still - as long as rural folks are going to be incorporated into the cash economy - it would seem to make more sense to let them raise money doing something they are good at and have the resources for. When I get a chance to talk to some people around here - I may find a bit more out about the pros and cons.
Comment by Nate B on March 23, 2010 at 6:31am
I understand what you are aiming for, There are inherent issues that arrive from it however, mostly with the chance of economic gain mixed with entrepreneurial drive create come abuse. The other being population decline in most herds of caribou, fish and sea mammals. There are some areas that are no hunting zones here in Canada with the hopes to preserve dwindling populations of Caribou, which creates it's own set of problems, farther distances to travel, therefore more expensive, more exhaustive of resources and time, and the potential of over hunting in other areas.

I take the stance that the Inuit culture is not broken or in need of fixing. It's the dominant culture and the force that is exerted on the Inuit culture that has put traditional ways under strain.

Jane you are correct that rural folks have and will increasingly become incorporated into the cash economy, a lot of hunters nowadays are taking samples from the meats that they harvest and send them to government or university labs to make additional money on top of feeding themselves and their communities.
Comment by Nate B on March 23, 2010 at 9:11pm
Excellent comment Michelle, I have not dealt with Inuit communities on an in community basis but I have Inuit friends (from the north), fellow students and my professors to talk to about issues and gather insights. I plan do my Masters which specializes in Inuit culture and some of the sociological impacts of dominant culture. I have been to the north, but not in a research context.

To your question the Inuit culture will survive, it will be a battle. I am going to sit on this comment mostly cause I have to run but I will give you a decent reply in a couple hours. Thanks for your interest.

Jane if you have any input, have at'er I really appreciate your perspectives from Alaska, I am not usually lucky enough to speak to many people outside of my faculty, with alternate views on similar topics.


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