How can traditional economies lift Inuit out of poverty? ITK summit tackles question

Virtual event runs Wednesday and Thursday

Joe Karetak, centre, is a featured speaker on traditional knowledge and the traditional economy as part of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s second national Inuit Poverty Reduction Summit. In this photo, the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangnit research co-ordinator with the Aqqiumavvik Society leads young hunters through the early steps of building an igloo in 2016. (File photo)

By Meral Jamal

Living a traditional life isn’t so easy anymore.

There are high costs involved with purchasing ATVs, boats, rifles, ammunition and fuel. And when a hunter is able to scrape up the money to buy these things, more hurdles appear.

“You’re bombarded with all kinds of regulations immediately,” said Joe Karetak, the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangnit research co-ordinator with the Aqqiumavvik Society, a community wellness society based in Arviat.

“It’s not possible to be just a hunter and have it like a job.” 

Karetak is a featured speaker at this year’s National Inuit Poverty Reduction Summit, which runs Wednesday and Thursday.

The summit, organized by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, explores how poverty impacts Inuit both within Inuit Nunangat and beyond. 

Its participants will brainstorm how Inuit traditional knowledge and traditional economies can help ease this struggle. 

Karetak says the territorial government needs to partner with local community members and create more opportunities and economic support for hunting. But that’s just a start. He also suggests the government should consider loosening the reins on hunting and fishing.

“If you want to address this issue, I think … we be allowed to start like how Western society started, where they didn’t have any restrictions to start whatever they were doing, and over time, eventually establish laws to guide their economy,” Karetak said.

Karetak said he hopes his presentation at the summit is an opportunity to explore different management systems for the traditional economy, as well as stronger partnership between Inuit and the territorial government, moving forward.

The National Inuit Poverty Reduction Summit is presented virtually, and can be accessed through Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Facebook page.

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(36) Comments:

    • Posted by Is it really though? on

      It’s about as brilliant as trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

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  1. Posted by Why? on

    Will anyone be exploring the question of whether “Inuit traditional knowledge and traditional economies” actually contributes to poverty?

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    • Posted by Inuk on

      You answer your own question, what traditional knowledge is. No idea about Inuit tradition, so new for you, what Joe is saying, when qablinaat arrived on this side of the world, they did not bring with them policies, but after many year policies were drafted but before that, they trap, hunt, like everybody else and lived normatic life, not weight down by laws . Now, I are now in the same situation

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    • Posted by oh ima on

      don’t try to deflect the question of poverty. We all know poverty is caused by systemic racism towards Inuit, lack of economic and employment opportunities, and a poor education system that continues to prolong poverty.

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      • Posted by I know you Oh Ima on

        You’re wrong Johnny, poverty is not caused by anything, it’s our natural state in the world. Wealth, on the other hand, is “caused” (created).

        You are consistent in your blaming, I’ll give you that… everything is always someone else’s fault with you. You haven’t changed a bit.

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        • Posted by oh ima on

          cause nothing has changed I don’t blame anyone I see what is happening in Nunavut and if things really change then things will improve for Inuit. We all know settlers come here for jobs and have no idea of the issues facing Inuit in Nunavut cause they haven’t lived it or try to understand their situation. don’t try to silence me by calling me by name Kutabkintay .

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      • Posted by Clown Car on

        oh ima, tell us all about the 100k a year job you used to have in Rankin? The one you mentioned in a previous thread. Was it “systemic racism” that gave you that? What a joke.

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        • Posted by oh ima on

          I am not talking about myself I experienced it, I am talking about 30% of Inuit children going to school hungry.

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          • Posted by Clown Car on

            Changing the topic doesn’t make you look more serious bud.

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      • Posted by Why? on

        From my perspective people spending all day and their cash on guns gas and snowmobiles rather than time and money on education and training is the reason many Inuit are in poverty: traditional priorities are not necessarily the best ones. Hunting is a recreational hobby in 2022 and anyone thinking it is a career is asking for taxpayers to prop them up.

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        • Posted by Putting this out there on

          I disagree with this, hunting is a very important way to feed a family and to also provide important mental health support for many hurting people. Though you are right that a family can not survive with growth on hunting alone.
          I think the solution is that if you chose to have a full-time hunter in your family then you also need atleast one person that is providing the other 75% of the food and keeping the lights and heat on. And this is very doable. The hunter will be able to bring in pay as well at time with thier harvest however that will not be enough on its own.
          Kinda like artist, unless you are the best it is very hard to live off it. but that does not mean it is not important.

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          • Posted by What I See on

            Don’t many families function like this already? I can’t tell you the number of people I know where there is a male who isn’t part of the cash economy but is a hunter, and his female partner has the cash job with the GN or feds.

            The women are carrying a lot more than 75% in that sort of partnership though.

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        • Posted by UpHere on

          Inuit population has quadrupled in the last 50 years, and long range rifles and ATV’s and snowmobiles are everywhere leading to massive declines of caribou herds. Restrictions are there to limit over hunting caused by too many hunters with too much technology wiping out wildlife.

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Nonsensical post. It is far too easy and facile to blame the shortcomings in Inuit society on systemic racism.

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  2. Posted by Paradigm Shift on

    “How can traditional economies lift Inuit out of poverty?”

    Perhaps the answer is, they can’t.

    Traditional economies were small scale, limited in technical development and diversity and built around subsistence.
    Has the traditional economy of Inuit ever lead to more than a limited and ephemeral kind of prosperity? I doubt it has, and certainly not the kind Karetak is interested in.

    Poverty is the natural state for humans, wealth must be created. If you want wealth then study the means by which those who possess it came to do so. You may need to shift your paradigm to get there.

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    • Posted by oh ima on

      our family shares the catch with others, if one of my siblings catches animals and they go on Facebook saying there is meat available for free. I am pretty sure this is done in other communities but not supported by all levels of government as most of the bureaucrats are settlers that have no connections to the communities. So they don’t think about it.

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      • Posted by NUNAVIMIUK on

        In my clan, we all work . it is money that drives the economy.

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      • Posted by Paradigm Shift on

        The discussion about alleviating poverty seems to be speaking to a much larger level than this though. Of course sharing with community members is a good practice that undoubtedly mitigates suffering and want, but it’s also not a long term strategy for eliminating poverty or wealth creation, which I take to be the main point of all this.

        Here’s a question for you. I often see you complaining about the deficiencies of ‘outsiders’ whom you call settlers (curious why you call them by a name they have not chosen for themselves’?). Is it possible for you to imagine that some of those people might know a lot more than you think about issues around development and wealth creation (among others things)?

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  3. Posted by sealmeat on

    Look to Greenland, where country food is sold alongside imported meats from Denmark. Nunavut hunters/gatherers would need to sell their catch /harvest to a central buyer, who, in turn, sells it to grocery stores. You do need some rules and not a free-for-all approach, as Joe thinks; food safety being one of them.

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    • Posted by I’m not a robot on

      This is good and it would be nice to see more of this locally, though in some communities we do see country food in our grocery stores.

      But, this is this enough to raise the population out of ‘poverty’?

      I don’t think it is

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    • Posted by UpHere on

      Greenland hunters are not allowed to use snowmobiles or ATVs and must use traditional walking to get a harvest out. There are strict limits on harvesting in Greenland because too many Inuit using modern technology led to entire herds and pods wiped out by fast machines, and long range rifles.

  4. Posted by Oh? on

    “It’s not possible to be just a hunter and have it like a job.”

    …you don’t say?

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  5. Posted by No Moniker on

    Joe Karetak, an Inuit Qaujimajatuqangnit researcher, is arguing that restrictions on the management of animals should be lifted so Inuit can imitate the early stages of Western civilization, before the need for regulation was ‘realized’  a key word here.

    Let’s pause to consider the implications of a statement like this, because they are profound.

    Karetak appears to admit, whether he realizes it or not, that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangnit. has no way of addressing issues of economic development, that it has no solutions that satisfactory address the need (or, is it only the desire?) for greater material wealth.

    This is not a ‘gotcha’ moment for IQ, but it is a statement on the unrealistic, quasi-mystical expectations that have been placed on it as a body of ideas. IQ successfully addresses many things; can we finally admit it also has limitations? Joe Karetak has…

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    • Posted by Hocus Pocus on

      I would love to hear more about his research. Is any of his work published or peer-reviewed? I can’t seem to find his work on any of the scholarly journals.

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      • Posted by No Moniker on

        He is co-editor and contributor to ‘Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: What Inuit Have Always Known to Be True.’ Which is a good book if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I haven’t found any info on published research however.

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      • Posted by Writings on

        He has been author or co-author of a number of works, but none of them would be considered research-based or peer-reviewed.

  6. Posted by Northern Guy on

    The short answer to the question posed by the article is that the traditional economy will NEVER be able to lift Inuit out of poverty. The traditional economy can alleviate many of the immediate health issues related to food insecurity however it will never be able to generate the wealth necessary to ensure that all Inuit are appropriately housed, educated and employed.

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    • Posted by Dave on

      This is how I read this.

      I read an article recently about a Prince Edward Island advocacy group for the poor and one of their recommendations was that all unemployed and underemployed be “guaranteed” a government job with benefits. Emphasis on the word “all”.

      I suspect the philosophies behind the PEI idea and supporting hunters economically are quite similar. The only way to lift people out of poverty is with money. You can provide every man with every toy and tool he needs to hunt free of charge. Poverty is still their reality.

      I think the end game here is a full time pay cheque for part time hunting. Really, how can anyone believe that wild game is the answer today. The population of Nunavut is now far too high. There is clearly something not being said here.

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  7. Posted by Journalism for Trolls on

    While this discussion is centered on the idea that a traditional might “lift Inuit out of poverty” the workshop is about how “traditional economies can help ease this struggle.”

    There is a qualitative difference here, or simply put, these are not the same thing.

    Once again, NN trolls us all. Prioritizing engagement is the business model after all. Don’t forget it.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      As I said earlier the traditional economy can do a great deal to alleviate the symptoms of poverty. Especially the not so new idea of creating a class of professional hunters who would be paid to hunt and then obligated to share their catch with the wider community.

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      • Posted by H2O on

        Interesting idea.

        Shouldn’t they sell their catch too? At market price (whatever that may be)? Otherwise who will fund them?

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  8. Posted by Licencedtokill on

    All of this going on meanwhile NWT gov has a no nut on wolves for 1200$ but our gov of none of it offers a measly 300$ !! And now if you shoot a caribou in our kitikmeot region and collect a sample – boom ! 350$ to kill a caribou ! On top of that you can share all of the harvest get a family member to grab another tag and sample kit and boom! -another $350 bucks. Shouldn’t the wolves have a higher bounty ? Hey government of Nunavut are you listening to this Hunter ? Likewise.
    We remain NWT all of this nonsense would be happening.

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  9. Posted by Nunavutmiut on

    There is always emphases on hunters, traditionally a male role. What about programs and support or event “brainstorming” ideas on investing in Inuit women? I’ve seen a lot of positive hype on Inuit women who sale their art and their sewing abilities. Maybe apart of tackling poverty is investing in the traditional role Inuit women played. Food for though

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