Qikiqtani Inuit youth, organizations explore future of food in Nunavut

Qikiqtaaluk Business Development Corp. hosts Niriqatigiit food sovereignty roundtable

Pierre Wolfe, a hunter and small business owner, did a presentation on smoking fish at the Niriqatigiit roundtable on food sovereignty. His business caters food, and the fish at the presentation were caught by his kids. (Photo by Malaya Qaunirq-Chapman)

By Meral Jamal

Local youth, hunters and trappers associations and small businesses from the Qikiqtani region discussed the future of food in the territory this week. 

Nunavummiut from 13 communities participated in the Niriqatigiit food sovereignty roundtable in Iqaluit, examining the challenges involved in accessing food in the High Arctic, as well as possible solutions.

The Qikiqtani region spans Nunavut’s most northerly regions, including communities such as Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord, Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. The event ran Tuesday to Thursday and was hosted by the Qikiqtaaluk Business Development Corp.

Over the course of the Niriqatigiit food sovereignty roundtable, participants discussed the need for local infrastructure, building community capacity through training, and making use of new technologies such as freezers and processing facilities. (Photo by Malaya Qaunirq-Chapman)

Sheldon Nimchuk, the director for project development and partnerships at the corporation, said participants discussed the need for more and better local infrastructure, building community capacity through training, and making use of new technologies such as freezers and processing facilities. 

“From the perspective of traditional harvesting and sharing with the communities, it became apparent and is relatively well known that there’s a lack of infrastructure to support the storage and distribution of country food,” Nimchuk said.

“That is particularly related to community freezers and the conditions that many of the freezers in the communities find themselves in: not having a useful life going forward … and the cost of maintenance.”

Those attending also brainstormed potential solutions and heard from local organizations and small businesses that are already addressing food sovereignty. One example that stood out for Nimchuk is Sedna’s Lair, an Iqaluit-based food business. 

“[Sedna’s Lair] is finding opportunities to use local harvests and channelling fair wages to the hunters to help support their business, and having an opportunity to think outside the box and to look at producing small-scale canning and bottling their own particular recipes,” he said. 

“I think it was a very insightful and a very practical look at small business opportunities and value-added opportunities that provide living wages to the harvesters.” 

While the roundtable came to a close Sept. 1, Nimchuk said Qikiqtaaluk Business Development Corp. is working now on surveying the needs of every community in the region and looking into funding small-scale canning and bottling companies that can work with local businesses to improve the storage and use of food in Qikiqtani communities.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Inuit on

    Why is Nunatsiaq News not interviewing and quoting Inuit in this article? Pierre Wolf and Sheldon Nimchuck aren’t Inuit. Photo shows Inuit attended because they are sitting at the tables. Do better NN.

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  2. Posted by Taxpayer on

    In 1941, the Federal government counted 7,700 Inuit in the central Arctic which is now Nunavut. Inuit at that time had complete food sovereignty because Inuit lived almost exclusively off of the land, and the number of Inuit was aligned with how much food was available. Today, the amount of available food has both declined (caribou), and increased (turbot and shellfish). More importantly, the amount of Inuit is now over 5 times as much as in 1941. There needs to be some realization that food sovereignty is actually unsustainable and theoretically impossible given how many mouths we now have to feed. As good as it is to maximize the use of local foods, this will not eliminate hunger in Nunavut unless a great many Inuit move away, which no one should want. The alternative is to accept that we are a food importing jurisdiction, and align ourselves to ensure Inuit can afford food from elsewhere. That means more jobs, not more harvesting.

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    • Posted by Food Security on

      Interesting points, to me it seems the more useful concept here is Food Security.

      Food Sovereignty addresses the right to eat culturally appropriate food, which is a self-evident and uninteresting point unless it includes a serious discussion on the obvious constraints imposed by ecological capacity.

      A second point in the Food Sovereignty framework is the right for people to “define their own food and agriculture systems.”

      Clearly, we have a mixed economy for food. Within a limited scale it might make sense to talk about “our own systems” but beyond a certain point the focus on ‘sovereignty’ also seems to raise a lot of distracting noise and wasted attention.

      As for the article, improving capacities for food storage and processing are good things that contribute to Food Security. Interesting these age old practices are referred to as ‘thinking outside the box’ though.

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