Traditional knowledge needs to be front and centre of plans to expand Mary River iron mine, says QIA study
“This study fills a part of the gap in Inuit perspectives”
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. needs to improve its consideration of the impacts of its Mary River project on Inuit culture, land and marine use, says a new study from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
The study, released in a report called Tusaqtavut, looks at ways of better incorporating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or IQ, in Baffinland’s phase-two application to expand its Mary River iron mine on northern Baffin Island.
Eva Aariak, QIA’s chief negotiator for its Inuit impact and benefits agreement with Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. and a former Nunavut premier, presented the report during the first day of a three-day technical meeting held by the Nunavut Impact Review Board in Iqaluit this week.
The study was carried out after QIA determined Baffinland’s addendum to its final environmental impact statement may not have adequately considered IQ, Aariak said.
The study, done by QIA and the Vancouver-based Firelight Research Inc., is based on 54 interviews with 35 residents of Pond Inlet in February and April 2019.
In the presentation, Aariak said the current state of IQ incorporation in the project is self-directed and controlled by Baffinland.
“This study fills a part of the gap in Inuit perspectives,” Aariak said.
In the study, QIA looked at digital mapping of IQ uses and values in the project site and Inuit perspectives on the role the project has played in causing changes in that area.
“The site-specific data show that the project is situated in an area that is highly valued and has been used by Inuit for generations,” the report states.
But the study was limited because it only represented a small portion of Inuit perspectives, Aariak noted. A second study from QIA is currently being conducted in Hall Beach and Igloolik.
Study participants identified a set of what QIA calls valued components, relating to Inuit knowledge that have been affected or continue to be affected by Baffinland’s Mary River expansion project.
The valued components are:
- Marine hunting
- Terrestrial hunting
- Fishing and freshwater
- Travel, trails and habitation
- Cultural continuity
Participants at Monday’s technical meeting, which included representatives from Pond Inlet, Igloolik, the Government of Nunavut, federal department representatives and more, held a discussion following Aariak’s presentation.
“IQ is a way of life for Inuit. It’s from the beginning to the end,” said Merlyn Recinos, Igloolik’s economic development officer.
Recinos criticized Baffinland’s reporting structure when consulting with Inuit. He said although Inuit are included in the work that goes into reports, they are often excluded from the actual writing of the report.
“IQ should be included even if it’s hard…. We talk about IQ in these meetings as if it is static. It’s not static…. It’s a way of life. It had to be included because it’s affecting the fundamental life,” Recinos said.
Baffinland said it will thoroughly review the Tusaqtavut study and will meet with QIA later this week to discuss the report further.
The meetings, which are open to the public, wrap up around noon on Wednesday, June 19, at Iqaluit’s Cadet Hall.
We hear it said often that IQ needs to be included in policy making, planning and programming in Nunavut. I would like to know more about what IQ and traditional knowledge mean in this context, it seems little explanation is ever given.
First off, this is a serious question, I am not being cynical. The title of this piece says “Traditional Knowledge needs to be front and center”… We see articles now and then where someone stands up and demands more IQ or traditional knowledge be added to this or that (a distinction between the two is never made, if there is a distinction at all). To some people the answer to this might be clear, but it is not clear for everyone. Perhaps the media could take on the role of conveying this information to the public, what does IQ mean when Merlyn Recinos says it “is a way of life for Inuit. It’s from the beginning to the end”? Or, that IQ is “not static…. It’s a way of life. It had to be included because it’s affecting the fundamental life.” We all know the 8 principles from Aajiiqatigiinniq to Qanuqtuurniq and so on. But to me these don’t say much about the way it is being used or promoted at this meeting or in this article, or, how it is meant to be applied in this context. The link to the report leads to a dead end unfortunately. Maybe Nunatsiaq could post the whole report?
Iron ore is one of the most common minerals on the earth. The ore body at Mary River has a high consentrate of iron. So it is cheap to mill thus profitable. Arcelor Mittel is a international company based out of India they have a history of abandoning mines when the concentrate levels become low. Or strong arm tactics are used from unions or other stake holders to extract monies from them. Money and mining is their what they are all about . Unfortunately traditional kmowledge will mean nothing to them when push comes to shove. Just saying becareful what you wish for.
IQ is a purposefully vague concept, which is kept vague because this allows it to be applied liberally when and where it is useful to do so. On the one hand it is a cultural self defense mechanism, on the other it is a useful political tool. It can only remain useful as long as it can be shielded from any kind of critical analysis, which is accomplished by a veneer of sacredness and cultural purity that reach far back into antiquity, though the phrase ‘Inuit Quajimajatuqagit’ itself was only coined in the 1990s. In a very real way, IQ has become a form of moral coinage that allows one entry into an otherwise proscribed level of public discourse. In other words, one must pay homage to IQ as a way to enter the conversation, and one must maintain use throughout. Failure to do so will lead to exclusion or excommunication. Given the ritual and the unchallenged obscurity, along with the sense of the sacred we see here I would suggest that IQ has really assumed the form of a secular religion in Nunavut.
Very productive discussion.