Inuit Of The Arctic Essay

This essay was originally published by Northern Public Affairs, an independent, volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing diverse voices from across the North to analyze and comment on pressing public concerns.

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This is unlikely to happen as long as research assumptions about what counts as valid knowledge and scientific evidence remain unchanged ― the credibility gap will also remain in place, informing key issues like capacity-building.

For some, Inuit knowledge is traditional knowledge.

At best, it is seen as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), with a role to supplement and support scientific knowledge in the area of climate change and animal life, for example, or to serve in Inuit adaptation to biophysical changes that affect activities like hunting.

In Inuktun, Inuit traditional knowledge is Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), which “encompasses all aspects of traditional Inuit culture, including values, world-view, language, social organization, knowledge, life skills, perceptions, and expectations” (Anonymous, 1998: 1, qtd. The literal translation of IQ would be “Inuit way of doing things: the past, present, and future knowledge, experience and values of Inuit Society” (Awa & Tapardjuk, 2002: 4).

Bravo (2010) calls it “expert knowledge ― the knowledge of Inuit travellers, hunters, and researchers.

This knowledge is the product of centuries-old practical tradition of meticulous first-hand study by Indigenous experts” (445).What are the implications for policy-making and funding?Consider how the federal government works with the notion of evidence-based decision making.There is a fundamental difference between the wider Western understanding of traditional knowledge and IQ.The latter is a dynamic concept, with a whole worldview captured in a word; it is not a passive notion, but one that focuses on doing, on perceiving, and on learning as a community, and on the connection between past, present, and future as key to community and our relation to nature.Current governance of Arctic research speaks to this credibility gap and extends into policy-making in the North.I take research governance to include how knowledge is perceived, how research is done (i.e.Who decides on research and on what counts as evidence? If we want comprehensive, deep research and effective policy, with the goal to understand and change rather than represent and be complacent in the status quo, interpretation of data and its validation in policy-making need to support closing the credibility gap.Capacity-building, whether through research or through policy, would then become a two-way street, rather than a unidirectional exercise in knowledge application.I am not a fan of this term, as too often traditional is understood as something at the margins of our modern times.More importantly, in research it has been related to ensuring community cultural continuity, rather than providing valid scientific evidence.


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