Making Sense of Contaminants: A Case Study of Arviat, Nunavut


  • Martina Tyrrell



contaminants, environment, health, Inuit, marine mammals, Nunavut, research, risk


Inuit and scientists are increasingly aware of the presence of contaminants in the Arctic food web and of the threat these contaminants pose to human and environmental health and well-being. The varied ways that Inuit think about and react to contaminants in the foods they eat are explored in a case study of one Inuit community: Arviat, on the northwest coast of Hudson Bay. Reactions to contaminants are mixed. While Inuit are informed of scientific findings through a variety of media, they also have their own explanations for the changes that are taking place in the animals on which they rely. This study juxtaposes global cause and effect, as understood by the scientific community, and the local causes and effects of contamination as understood by Inuit. The Inuit of Arviat are incorporating contaminants research into their hunting practice and earning money by collecting tissue samples and hosting southern researchers. This typical Nunavut community demonstrates the heterogeneity of understanding that exists and the ways in which local people are turning something very negative to their advantage.