Use of and Preference for Traditional Foods among the Belcher Island Inuit

  • Eleanor E. Wein
  • Milton M.R. Freeman
  • Jeanette C. Makus
Keywords: traditional foods, food preferences, Belcher Island Inuit, Sanikiluaq


To document the extent of use of traditional foods (marine and land mammals, birds, fish, and plants) and degree of preference for these foods in contemporary diets and culture, 102 households (98% of Inuit households) in the community of Sanikiluaq, Northwest Territories, Canada, were studied. During personal interviews, individuals estimated their frequency of use of traditional foods, systematically by season. In addition, 100 adults (from 96% of households) and 64 young people (84% of those in Grades 6-11) rated 41 foods (32 traditional and 9 market foods) for preference on a 5-point hedonic scale. According to respondents' estimates, traditional foods were used by all households, on average 1171±852 times annually. Fish and shellfish were most frequently consumed (523±490 times annually), followed by birds (254±204), sea mammals (184±161), berries (166±115), and land mammals (45±70). Preference ratings showed that most traditional foods were well-liked by both adults and young people, although adults rated 25 traditional foods higher (p<0.01) and 2 market foods lower (p<0.01) than young people did. Traditional foods remain an important part of contemporary Sanikiluaq lifestyle.