Social Services, Support & Wellbeing in the Arctic Canada & Beyond (2020-22)

Publication Titles/Abstracts

American Review of Canadian Studies Special Edition: Indigenous Wellbeing in Arctic Canada and Beyond (forthcoming 2022)

While much academic literature has been concerned with the socioeconomic challenges facing Inuit in Arctic Canada, as well as northern Indigenous peoples internationally, the social and cultural supports, services, and community-based work occurring to address these challenges has received considerably less attention. Social service providers, community projects, Inuit youth, families, and Elders have provided countless hours of input to researchers, policy leaders, and organizations for how to better serve and support their communities. To honor these knowledges and contributions, this special issue will offer a place where Inuit and Indigenous insights are highlighted.

 

Charlene Aqpik Apok (Iñupiaq), Gender Justice and Healing Director, Native Movement, Anchorage, Alaska

“”Tracking Masculinity Through Indigenous Gender Constructs: Alaska Native Men’s Voices”

Alaska Native Men’s voices begins to make visible what it means to identify as an Indigenous male. Gendered experiences and relationships impact our communities in multi-faceted ways. This work examines cultural foundations of gendered relationships navigated by men in the Alaska Native community that are contributing to wellness. The complexity and diversity of Indigenous masculinities cannot be homogenized or made into one definition. The findings draw parallels across diverse experiences in order to better understand how these identities fit into creating balanced and harmonious gender relations in Indigenous communities today that can be drawn upon for future generations.

 

Gail Baikie (Inuk), Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

“Inuit Women: Claiming Our Place in Natural Resource Development”

There is pressure to develop natural resources in the Arctic (e.g., hydroelectric power, gas, mining). Despite assurances of local benefits, Inuit report impacts on culture and well-being in part associated with their displacement from the land and as a result of direct impacts on the community. Family and community life is also disrupted by employment in resource extraction industries. Inuit women are key to mitigating and addressing these socio-cultural challenges. The necessity of organizing local women is exemplified. Using a gendered and intersectional lens, women in Labrador engaged in a creative research and action process that amplified their voices regarding their concerns over the development of a hydro-electric dam and enabled their participation in influencing change.

 

Emma Elliot-Groves (Cowichan), Assistant Professor, Department of Learning Sciences and Human Development, College of Education, University of Washington

“The Interdependent Theory of Suicide: An Interdependent and Relational Framework for Understanding Indigenous Suicide”

Indigenous populations in settler-colonial states are placed at a greater risk for social and psychological despair because of the disruption to Indigenous systems of relationality. This paper presents the Interdependent Theory of Suicidal Behavior, which theorizes Indigenous suicidal behavior in relation to social, cultural, historical, and political factors. This paper utilizes a systematic literature review across disciplines in three areas of suicide research: belongingness, purpose, and violence to illuminate a theoretical understanding of Indigenous suicide grounded in Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies, and axiologies.

 

Nathalie Boucher, Anthropologist, Respire

Ariane Benoit, Postdoctoral fellow, Laval University

Christopher Fletcher, Professor, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec

Mathilde Lapointe, Research assistant, research centre of the Centre Hospitalier universitaire de Québec (CHUQ) and for the Research Chair on Relations with Inuit Societies (Sentinelle Nord, Université Laval)

“The Puzzle of ‘Community’ in the Development of a Community-based Population Health Research Project with Inuit in Southern Québec”

It is widely accepted that to undertake research on Indigenous health research is to work with the community in ways that engage meaningful, thoughtful and equal relations. While this is a laudable and just approach to research, in application, the concept of community can prove difficult to define and operationalize. This paper explores the changing understanding of community through the discussions we have been having over the course of the Qanuikkat Siqinirmiut project. There are several dimensions of this discourse: One is the nature of the research relationship with the Southern Québec Inuit Association, the QS project community partner and knowledge user. Another is in the discourses of Inuit interviewed during the qualitative phase of the research undertaken in year 1 of our five-year project. A third is as a meaningful object of scientific interest. In each case we find the nature and extent of community difficult to define and visualise. Ultimately, we question and explore the nature of what we have come to think of as “slippery” relationships like research partnerships when the basic building block of the partnership is an elusive and shifting idea.

 

Wanda Gabriel, Assistant Professor, Director, Indigenous Access McGill, McGill School of Social Work, Montréal, Québec

“Walking the Decolonization Talk: Reckoning with the Past, Working with the Present, and Reimaging the Future of Social Work Education in Nunavik”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls for closing education gaps between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Canadians as part of the real work of reconciliation. In Nunavik’s 14 communities, there are only two Inuit social workers. Addressing this gap is complex, requiring trust-building between educational institutions and First Peoples communities. Building trust is extraordinarily difficult given ongoing colonial policies and institutional structures that disregard Indigenous experience. Drawing on research in Nunavik, this article explores the history of social welfare for Nunavimmiut and relevancy of educating Inuit social workers in “Southern” contexts, and proposes a model for creating an Inuit-grounded BSW delivered in Nunavik.

 

Ezra Greene, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia

“’More than a Needle and Thread Thing’: Learning and Healing in Community-based Educational Programs”

Community-based educational programs coordinated and run by local community members, Inuit organizations, and non-profit organizations are periodically offered in Kivalliq communities. Based on interviews with facilitators of these programs and program participants, this paper explores how these programs offer opportunities for Inuit knowledge generation and transmission. They potentially help address challenges that some Inuit face in learning through family-based education systems. Beyond their educational value, these programs have been described as important for mental and physical health and for community cohesion. These benefits are explored as well as some of the potential drawbacks of this form of knowledge transmission.

 

Joshua Griffin, Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and Department of American Indian Studies, University of Washington

“The Labor of Resilience: Hunter-led Search and Rescue as ‘Social Service’ in Iñupiaq Alaska”

In a rapidly changing climate, hunters’ organizations have an increased and vital role to play in supporting community resilience and food sovereignty within diverse Arctic Indigenous communities. Drawing on a multi-year collaboration in between Kivalina Volunteer Search and Rescue, the City of Kivalina, and the University of Washington polar science community, this paper addresses the contributions of hunter-led organizations to collective wellbeing and theorizes the caring labor provided by such organizations as a critical social service.

 

Nicole Ives, Associate Professor, Co-Founder, Indigenous Access McGill, McGill School of Social Work, Montréal, Québec

“Walking the Decolonization Talk: Reckoning with the Past, Working with the Present, and Reimaging the Future of Social Work Education in Nunavik”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls for closing education gaps between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Canadians as part of the real work of reconciliation. In Nunavik’s 14 communities, there are only two Inuit social workers. Addressing this gap is complex, requiring trust-building between educational institutions and First Peoples communities. Building trust is extraordinarily difficult given ongoing colonial policies and institutional structures that disregard Indigenous experience. Drawing on research in Nunavik, this article explores the history of social welfare for Nunavimmiut and relevancy of educating Inuit social workers in “Southern” contexts, and proposes a model for creating an Inuit-grounded BSW delivered in Nunavik.

 

Patricia Johnston, Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, Seattle

“Time for Change: An Inuit Approach to Child and Family Wellness in Nunavut”

Drawing on research with Inuit mothers from Arviat, Nunavut, this article explores child welfare social services in Nunavut territory, Canada. Since its inception in the 1950s, the state’s approach to child welfare has always been at odds with Inuit culture. This paper highlights Inuit resistance to the existing approach to child welfare. It also provides insights from Inuit mothers for the creation of Inuit-led culturally-centered approach to child and family wellness and lays out the basic territorial changes required in Nunavut territory for that to happen.

 

Amanda Metivier, MSW, Associate Director, Office of Youth Empowerment and Education and Training Voucher Program, Child Welfare Academy, Anchorage, Alaska

“An Indigenous Connectedness Framework for Relational Healing within Alaska Native Child Welfare”

This paper presents research findings from a dissertation study that involved interviews with 25 Alaska Native knowledge bearers from the Alaska child welfare system. The focus was to learn more about the key concepts and mechanisms of child wellbeing using direct content analysis and Indigenous storying methods. The results built upon and expanded a developed Indigenous Connectedness Framework that help explain the importance of relational wounding, relational continuity and relational healing.

 

Marika Morris, Adjunct Research Professor, School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa

“The Inadequacy of Mainstream Health Promotion Efforts for Inuit: A Case Study of Mainstream versus Inuit-specific Tobacco Use Needs, Prevention and Quit Smoking Resources”

In Canada, mainstream resources to quit smoking tend to focus on the benefits to individual health, and are most often offered in English or French. Individuals are assumed to care enough about their health to quit, and to have no problem accessing services, resources and support such as quit lines staffed by motivational coaches. As such, the smoking rate for Canadians in general has declined from about 60% in 1965 to 15% in 2017. However, Inuit smoking rates remain very high at 52%. This article discusses what was learned from consultations funded by the Canadian Cancer Society across the Arctic and in urban areas of Canada where many Inuit live. Mainstream approaches do not take into account that some Inuit smoke as an appetite suppressant in the context of high rates of food insecurity, and that in some areas chewing tobacco is given to children. Mainstream approaches do not deal with the effects of colonization, collective trauma and socioeconomic challenges, which contribute to high levels of stress for which tobacco is used for relief. Mainstream approaches do not take into account that some Inuit may have different priorities than caring for their long-term health, such as immediate survival, caring for others and dealing with thoughts of suicide. This study documents emerging Inuit-specific approaches to preventing (further) tobacco use, which focuses on the health benefits on others of quitting smoking and on peer support within the community.

 

Tram Nguyen, Frederick Banting and Charles Best Postdoctoral Fellow, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, School of Epidemiology and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa

“Sparking Conversations around the Need for Community-based Exercise Programs for Individuals Living with Stroke in Indigenous Communities of the Arctic”

Recent evidence suggests Indigenous people are at increased risk of stroke compared to all other racial and ethnic populations. The literature on stroke indicates that exercise improves mental function, mobility, walking ability, cardiovascular fitness, and quality of life for individuals living with stroke. The aim of this paper is to describe conversations from a collaborative think tank around the need for community-based exercise programs for individuals living with stroke in Indigenous communities of the Arctic.

 

Edmund Searles, Professor, Anthropology and Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bucknell University

“Promoting and Disrupting Inuit Culture: The Multifaceted Nature of Social Services in Nunavut”

In this essay, I explore how social service programs both promote and disrupt core Inuit values and traditions. While researching the outpost camp movement in southern Baffin Island in the mid-1990s, I learned that full-time hunting families relied extensively on government programs to support traditional family networks bound by the sharing and exchange of Inuit food. While researching a community food center in Iqaluit in 2017, I learned that social service programs also enable individual Inuit to exist outside the influence of those extended family networks that are so central to the health and wellness of contemporary Inuit identity and culture.

 

Jessica Saniguq (Iñupiaq), Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska

“An Indigenous Connectedness Framework for Relational Healing within Alaska Native Child Welfare”

This paper presents research findings from a dissertation study that involved interviews with 25 Alaska Native knowledge bearers from the Alaska child welfare system. The focus was to learn more about the key concepts and mechanisms of child wellbeing using direct content analysis and Indigenous storying methods. The results built upon and expanded a developed Indigenous Connectedness Framework that help explain the importance of relational wounding, relational continuity and relational healing.

 

Krista Zawadski, Ph.D. student, Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa

“Bringing Research Home”

Academic work on the “socioeconomic challenges facing Inuit” is often done by researchers who are not from Inuit communities. This inevitably creates a detachment from the lived lives of Inuit. This paper is critical of research that happens and ends up on paper with little benefit to communities. As an Inuk researcher whose work is centred in Indigenous research methodologies, I strongly feel that I have a responsibility in ensuring my research is for my community. One way I have approached this is to provide opportunities for Inuit to engage with museum and archaeological collections that have been disconnected from communities through colonial processes. I recount positive outcomes of these endeavours and relate how this work is part of Inuit practicing our already strong culture.