Project 11

The Creation of a Galleria of Arctic Cooperatives

Northern Coops Galleria Project: presentation by Jen Alsop and Ian MacPherson at the 2010 Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation (CASC) held in Montreal June 1-4, 2010.  Click on this link to access the powerpoint presentation.

Updated information for the project is posted at

Northern Co-operative Galleria

Research Topic Full Title: The Northern Co-operative Galleria
Creator - Author(s) Name and Title(s):  Jen Alsop, SERNNoCA researcher
Date:  Friday, January 1, 2010
Coverage:  Northern Canada

Introduction to the Northern Co-operative Galleria Project

In the late 1950s to early 1970s, then-titled Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) pursued a policy of co-operative development in the newly settled, predominantly Inuit and First Nation communities of the Northwest Territories. Today, the majority of these community-based co-operatives are thriving, through the continued support of Arctic Co-operatives Limited (ACL), the main umbrella co-operative providing a number of financial services, and support to all community-based co-operatives in the system.  Northern community co-operatives continue to supply much-needed goods and services to communities, ensuring that profits remain in the communities, all the while providing a venue for local people to become involved in the economic development planning of their communities.  Across NWT and Nunavut, over 800 people are employed in community-based co-operatives. They remain one of the largest private-sector employers in the north. The history, development and continued sustainability of the northern co-operative system, is a fascinating example of the resiliency of the people residing the Canada's northern territories, to make ends meet in an isolated, and demanding environmental climate. Most would live their lives no other way, feeling an inextricable connection to the beauty and harshness of the windswept tundra that they call home.





Types of services provided by northern community-based co-operatives:

  • Retail,
  • Hotel,
  • Cable,
  • Post-office,
  • Fuel distribution,
  • Big ticket (yamaha),
  • Arts and crafts,
  • Restaurant,
  • Heavy equipment,
  • Property rentals,
  • Other rentals,
  • Freight contracts,
  • Airline comm.,
  • NTPC contract,
  • HTA Nunavut,
  • Other contracts,
  • Calling cards,
  • Convenience store.


Field-work was undertaken at the headquarters for Arctic Co-operatives Ltd, January 2010, in Winnipeg. Interviews with current and former ACL staff were made, and an extensive document/ literature search was conducted of ACL's files.  In addition, a relevant literature search was undertaken at the Indian and Northern Affairs library, as well as at the headquarters of the Canadian Co-operative Association, in Ottawa. 


Information gathered through interview and literature/document reviews pertains to individual community co-operatives in the Arctic. In particular, information with regards to both the history of the co-op and the community; biographies of key individuals and the nature of their contributions to the co-op in question; a time-line of key historical events in the community and a bibliography of literature on each community are included. 

Community Co-operatives

Over the next several months, write-ups on the following northern community-based co-operatives will be added:

  • Great Bear Co-op Association, Deline NWT
  • Holman Eskimo Co-operative, Ulukhaktok, NWT
  • Igloolik Co-operative Ltd, Igloolik NU
  • Ikaluktutiak Co-operative Ltd, Cambridge Bay, NU
  • Issatik Eskimo Co-operative, Whale Cove, NN
  • Kapami Co-operative Association, Colville Lake, NWT
  • Qikiqtaq Co-operative Association, Gjoa Haven, NU
  • Sanavik Co-operative Association, Baker Lake, NU
  • Tetlit Service Co-operative Ltd, Fort McPherson, NWT
  • Tununiq Sauniq Co-operative Ltd, Pond Inlet, NU
  • West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, Cape Dorset, NU
  • Kimik Co-operative Ltd, Kimmirut, NU
  • Kissarvik Co-operative Association, Rankin Inlet, NU
  • Koomiut Co-operative Association, Kugaaruk, NU
  • Mitiq Co-operative Association, Sanikiluaq, NU
  • Naujat Co-operative, Repulse Bay, NU
  • Yellowknife Direct Charge Co-operative, Yellowknife, NWT




History of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Co-operative  WORKING PAPER (DRAFT) May 1st, 2010
available at
The History of Baker Lake (Sanavik) Co-operative  WORKING PAPER (DRAFT)  May 1st, 2010
available at

Research Team
Ian MacPherson, Canadian Social Economy Hub,  University of Victoria
Jennifer Alsop, Student researcher, Carleton University
Mary Nirlungayuk, Arctic Cooperatives

Timeframe:  January 2010 to July 2010

Project Description
The intention of this work is to create a Galleria to provide an introduction and historical account of the Arctic Co-operatives similar to the Co-operative Galleria developed by the British Columbia Institute for Co-operative Studies (BCICS) for co-operatives in British Columbia (details of this at In the North much of the history of the Arctic Cooperative development is unknown with little research done to provide an understanding of their development and operations. This project like the BC Cooperative Galleria will have a primary aim to provide a comprehensive introduction to the Arctic Cooperatives in the Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. 


  1. To provide systematic, comparable accounts of the development of Arctic co-operatives
  2. To demonstrate the roles co-operatives have played and are playing in the Canadian Arctic
  3. To encourage local co-operatives to prepare historical accounts of their development
  4. To provide resources for educational institutions and policy makers in the North and elsewhere.
  5. To inform young people about the nature of the co-operative in their community
  6. To honour people in the community who have made important contributions to the co-op.

The Project Officer (PO), a researcher, under the direction of the SE Hub and SERNNoCa will work with local leaders and members through the Arctic Co-operatives network to produce short summaries of the history and current situation for all the Arctic co-operatives that agreed to participate. Working with the local co-ops, the PO would prepare brief case studies aimed at collecting information on the history of the co-op: e.g., date of formation, key formative influences, key early leaders, philosophy of the co-op, important transitional events and dates, roles in communities, nature of current business activities, important successes, important challenges today, etc. The exact list of information to be sought would be developed through a consultative process, following approval for this project from territorial authorities. The case studies would be essentially descriptive through they hopefully would lead to deeper studies in the future. They would feature pictures, historical and contemporary.

The research will be undertaken by Jennifer Alsop, a Master student at Carleton University who has just completed a research study on the Arctic Cooperatives in Repulse Bay, Nunavut. This work will be done in collaboration with Mary Nirlungayuk at the Arctic Cooperatives head office facilities in Winnipeg, MB. The student will spend 3 weeks at this office reviewing and compiling the necessary information. to develop a detailed summary of the Arctic Cooperatives.

  • January - February 2010   literature review and research at the Arctic Cooperatives Limited office in  Winnipeg, MB
  • February - March, 2010 -  Work will be done at the University of Victoria including telephone Interviews/discussions with Arctic Cooperatives representatives in various communities
  • April 2010 -  Analysis and write up
  • May - June 2010 -  Final report and pages for website.

The student will participate in the Social Economy Student Network. This network provides opportunities to dialogue with other student researchers in similar areas of study. The student networks enables students, researchers and community practitioners an opportunity to connect with one another across geographic boundaries and academic disciplines and help students acquire and share research and related information that deals with aspects of the Social Economy. The network provides the student with tools such as academic and other research papers, a social economy bibliography, upcoming conferences and calls for papers, online seminars and lectures on the social economy, resources on conducting SE-based research, existing university and college courses and programs with a particular SE focus, employment opportunities or practicum�s and community based initiatives.
Research results for this project will be communicated to the academic community through submissions to refereed journals. The results of research will be made available on the SERNNoCa and Hub website.  Papers will be published in various academic journals 
Besides publication opportunities, the PO will be involved in the Social Economy Student Network.  This network serves primarily as a graduate level academic, information and education forum/portal on the Soc