Project 2a

Impact of Participation in the Wage Economy on Traditional Harvesting, Dietary Patterns, Social Networks and Social Economy structures in the Inuvialuit Settlement regions.

Project Completed, October, 2010

Summary 2011  - Wage Employment and Food Security

Project Summary

Completed Thesis: Food Security in Paulatuk, NT - Opportunities and Challenges of a Changing Community Economy.

Research Team

  1. Brenda Parlee, Department of Rural Economy, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
  2. Zoe Todd,  Masters Student, Department of Rural Economy, University of Alberta
  3. Debbie Gordon Ruben, Senior Administrative Officer, Hamlet of Paulatuk, Paulatuk, NT
  4. Bernice Elias, Resource Person,  Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee,  Inuvik, NT  X0E 0T0
  5. Bob Simpson, Chief Negotiator,  Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Inuvik, N.T. XOE OTO

For further information about this project contact:
Zoe Todd (email: or Brenda Parlee (email:


This study examines the influence of the wage economy on food security in Paulatuk, NT, and aims to illustrate:

a) how individuals are participating in the wage economy and traditional economy in Paulatuk, and in turn how this influences their ability to procure food from the land, as illustrated in Chapter 2; and
b) the impact of income on the ability of residents to procure food from the store and through the Food Mail program, as shown in Chapter 3.
The thesis aims to answer the question: "how does the wage economy affect the ability of individuals to procure food from the land and the store in Paulatuk, NT?" The influence of the wage economy on the traditional economy must be considered holistically, and store-bought and country foods must be considered as two equal parts of the food security equation in Paulatuk.


The research project will examine the qualitative and quantitative effects of the wage economy on the traditional economy in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The researcher(s) aim to make both practical and academic contributions by studying: How do different forms and patterns of employment influence the amount, value, and structure of time spent on the land; social networks utilized for harvesting, sharing and distributing country foods; and dietary patterns / health?  The research will be undertaken through interviews and surveys conducted in the communities of Paulatuk and Inuvik.  These case study communities were selected based on background research about the local traditional and wage economy and consultation with Inuvailuit organizations.  During March - May 2008, the researcher(s) aim to interview individuals in this mixed economy context using "number of days/nights spent on the land" as a criteria for describing participation rates in the traditional economy and employment status (part-time, full-time, seasonal, local/fly-in, rotational, other) to describe participation in the wage economy. Between 25 and 30 interviewees will be carried out; the researcher will seek participation in these interviews strategically to ensure representation in the above categories.  Although much research has been carried out with respect to the northern traditional economy, there are gaps in our understanding of how the structure and patterns of wage employment (particularly that associated with the oil and gas industry) alter "time spent on the land" and how such changes may influence diet and health. The researcher(s) anticipate making contributions to the interdisciplinary literature on the traditional economy, Aboriginal health and resource management.  As a contribution to SERNoCA, the work will improve our understanding of the interactions between the northern social economy and the formal (wage) economy in a region facing increasing resource development.


The project employed a community based research approach and involved consultation and collaboration with local research partners to develop a project that met community research needs. A case study community was selected based on consultation with regional and community partners. The project stems from a constructionist epistemology, and employs both survey research and ethnographic methodologies (Crotty 1998: 5) through the use of qualitative and quantitative methods, including semi-directed interviews, participant observations and the use of quantitative survey questions alongside open-ended interview questions to gather information regarding employment, harvesting, dietary patterns and social networks in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The project aimed to gather participants' perceptions of their experiences of employment, harvesting, and food security in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region to better understand the relationship between the wage economy and the traditional economy. Quantitative data was collected to elucidate relationships between harvesting, employment, dietary patterns and social networks in the community. Qualitative data was collected to help understand the nuances of these relationships and to better understand how these components are related.


While this research did not reveal any clear-cut relationships between wage employment and harvesting, it does illustrate the ways in which people operate within both these spheres, and suggests that the local community, territorial and federal governments should consider establishing guidelines for project proponents that address the wage economy and the traditional economy more holistically when planning employment opportunities in Paulatuk. Flexibility of employment, the importance of household relationships in shaping harvesting activity, the health and well-being benefits of harvesting, the gendered aspects of harvesting activity, the learning and knowledge of the land around Paulatuk that is gained through harvesting, and the role that the traditional economy plays in food security should all be considered when weighing how employment from a project such as a mine may impact the community.

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