Fieldcasts: Knut Kitching's audio field reports

As originally posted on

Fieldcast No. 1: Listen to the accompanying audio field report by Knut:

Wow, what an arrival! Mere hours after touching down in a cold and blustery -26C I am being shown how to light a qulliq (the traditional soapstone lamp which Inuit have used for centuries for light and heat), while Meeka Mike tells me how she makes the wicks from mosses and lichens and willow catkins all crushed together in a special mixture. Then later just when I think its time to head home for a quiet supper on my own, I am whisked off by Meeka and Peter to come and eat family dinner at the Mike household. And what a meal it is, Inuktitut is flowing past my ears as I eat narwhal muqtuq with soya sauce, fermented char, fresh shrimp, and my personal favourite raw seal with extra blood (makes you feel warm for weeks!). Country food is served on cardboard on the kitchen floor while on the table there is pasta and pizza for those who want some store-bought food. An amazing meal with a lovely family!

The Community Consultation on Baffin Island Caribou that happened here in Iqaluit on the 18th of January was a very interesting meeting to have attended. The tone of the discussion seemed to indicate a management institution still far from having made any decisions in any particular direction, and there has been as yet no rumours or preliminary discussion of a ballpark figure for Total Allowable Harvest for the South Baffin. From some angles this isn’t particularly surprising, the next aerial survey aimed at February and early March of this year aims to encompass the whole of Baffin Island in a single sweep, to provide an established figure and to double check the number achieved during the past couple of aerial surveys which were completed in 2012. Regardless all those in attendance were of the opinion that the document decline of more than 90% from 180,000 animals in the early 1990’s to less than 2000 today was of serious concern for all of the communities of Southern Baffin Island.

Iqaluit is a particularly unique and interesting community to spend time in and think about in relation to caribou harvesting for a variety of reasons. Iqaluit is by far the largest community in Nunavut with a population of roughly 7000 and is also the community with the largest ratio of Qallunaat to Inuit (roughly 40% to 60%, compared to most other communities which are more than 85% Inuit). Iqalummiut are also more often than not recent arrivals to the community. Relatively few families have been resident here for more than one generation, people migrating here for employment in industry or government posts from across the Arctic. These factors along with the cost of hunting and safety gear, the challenges of intergenerational knowledge transmission, available time and difficult travelling conditions, make this a challenging harvesting climate.

The following are a few snapshots from the last couple of days here in Iqaluit. They’ve been chilly days, averaging around -23ish without windchill, though there have been some windy days as well. Wind certainly makes a difference, and it becomes plain to see how it changes the way the snow lies on the land. After each blustery day there are new rocks and bare gravel exposed where the snow lies thin, and one can see how travel on the land would become hard. Good deep snow is important both for protecting the plants which are deep in their senescence period but also to allow travellers to use snowmobiles and komatiqs without rattling themselves to pieces.














Fieldcast No. 2: part field report, part podcast, by Knut Kitching.

I am reaching the end of my first full week in Iqaluit and what a busy week it has been! This week has been about regaining my feet here and re-establishing relationships and contacts with knowledge-holders and community members. I have been very fortunate in my time here to have had the opportunity to spend time with some very kind and generous Iqalummiut amongst whom Meeka Mike and her partner Peter have been central – qujanamiik to them both!

Learning doesn't just take place in an interview setting, with questions and answers from researcher and participant, but also as the simple and unstructured sharing of experiences as a part of conversation.

I spend a great deal of time worrying that my work does not progress fast enough (as I'm sure my committee does as well!), but here in Iqaluit that fades quickly away and I am able to enjoy the experience of learning from Iqalummiut. Learning doesn't just take place in an interview setting, with questions and answers from researcher and participant, but also as the simple and unstructured sharing of experiences as a part of conversation. It has been wonderful to learn more not just about caribou hunting, but also about politics, snow-mobiles, sewing and parka design and the ever-present spectre of high food costs.

I finally caught a glimpse of the aurora over town on Thursday evening. Like a vast green sheet it moved wisp-like, dancing across the sky south-west of Iqaluit. Certainly the clearest I've ever seen it.