Swimming Against the Mainstream: The NWT Aquatics Program in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: social sciences, recreation, history, swimming

Principal Investigator: Giles, Audrey R. (17)
Licence Number: 14166
Organization: University of Ottawa
Licenced Year(s): 2007
Issued: Jun 01, 2007
Project Team: Ava Baker (Research Assistant , University of Ottawa)

Objective(s): To document the history of the NWT Aquatics Program in Tuktoyaktuk, expand understandings of Inuvialuit practices concerning water, examine whether a Shallow Water Pool Lifeguard certification is viable, and create documents and presentations that can help decrease water-related fatalities and physical inactivity.

Project Description: The objectives of this study are to (a) document the history of the NWT Aquatics Program in Tuktoyaktuk (b) expand understandings of Inuvialuit practices concerning water, (c) examine whether a Shallow Water Pool Lifeguard certification is viable (d) the creation of both documents and presentations that can provide decrease water-related fatalities and physical inactivity.

Since its inception in 1967, the NWT Aquatics Program has brought aquatic leaders from southern Canada to Canada’s north to teach northern residents the importance of southern-based understandings of physical activity and water safety. In an effort to decrease high drowning rates, seasonal shallow water swimming pools were built inside NWT curling rinks and skating arenas, and waterfront areas were designated. Nevertheless, the storied past of the NWT Aquatics Program which, at its peak, operated in thirty-one NWT communities, has escaped academic scrutiny and remains relatively unknown. Hence, an examination of the NWT Aquatics
Program is required not only so other programs can learn from its successes in terms of encouraging young northerners to be physically active in and safe around water, but also to address the program’s shortcomings. Indeed, after almost forty years of costly aquatics programming, the NWT continue to have one of the highest drowning rates in Canada, and very few northern residents working as aquatic leaders. This research project will use semi-structured interviews and archival research to gain understanding into the role that Inuvialuit cultural knowledge can play in enhancing water safety and physical fitness in aquatic settings.

Commercial air travel will be used to go to Tuktoyaktuk. While there, travel by foot and private vehicle will be used. It is anticipated that Ava Baker will be in Tuktoyaktuk from May, 2007 until August, 2007. The method of data collection will be semi-structured interviews. Ava Baker will conduct interviews with a locally employed interpreter if necessary. Interviews will be recorded on audio cassette, transcribed, and returned to the interviewee for verification. It is anticipated that Ava Baker will interview 20 human participants.
The Principal Investigator will create a plain language, bi-monthly newsletter that will keep community members abreast of research developments. In addition, articles about the research project will be submitted to regional and territorial newspapers (e.g., the Drum, News/North) at least twice during the calendar year. The researcher will also return to Tuktoyaktuk to make a presentation to the community as well as to students at the local schools. The community will also receive copies of all publications pertaining to and developed from the program of research. They will also be invited to ask for the development of a community resource pertaining to the research that will be of value to the community. In the principal investigator’s doctoral research, communities opted for the creation of a photo album which proved to be extremely popular with community members, and she anticipates that it will be received in a similar fashion for the research project proposed herein.

Rich possibilities exist for local involvement in and benefits from this research project. All participants in this study will be given the opportunity to enrich the general public’s knowledge of the history of the NWT Aquatics Program in their community, as well as aquatic practices pre-dating the Program. As a result, participation in this study will help to foster the development of a more accurate and complete rendering of historical, sociological, and anthropological records. In terms of educational benefits, exposure to community based research may stimulate interest in research in general, perhaps encouraging students in the community to pursue post-secondary education. Employment opportunities will exist for individuals who are able act as translators at interviews and also as research assistant. These employment opportunities will be of benefit to the local economy, as will the financial resources Ava Baker expends while staying in the community for a period of several months.

Fieldwork will be conducted from June 01 to August 31, 2007 at Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.