Cultural and Environmental History of Northern Food Hazards

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences

Principal Investigator: Piper, Liza (2)
Licence Number: 15937
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2016 2015
Issued: Jul 28, 2016

Objective(s): To understand what factors (social, cultural, economic, environmental) influenced choices about feeding infants in the Mackenzie Delta region between 1970 and the present and how these factors may have changed over time.

Project Description: This research seeks to understand whether concerns about environmental contamination or potentially hazardous food products (included imported foods) influenced women’s decisions about how to feed newborn infants after 1970. More broadly, the research team seek to understand what factors (social, cultural, economic, environmental) influenced choices about feeding infants in the Mackenzie Delta region between 1970 and the present and how these factors may have changed over time.

This research project includes a combination of archival, oral history, and community based research. A research assistant, Crystal Fraser, who is from the Mackenzie Delta region and has experience interviewing community members and will participate in this project.

First, the archival work involves identifying documentary materials held in the Northwest Territories Archives, Library and Archives Canada, and elsewhere that are relevant to understanding historical experiences of food hazards and contamination in the North as well as northern women’s experiences in the late twentieth century.

Second, the principal investigator and/or research assistant will reach out to community heritage organizations (including for instance the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute and the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre) to identify whether there are any existing oral history collections that might be relevant to the project. The research team will enter into research agreements with these institutions, as necessary, to work with relevant materials.

Third, the principal investigator and research assistant aim to identify 15-20 women, who cared for newborn infants between 1970 and the present in any of the four named communities, and who are interested in sharing their experiences about the choices they made in feeding those children. The research team will interview these women individually. The team will follow-up with the interviewees to ensure that they remain interested in participating in the research project, to share the research findings to date, and to ask any additional questions that might have emerged as the research develops. The team do not anticipate that follow-up interviews will be as intensive or time-consuming as the initial interviews.

The research team will prepare materials to share with the wider communities, including possibly poster presentations for display in local community halls or schools, articles or stories (which the team would aim to publish in community newspapers or magazines, and online), and radio interviews. Copies of all published research products will also be sent to local libraries and heritage organizations (including the Inuvik Centennial Library, the offices of the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute, and the Yellowknife Public Library).

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 23, 2016 to October 5, 2016.