Cracks in the knowledge: sea ice terms in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik

In the Canadian Arctic, where sea ice is a feature of purposeful and spiritual significance to the Inuit inhabitants, evidence suggests that traditional knowledge of the terms for sea ice is diminishing. This article presents the findings from fieldwork regarding the terms, and their definitions, that a group of Inuit from Kangiqsualujjuaq in Nunavik, Northern Quebec, use to describe sea ice. This case study, which explores their knowledge of sea ice phenomena, offers insights into the present state of Inuit knowledge of sea ice terminology in that community. Instruments used to elicit knowledge of and about sea ice terms are described in this article. Participant inclusion was based on gender and age groups, and an illustration was produced to demonstrate the disparity in sea ice knowledge across three generations of male and female hunters. It is suggested that future nomenclature studies of Inuit knowledge be based on the canvassing of all age brackets, if a realistic picture of the ways in which such knowledge is transmitted within and across generations is to be ascertained.
Keywords: sea ice; Inuit knowledge, knowledge transmission, generations, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Kangiqsualujjuamiut, Inuktitut
A graphic of various forms of sea ice known to the Kangiqsualujjuamiut.
26 Nov 2009

An interpretive video on Inuit knowledge of sea ice produced by Scott Heyes in 2010