Making a Living
232 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:30 Jan 2010
Release Date:13 Dec 2010
Release Date:13 Dec 2010

Making a Living

Place, Food, and Economy in an Inuit Community

UBC Press, Purich Publishing

Although food is vital to our daily lives, we tend to be unaware of the particulars of where it came from and how it was produced. We simply go to the market and buy what we need in neatly packaged containers. But what was required to get that food there in the first place? In some societies obtaining food is not merely a matter of going to market. Instead it involves the active participation of community members in its harvesting, distributing, and sharing so that ideally no one goes without. Such is the case of many Indigenous communities, including Puvirnituq, the Inuit settlement in Northern Quebec that is the setting for this book.

Until recently, most residents of this Arctic village made their living off the land. Successful hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering, so vital to people’s survival, were underpinned by the expectation that food should be shared. As the Inuit were in some cases drawn and in others forced to move into settlements, they have had to confront how to accommodate their belief in sharing to the demands of a market economy. Rooted in phenomenological engagements with place, and using the commoditization of country foods harvested from the local environment as a vehicle, the author documents the experiences of an Inuit community as it strives to retain the values rooted in life on the land while adjusting to the realities of life in settlements.

In this thoughtful and well-researched book, the author documents her experiences and personal reactions while living in Puvirnituq. Quoting local residents and drawing upon academic literature, she explores how some Inuit are experiencing the inclusion of the market into their economy of sharing. While the subject of the study is the Inuit community of Puvirnituq, the issues the author addresses are equally applicable to many Indigenous communities as they wrestle with how to incorporate the workings of a monetized economy into their own notions of how to operate as a society. In the process, they are forging new ways of making a living even as they endeavor to maintain long-standing practices. This book will be of interest to anyone concerned with the struggles of maintaining local values in the face of market forces.

Nicole Gombay was educated in Canada and taught Geography at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her research has, in various ways, been linked to the experience of Indigenous people living in the context of a settler society, placing a particular emphasis on the impacts of the inclusion of Indigenous populations in the political and economic institutions associated with the state. The context for her research has been in the Arctic, with a particular emphasis on Inuit populations in Canada. Gombay is currently involved in two research projects in Nunavik, in northern Quebec. The first project is related to poaching, and the second is related to Inuit entrepreneurs.

1: Placing Economics: Telling Stories About Food and Making a Living


Welcome to Puvirnituq



Issues of Economics

The Place of Economy and the Economy of Place

2: The Place of Country Foods / Country Foods in Place


Seasons, Weather, Time, and Country Foods

Common Property and Country Foods

Animal Relations and Country Foods

The Social Relations of Country Foods

Memory, Home, and Country Foods

Knowledge, Place, and Country Foods

Health and Country Foods

Politics and Country Foods

Economics and Country Foods

3: The Political Economy of Nunavik and the Commoditization of Country Foods

Government Approaches to Economic Development in the Canadian North

The Political Economy of Nunavik

The Commoditization of Country Foods among Inuit: An Overview

Forms of Commoditization in Nunavik

4: Sold Down the River: The Business of Country Foods in Puvirnituq

History, Economy, and Society

The Commoditization of Country Foods in Puvirnituq

5: “If You Want to Buy, Ill Sell it to You. If Youre Asking for it, Ill Give it to You: Change and Continuity

Selling off the Commons: Evolving Systems of Belief and Behaviour

Social Processes: Sharing, Community, and Identity

Money and Processes of Valuation

Scaling the Boundaries of Place

The Commoditization of Country Foods: Scale, Value, Identities, Community, and Futures

Epilogue: Closing the Circle?


1. Country Foods Eaten in Puvurnituq

2. Employment, Population, and Earning Statistics for Puvirnituq

3. Comparative List of Prices Paid for Country Foods in Puvirnituq, 2001

4. Glossary of Inuktitut




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