To survive in the Arctic, the Inuit have developed a unique relationship with the marine environment and its living organisms. Unlike large marine mammals, the importance of smaller marine organisms for food, health, and wellbeing is largely undocumented. To call attention to these components of the food system in Nunavik, in northern Québec, and to understand their importance for health and wellbeing, Elders in two Inuit communities, Ivujivik and Kangiqsujuaq, were interviewed in May 2014. The objectives of this study were to: 1) document all marine organisms harvested and consumed in these communities; and 2) highlight the importance of these country foods through their position within the Inuit zoological classification, as well as their perceived contribution to health and wellbeing. Fifty-seven species of marine organisms were identified as part of the past or current food system, including birds, mammals, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, echinoderms, and algae. Harvesting location is an important characteristic in the local classification. Nearly a third of all organisms listed can be harvested on the seashore and are collectively called tininnimiutait, which derives from seashore (tininniq) and includes seaweed, shellfish, and certain fish. Tininnimiutait differ from irqamiutait, which come from the bottom of the water (irqa). Furthermore, irqamiutait are a relatively recent addition to the diet that have the potential to positively impact health. Activities related to the harvest and consumption of these organisms are often associated with health and wellbeing. The abundance of tininnimiutait, their proximity to the land, and year-round accessibility make them an important food source today, particularly in light of growing concerns related to climate change, lifestyle and dietary transitions, food security, and sovereignty in the North.
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Vol. 38 • No. 3