"We're made criminals just to eat off the land": Colonial wildlife management and repercussions on Inuit well-being
Across Inuit Nunangat, Inuit rely on wildlife for food security, cultural continuity, intergenerational learning, and livelihoods. Caribou has been an essential species for Inuit for millennia, providing food, clothing, significant cultural practices, and knowledge-sharing. Current declines in many caribou populations—often coupled with hunting moratoriums—have signiﬁcant impacts on Inuit food, culture, livelihoods, and well-being. Following an Inuit-led approach, this study characterized Inuit-caribou relationships; explored Inuit perspectives on how caribou have been managed; and identiﬁed opportunities for sustaining the Mealy Mountain Caribou. Qualitative data were collected in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Labrador, Canada through 21 in-depth interviews and two community open houses. Data were analyzed using constant comparative methods and thematic analysis. Rigolet Inuit described: how conservation management decisions had disrupted important connections among caribou and Inuit, particularly related to food, culture, and well-being; the socio-cultural and emotional impacts of the criminalization of an important cultural practice, as well as perceived inequities in wildlife conservation enforcement; and the frustration, anger, and hurt with not being heard or included in caribou management decisions. These results provide insights into experiences of historic and ongoing colonial wildlife management decisions, and highlight future directions for management initiatives for the health and well-being of Inuit and caribou.
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A hunter person without a gun is the same as the city man without a job, you know, a high-powered city man without a big job. If you take his job away, he got nothing to eat. If you take my gun away, I got nothing to eat.