The cultural ecological perspectives of Canadian Inuit : implications for child-rearing and education
Williamson, Karla Jessen
The purpose of the study was to obtain and analyze Inuit perceptions of physical and human environments, and the implications of these for child-rearing and education. The fieldwork for the study took place during the summer of 1989 at Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories. Thirty-six Inuit were interviewed out of which 29 were used for analysis, since 7 interviews were incoherent. The analytical framework for the research was provided by the researcher's development of cultural ecology theory with special awareness of modern Inuit life. A model; Dynamic Model Relating Cultural Ecology and Child-Rearing, was developed and utilized for obtaining, organizing and analyzing the data. A review of related literature was provided and discussed further in the findings of the study. A body of data was presented, building up an edifice of perceptions concerning habitat and contemporary child-rearing, followed by a re-examination of the responses, to identify subtle variations of perspectives. This was obtained partly by the aid of a computer program called Ethnograph, which enabled the researcher to code and categorize all of the data. Some of the major findings of this study included the strong feeling of the Inuit about their relationship to their habitat, nuna, which not only encompass the past and the present, but strongly suggested the future as playing a role in Inuit relationship with the land. The notion of futurity was expressed in terms of having to preserve the habitat for future generations, and also in the form of statements about uncertainty as to what the future had to offer a significant proportion of young Inuit. The young Inuit cannot expect full wage employment in the industrial, administrative and service sectors, and this has major implications for curriculum planning in the future of the Arctic educational system. Another significant finding of this study was Inuit spirituality playing a definite role in linking their relationship with their habitat. It seemed that the original Inuit beliefs were to some extent incorporated by the Christian missionaries and inculcated in present Inuit Christian belief. The findings were followed by a set of research and policy recommendations. These included the needs perceived and expressed in this study, maximizing Inuit participation in both the planning and delivering of education. Whereas this study concentrated on understanding the cultural ecological perspectives of Inuit, it recommended research be undertaken with Inuit child-rearing practices as its main focus.