From River Trails to Adaptive Co-Management: Learning and Relating with Inuit Inhabitants of the Thelon River, Canada

Bryan S.R. Grimwood, Nancy C. Doubleday

Abstract


This article draws upon community-based case study research to illuminate Inuit uses of and relationships with the Thelon River in Arctic Canada. Local and traditional knowledge related to this special and changing river-place was documented in partnership with residents of Baker Lake, Nunavut, an inland Inuit settlement located at the terminus of the Thelon River west of Hudson Bay. Contrasting representations of a bounded river corridor or watershed, Inuit experience and encounter the Thelon River as part of a complex network of socially, ecologically, and culturally constructed trails. Meaning, subsistence, and cultural livelihoods are situated not just at nodes of intense activity (e.g., caribou crossings), but also along human and non-human paths travelled, perceived, and inscribed into memory (e.g., using inuksuit to navigate or hunt). The temporal and spatial dimensions of Inuit relationships with the Thelon River are thus characterized by degrees of oscillation, vitality, and ambiguity. This understanding has implications for river system governance in Nunavut and other Arctic regions in Canada. Specifically, we argue for collaborative and equitable visions of northern futures premised upon the promises of adaptive co-management, an approach to governance that begins with, and fosters, hybridity of perspective, knowledge, and action with respect to the meanings of complex resources such as the Thelon.


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