Spring 2007: UAA’s Institute for Social and Economic Research will host a workshop to discuss the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

UAA's Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) will host a public workshop to discuss the results of the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic (SLiCA) on Thursday, March 22 from 9:30 - 11:45 a.m. in the Social Sciences Building, room 118.  During this public session an international team of researchers will present an overview of SLiCA, including the research process and results.  A question and answer session will follow the formal presentations.  This workshop is the first of many International Polar Year (IPY) events sponsored by UAA.

SLiCA was produced through a partnership of indigenous peoples and researchers from the United States, Canada, Greenland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.  More than 7,000 interviews were conducted between 1998 and 2001 to produce the survey data. Native groups played a key role in developing the survey questions and in conducting the surveys in the field.

The survey results indicate that despite changes in lifestyle that have swept northern communities as non-natives have moved into remote areas, traditional values still are important to native peoples and they are willing to use their earnings in the cash economy to support these ways of life. Despite efforts to assimilate native peoples and encourage them to foreswear native traditions in favor of finding paying work, nine out of 10 Inuit continue to think traditional activities are important to their identity.

The report notes that four decades ago, as wage work rapidly became more common in the north, scientists and policymakers assumed that indigenous people would take advantage of opportunities to participate in the cash economy, abandoning harvest and traditional food processing activities.

But the reality today in Alaska and other Arctic regions is far more complex.

"Unlike previous attempts to sample and quantify information about the lives of indigenous Arctic peoples," said Jack Kruse, the U.S. project team leader, "SLiCA's aim was to measure living conditions in a way that was meaningful to Arctic residents; to document and compare living conditions among the indigenous peoples of various regions of the Arctic; and to improve the understanding of living conditions in ways that will benefit Arctic residents."

The report also states that in Alaska, most products of hunting, fishing and gathering do not enter the market economy.  Rather, subsistence products are directly consumed by the harvesting household, given away or exchanged.  Cash plays an important role in the Alaska mixed economy, however.  Money buys snow machines, gas and ammunition.

Other major findings of the survey include:

•    Family ties, social support of each other, and traditional activities have a lot to do with why indigenous people choose to remain in Arctic communities. •    Well-being is closely related to job opportunities, locally available fish and game, and a sense of local control. Well-being and depression (and related problems like suicide) are flip sides of the same coin. Improving well-being may reduce social problems. •    Health conditions vary widely in the Arctic: three in four Greenlandic Inuit self-rate their health as at least "very good" compared with one in two Canadian and Alaska Inuit and one in five Chukotka indigenous people.

Combining responses to questions on personal income, subsistence activities and satisfaction with a combination of productive activities, the researchers argue that native communities with access to a solid economic foundation are far more successful and stable than generally perceived, despite some chronic physical and mental health issues that attract media attention.

The report indicates that the North Slope of Alaska appears to be a success story;  the Inupiat there were successful in forming a regional government funded through taxation of petroleum facilities.  They have effectively used their access to economic resources to influence such bodies as the International Whaling Commission and to manage development.

Kruse also that the International Polar Year-a two-year concentrated campaign of field science across a broad spectrum of disciplines which began earlier this month-provides an unmatched international framework for conducting such research by encouraging scientists to work across both national and disciplinary borders.

The SLiCA work in the Northwest Arctic, North Slope and Bering Straits regions, as well as Chukotka, was funded by the National Science Foundation, The Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Statistics Canada, the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the Greenland Homerule Government.

UAA SLiCA Workshop Schedule                Moderator:  Fran Ulmer

9-9:30 a.m.        Coffee in the lobby of SSB 9:30-9:40 a.m.    Launch of the International Polar Year, Karen Purdue, University of Alaska 9:40-9:50 a.m.        Motivation for the study, Birger Poppel, University of Greenland 9:50-10:10 a.m.    The collaborative process, Patricia Cochran, President, Inuit Circumpolar Council, and Karl Christian Olsen (Puju) Greenland ICC 10:10-10:30 a.m.    Overview of methods and results, Jack Kruse, ISER 10:30-10:50 a.m.    Prevalence of the mixed economy, Birger Poppel 10:50-11:10 a.m.    Health, Larissa Abryutina, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) 11:10-11:30 a.m.    Food, community, health and satisfaction with life, Heather Myers, University of Northern British Columbia 11:30-11:45 a.m.    Open forum, Fran Ulmer with SLiCA team

For additional information on the SLiCA workshop, please contact ISER at 786-7710 or visit www.articlivingconditions.org.  For more information on SLiCA, contact Jack Kruse at (301) 910-1630 or afjak@uaa.alaska.edu, or Birger Poppel at bipo@ilisimatusarfik.gl.

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