"Everything is changing so much": Community perspectives on the declining beluga whale harvest in Aklavik, NT

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Worden, Elizabeth
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The aim of this research is to improve understanding of human-beluga whale relations over time and the implications of change for the beluga whale harvest in Aklavik. A decline in Aklavik’s beluga harvest over the last couple decades prompted Aklavik residents to propose this project. The research was conducted in collaboration with Aklavik and follows community-based participatory research approaches. In summer 2017, data was collected in Aklavik with two local research assistants. Culturally appropriate research methods were utilised including: semi-structured interviews (n=32), experiential learning, and verification of results in summer 2018. Results demonstrate that a spectrum of social and environmental change has altered present dynamics so that fewer people can hunt successfully. While some Inuvialuit remain beluga harvesters, they are ever-scarce in Aklavik, with youth often not receiving learning experiences. It is hoped that this research will identify opportunities to support the creation of on-the-land programs and/or community hunts to revive the beluga whale harvest.
Inuvialuit, Beluga whale, Subsistence, Social change, Climate change