Elders’ Perspectives

Inuit Tuttarvingat incorporates Inuit knowledge of health, wellness and well-being throughout its projects and publications.

On November 24, 2009 Inuit Tuttarvingat held a workshop with elders from the four Inuit regions in Canada to ask important questions about Inuit knowledge, such as:

  • “Do you think academic research can make a contribution to Inuit knowledge?”
  • “Do you want to see healers/elders working in health centres and hospitals in your community?”
  • “Who should we share Inuit knowledge and practices with and how? For what purpose?”

The following day, several of the elders held a lively panel discussion at the National Aboriginal Health Organization’s national conference, “Our People, Our Health”. In the panel discussion, called “Inuit Traditional Medicines and Healing Practices”, the elders talked about how traditional and modern-day practices help to keep their communities healthy. They also showed samples of the plants and animals they used to cure ailments. The elders who shared their knowledge were:

  • Alicee Joamie of Nunavut
  • Minnie Etidloie of Nunavik
  • Nellie Pokiak of Inuvialuit
  • the late Mary Adams of Nunatsiavut

As the elders spoke, each pointed to a collection of materials they brought with them: berries, Labrador tea, bones from a ptarmigan, seal hides, arctic cotton, animal oils, and so on. Elder Mary Adams told the participants:

“Before we could run down to the drugstore to pick up an aspirin or whatever we needed, we went to the woods, on the hills, out to the ocean, and onto the beach to find our medicines for whatever ailed us.”

This knowledge must be kept alive, noted elder Nellie Pokiak:

“If you want to know what traditional knowledge is all about, it’s watching and it’s listening and it’s doing as the elders say.”

These and other thoughts from the elders have been captured in short video clips:

You may also be interested in…

Interviewing Inuit Elders: The Series, Nunavut Arctic College, 1999-2001 – five volumes: Introduction, Perspectives on Traditional Law, Childrearing Practices, Cosmology and Shamanism, and Perspectives on Traditional Health.


Interviewing Elders Guidelines, National Aboriginal Health Organization, 2009


Our Ancestors Never Smoked – Elders Reflections About How Tobacco Has Affected Inuit Communities, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006