Traditional Knowledge

Traditional knowledge or Inuit knowledge?

Traditional knowledge might be interpreted by some people as old Inuit ways that are being documented for historical purposes. In fact, Inuit knowledge of health, healing and wellness is very much alive and current; it is not something that exists only in the past.

Because people could mistakenly interpret the term ‘traditional knowledge’ as old or rarely-used knowledge, Inuit are starting to use the term ‘Inuit knowledge’ instead. By referring to our rich understanding of health and healing as Inuit knowledge, it ensures that we maintain and use this fluid knowledge on a daily basis and that the younger generation is learning this way of thinking to ensure cultural continuity.

Inuit leaders and community members often speak of the value and significance of this knowledge. “There is a place for Indigenous Knowledge. It needs to be respected for what it is, a science, in its own right, that can work in concert with western science to solve the complex problems of the world. However, it must be respected and must be used to benefit the holders of this knowledge.” [1]

The terminology may differ from one Inuit region to another. In Nunavut, Inuit knowledge is often referred to as ‘Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit’: “the Inuit way of doing things: the past, present and future knowledge, experience and values of Inuit society.” [2]

Inuit Tuttarvingat materials:

Many of Inuit Tuttarvingat’s materials contain traditional and current-day health knowledge. They include:

Suicide Prevention: Inuit Traditional Practices that Encouraged Resilience and Coping (2006) > contains words of advice from elders from the four Inuit regions about how they traditionally coped with and overcame difficulties in their lives

Resilience: Overcoming Challenges and Moving on Positively (2007) > includes elders’ thoughts and modern science about the ability to cope with problems

Ikajurniq, Basic Counselling Skills: Inuit Voices, Modern Methods (2007) > contains traditional helping skills that Inuit used in the past as well as modern counselling practices

Interviews about traditional birthing and midwifery (2008) > features stories about birthing in the past and traditional midwifery

Cultural Safety and Knowledge Sharing: Work on Mental Wellness at Inuit Tuttarvingat(2009) > explains how Inuit Tuttarvingat uses quotes from Inuit elders to create culturally relevant materials

Video Clips from Inuit Traditional Medicines and Healing Practices Workshop (2010) > captures Inuit elders from the four Inuit regions speaking about  traditional healing, Inuit values, and the importance of Inuit ways to be incorporated into the education, health and justice systems.


[1] Kuptana, R. (n.d.). “Relationship between Traditional Knowledge and intellectual cultural properties; an Inuit perspective.” National Gathering of Indigenous Knowledge Discussion Paper,  p. 43.

[2] Nickels, S. (2006). Unikkaaqatigiit: perspectives from Inuit in Canada. Ottawa: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. p. 103


 You may also be interested in…

Avataq Cultural Institute, Nunavik website

Inuit Qaujimjatuqangit – Inuit Societal Values Guiding Principles, Government of Nunavut

Inuit Qaujisarvingat: The Inuit Knowledge Centre Website

The Inuit Way: A Guide to Inuit Culture (revised edition), Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006

Torngasok Cultural Centre, Nunatsiavut Government website