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In the Arctic, A Hunger for Ancestral Foods

The loss of traditional hunting has forced many Inuit to rely on expensive imported food, but many find the Western diet leaves them feeling empty, body and soul.

Photo by David Kilabu

“Our foods do more than nourish our bodies. They feed our souls,” said the late Inuit activist Ingmar Egede in Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic by Marla Cone. “When I eat Inuit foods, I know who I am. I feel the connection to our ocean and to our land, to our people, to our way of life.”After thriving for thousands of years on a high-protein, high-fat diet of “country foods”—Arctic meats like whale, seal, walrus, caribou, duck, goose, and quail, along with salmon, whitefish, pike, and char—today, the Indigenous peoples of the far north find themselves struggling to survive on a Western diet.According to a 2008 study by McGill University, 70 percent of Inuit preschoolers now live in households rated as food insecure. Cut off from their nomadic hunting lifestyle by modern economic and environmental pressures, and crushed by the astronomical prices of imported processed food, Inuit across Alaska, Canada, and Greenland wonder what will fill the plates of the next generation.“An inch of whale muktuk, which is whale skin, contains the same vitamin C nutrition as a whole orange,” says Mayor Madele …

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