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5 Common Things You'll Find on a Plate up North

There’s no Walmart up here in Inuvik! When you do your shopping at the local grocery store, all of the food has been imported 200km north of the arctic circle, which tends to drive the prices up… you’re looking at paying $10 for a jug of milk and $3 for 1 orange!!! You must be thinking…how can we possibly afford to eat?!

Well, many of us go back to our ancestral roots and keep up with the traditional methods of hunting and gathering food! 

Ice Fishing

Here’s a look at 5 common things you’ll find on a plate up north! 

The Inuvialuit of the Mackenzie Delta have always been expert hunters that can capture almost anything.

The animals we hunt include caribou, beluga, walrus, seal, beavers, moose and various fish. Even polar bear appears on the menu from time to time! 

1) Muktuk

Some foods aren’t cooked at all! Many of us enjoy raw whale Boiled Muktuk, whale meatmeat/flubber… this is called Muktuk!

Muktuk is most often made from the skin and blubber of the Beluga whale.

Muktuk can be eaten dried, raw, or boiled. The white part is the skin of the whale and the peachy coloured part is the blubber! It’s a chewy and oily substance that has a fishy taste and smell.

Muktuk is very important to the inuit diet as it contains a healthy concentration of Vitamin C and D, two vitamins that are needed in the human body. These two vitamins are commonly found in fruits and vegetables, two things which are almost non-existent in the cold and harsh environment of the Arctic Tundra. 

smoked herring2) Smoked Herring

In the past, most fish was eaten raw for it’s nutritional benefits but when fish is smoked it can last weeks! 

Now that the seas are less bountiful then the past, catching herring can be a rare occurrence so when you do it is often a big treat that is shared among loved ones, as it is absolutely delicious! 

3) Dried Fish

The most common fish that you can catch in the Mackenzie Delta is different kinds of Whitefish, such as the Inconnu, which can reach weights of up to 50 pounds, and the Northern Pike which are reaching average lengths of 28 to 47 inches! Today we cook, dry or smoke the meat. In the past, you would have eaten some of the fish raw, and then dry or freeze the rest of the meat to save it and eat it later. 

4) Caribou & Reindeer

A young boy showing us the antlers of the caribou he hunted

One of the most important animals to the Inuit was and still is the Caribou and the Reindeer. Caribou are hunted, mostly in the summer, for their meat and their skins. In the fall, the caribou gather in large herds to migrate south to better winter feeding areas, making them easier to hunt. Reindeer on the other hand are harvested and sold through the local community. There are multiple ways of preparing caribou and reindeer meat, today we cook the meat and eat it fresh. However, this was not very common in the past because of the shortage of fuel for cooking. They would either dry the meat as a way to preserve it, or freeze the meat to save it, and eat it later. However, most of the meat was eaten raw. 

5) Berries!

Arctic Cranberries

Arctic Cranberries

Today, many of us spend the summer months collecting berries to make jam and other preserves. Traditionally while the Men of the tribe were out hunting, the women and children would be gathering berries for food, and plants for medicinal purposes. One common berry that is found almost everywhere on the floor of the tundra is arctic cranberries {as seen in the picture}. Fun Fact: Almost every berry found in the Arctic Tundra can be consumed! But always double check that it is safe before doing so! 

Although it’s easy to think that a diet that relies so heavily on meat leads to serious health problems, the Inuit who follow this diet are actually among the healthiest people in the world. This “Inuit Paradox” has long been the subject of considerable scientific interest. (Poisuo, 2013)

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoy learning about inuit culture and traditions please check out our other blog posts! 



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