28 January 2019

Lecture: Water, Food and indigenous Culture

Author/Compiled by
Yury Sumarokov, Northern State Medical University, Russia

Executive Summary

Many behavioral differences between indigenous and non-indigenous populations are based on their different cultural values. These cultural values also define the relationship to water and traditional food. It is relevant to keep these traditions for mental health, but also important to do it in a safe way for physical health.


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The issue of safe water for Arctic Indigenous peoples is rooted in the historically developed dependency relationship that emerged as part of colonial history and became well-established over time. The special, spiritual role of water and food in the Arctic indigenous environment is well known. Over the past two hundred years, around and within Indigenous communities, traditional ways of life have been changed. Traditionally, food could and would be procured from the surrounding lands. However, due to declining access to sufficient traditional food sources, communities have become more reliant on imported foodstuffs. This tendency has been especially alarming in the Arctic communities.

Learning objectives

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At the end of this lecture students will be able to:

  • Understand the role and values of water and traditional food for the Arctic indigenous peoples
  • Understand the connections of water and food with indigenous culture
  • Define the risks and protective mechanisms of safe consumption of water and food in the Arctic


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Library References
Further Readings

Comparative Review of Circumpolar Health Systems

Health care for remote, sparsely populated communities in the circumpolar North faces substantial organizational, financial, logistical, technical, and human resource challenges. Circumpolar regions share many common features but have evolved vastly different health care systems and policies. Identifying, evaluating and comparing approaches to policy development, best practices and successful models across the various regions represent a potentially useful strategy to improve and strengthen northern health systems.

YOUNG, K. and MARCHILDON, G. (2012): Comparative Review of Circumpolar Health Systems. International Association of Circumpolar Health Publishers URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]

Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR)

Arctic Human Development Report

The goals of this report are to provide an update to the first AHDR (2004) in terms of an assessment of the state of Arctic human development; to highlight the major trends and changes unfolding related to the various issues and thematic areas of human development in the Arctic over the past decade; and, based on this as- sessment, to identify policy relevant conclusions and key gaps in knowledge, new and emerging Arctic success stories, and important AHDR-II follow-up activities.

BANKES, N. et al. Larsen, J. N. and Fondahl, G. (2014): Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR). TemaNord URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]

AMAP Assessment 2015: Human Health in the Arctic

The 2015 Human Health Assessment Report follows three previous AMAP assessments on human health (AMAP 1998, 2003, 2009) and represents the current knowledge base after 25 years of focused study. This report includes new knowledge, updates and fills information gaps identified in past reports, and focuses attention on the most recent integrated scientific knowledge related to environmental contaminants and human health. It does not update information concerning the levels and effects of radioactivity and UV-radiation; these topics were addressed in the first comprehensive AMAP Assessment Report (AMAP 1998). The AMAP 2015 collects and discuss all the data from the relevant cohorts and surveys carried out in Inuits groups of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. It describes the projects, the results as the levels of contaminants found in the areas, the health that these contaminants can cause, future risks, and risk communication.

DONALDSON, S. SYMON, C. (2015): AMAP Assessment 2015: Human Health in the Arctic. Oslo, Norway: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]
Training Material

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