Ethnobotany of the Kiluhikturmiut Inuinnait of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada

  • Jonathan Duffy Davis Fullerton Arboretum, California State University
  • Sandra Anne Banack Institute for Ethnomedicine
Keywords: ethnobiology, Coronation Gulf, Arctic, specialized knowledge


The disparity in floral diversity between tropical and arctic regions is reflected in a paucity of ethnobotanical research among arctic cultures.  The Kiluhikturmiut Inuinnait are an Inuit subpopulation who inhabit the Kitikmeot Region of the Territory of Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic.  We conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the Inuinnait hamlet of Kugluktuk to document the traditional uses of plants as food, materials, and medicine.  Data were gathered through unstructured interviews, participant observation, purposive sampling, and voucher-specimen collection of all plants used.  Uses were documented for 23 plant species/types contained in 14 families.  Nine species/types were eaten, six species/types were used as materials, and 12 species were used for medicine.  Villagers shared common knowledge of plants used for food and materials; however, knowledge of medicinal plants was restricted to a single healer.  We argue that specialized knowledge such as the use of medicinal plants is important to document especially when the number individuals using this knowledge is dwindling.


Anderson, J. P. 1939. Plants used by the Eskimo of the northern Bering Sea and arctic regions of Alaska. American Journal of Botany 26:714-716.

Banack, S.A. and P. A. Cox. 1987. Ethnobotany of Ocean-Going Canoes in Lau, Fiji. Economic Botany 41:148-162.

Bliss, L. C. 1971. Arctic and Alpine Plant Life Cycles. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 2:405-438.

Boster, J. S. 1986. Exchange of Varieties and Information between Aguaruna Manioc Cultivators. American Anthropologist 88:428-436.

Boster, J. S. and J. C. Johnson. 1989. A Comparison of Expert and Novice Judgments of Similarity among Fish. American Anthropologist 91:866-889.

Condon, R. G. 1996. The Northern Copper Inuit: a History. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

Cox, P. A. 1991. Polynesian Herbal Medicine. In Islands, Plants, and Polynesians, edited by P. A. Cox and S. A. Banack, pp. 147-169. Dioscorides Press, Portland, OR.

Dementi-Leonard, B. and P. Gilmore. 1999. Language Revitalization and Identity in Social Context: A Community-Based Athabascan Language Preservation Project in Western Interior Alaska. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 30:37-55.

Dritsas, P. 1986. Plants in Inuit culture: The Ethnobotany of the Iglulingmiut. Master’s Thesis, Université Laval, Ville de Québec, Canada.

Griffin, D. 2001. Contributions to the Ethnobiology of the Cup'it Eskimo, Nunivak Island, Alaska. Journal of Ethnobiology 21:91-127.

Helgason, A., G. Pálsson, H. S. Pedersen, E. Angulalik, E. D. Gunnarsdóttir, B. Yngvadóttir and K. Stefánsson. 2006. mtDNA variation in Inuit Populations of Greenland and Canada: Migration History and Population Structure. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 130:123-134.

Jenness, D. 1916. Anthropological Notes. American Anthropologist 18:612-620.

Kuhnlein, H. V. and R. Soueida. 1992. Use and Nutrient Composition of Traditional Baffin Island Foods. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 5:112-126.

Kuhnlein, H. V., H. M. Chan, D. Leggee and V. Barthet. 2002. Macronutrient, Mineral and Fatty Acid Composition of Canadian Arctic Traditional Food. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 15:545-566.

Kuhnlein, H. V., O. Receveur, R. Soueida and G. M. Egeland. 2004. Arctic Indigenous Peoples Experience the Nutrition Transition with Changing Dietary Patterns and Obesity. Journal of Nutrition 124:1447-1453.

Porsild, A. E. 1953. Edible Plants of the Arctic. Arctic 6:15-34.

Porsild, A. E. and W. J. Cody. 1980. Vascular Plants of Continental Northwest Territories, Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa.

Reyes-Garcia, V., E. Byron, V. Vadez, R. Godoy, L. Apaza, E. P. Limache, W. R. Leonard and D. Wilkie. 2004. Measuring Culture as Shared Knowledge: Do Data Collection Formats Matter? Cultural Knowledge of Plant Uses Among Tsimane’ Amerindians, Bolivia. Field Methods 16:135-156.

Romney, A. K., S. C. Weller and W. H. Batchelder. 1986. A Theory of Culture and Informant Accuracy. American Anthropologist 88:313-338.

Rondon, X. J., S. A. Banack and W. Diaz-Huamanchumo. 2003. Ethnobotanical Investigation of Caballitos (Schoenoplectus californicus: Cyperaceae) in Huanchaco, Peru. Economic Botany 57:35-47.

Spradley, J. P. 1979. The Ethnographic Interview. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York.

Stefánsson, V. 1913. My Life with the Eskimo. Macmillan Company, New York.

Tongco, Ma. D. C. 2007. Purposive Sampling as a Tool for Informant Selection. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 5:147-158.

Usher, P. J. 1965. Economic Basis and Resource Use of the Coppermine-Holman Region. Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Ottawa.

Walker, M. D., C. H. Wahren, R. D. Hollister, G. H. R. Henry, L. E. Ahlquist, J. M. Alatalo, M. S. Bret-Harte, M. P. Calef, T. V. Callaghan, A. B. Carroll, H. E. Epstein, I. S. Jónsdóttir, J. A. Klein, B. Magnússon, U. Molau, S. F. Oberbauer, S. P. Rewa, C. H. Robinson, G. R. Shaver, K. N. Suding, C. C. Thompson, A. Tolvanen, Ø. Totland, P. L. Turner, C. E. Tweedie, P. J. Webber and P. A. Wookey. 2006. Plant Community Responses to Experimental Warming Across the Tundra Biome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:1342-1346.

Wenzel, G. 2004. From TEK to IQ: Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and Inuit Cultural Ecology. Arctic Anthropology 41:238-250.

Zelditch, M. 1962. Some Methodological Problems of Field Studies. American Journal of Sociology 67:566-576.

How to Cite
Davis, J. D., & Banack, S. A. (2012). Ethnobotany of the Kiluhikturmiut Inuinnait of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada. Ethnobiology Letters, 3, 78-90.
Research Communications