Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic: Inuit, Saami and the Indigenous Peoples of Chukotka


This is an international effort involving a partnership of researchers and indigenous organizations in Greenland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Russia and the United States. The purpose of this study is to advance our understanding of changing living conditions among Inuit and Saami peoples and the Indigenous peoples of Chukotka. It will provide circumpolar Native organizations with research to make policy decisions on how best to promote Native well-being. We will base our analysis on a combination of personal interviews and community and regional databases.


We plan to use a combination of structured survey and more in-depth interview techniques to interview random samples of approximately 8,000 Native people in 15 sub-regions and some 250 communities in the Arctic. We believe the study will advance the science of living condition studies through the development of an internationally comparable set of measures—measures that at the same time are constructed to be relevant to the particular circumstances of life in the Arctic. We have designed the study to yield quantitative and qualitative databases for use by other social scientists and by Native organizations. The survey will establish an important benchmark on living conditions, against which policy institutions such as the Arctic Council can measure the effectiveness of policies intended to improve life in the North.


The initiative for the project comes from the Greenland Home Rule Government, Statistics Greenland (SG). In 1994 SG conducted a Survey of Living Conditions in Greenland, based on the Scandinavian model. Analysis of the data caused researchers in Greenland to re-examine their theoretical assumptions. They decided that measurement of living conditions had to be designed specifically for Arctic regions, where many Native residents still rely on harvests of local resources for food. They also concluded that it is more important to draw comparisons between Greenland and other Arctic regions than between Greenland and European countries. 


By 1997, Birger Poppel (Chief Statistician, SG) and Thomas Andersen (international project co-ordinator, SG) had consulted with researchers, Native organizations, and governments in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the United States and Russia about the idea of an international study of living conditions in the Arctic. The rationale for the international study, as reflected in Resolution 29 passed by delegates to the 1998 Inuit Circumpolar Conference (Section I) is, "Rapid social change characterizes all indigenous peoples of the Arctic . . . . There is a need to document and compare the present state of living conditions and the development among the indigenous peoples of the Arctic."