Development of the Institutional Structure of the Economy of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada: Inuit Strategic Participation in Commercial Opportunities.

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Muir, Andrew Gordon




This dissertation aims to provide insight into the development of the institutional structure of the economy of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut from its inception (1953) to post-1999 period. Prior to the entry of Europeans to the Kivalliq Region, Inuit economic activity was non-commercial. Based on resource harvesting, it was governed by societal institutions, principally the extended family. As non-indigenous people entered the region in the early 1700s, opportunities arose for Inuit to participate in commercial activity. Inuit adjusted their participation in these opportunities for the next 200 years, in a way that largely maintained the primacy of non-commercial productive capacities and institutions. Rankin Inlet was founded in 1953 when several Inuit families settled to participate in wage employment at a nickel mine. Since its closing in 1962, Rankin Inlet’s Inuit residents have participated in a combination of traditional harvesting, cash-based and other informal economic activities, a dynamic referred to as a “mixed economy” which exists in most Nunavut communities. While the nickel mine was in operation, the company which operated it yielded significant power in influencing Inuit economic choices. Following its closure, much of this power shifted to state organs. Rankin Inlet’s present-day “mixed economy” represents the latest phase of a centuries-long process of considered involvement in changing economic opportunities. It is founded on (at least) two major, co-existing institutions - family structures and the state. From the 1960s to the 1990s, the nascent economic dynamic - found in Rankin Inlet and across the Eastern Arctic - was exposed to private sector interests aiming to extract the Arctic’s non-renewable resources. In response, Inuit across the Eastern Arctic sought political powers similar to those of Canada’s provinces. Inuit efforts in this regard led to tangible results, including the signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) in 1993 and the creation of the Territory of Nunavut in 1999. Inuit have obtained a measure of sovereign control over how commercial, state, and traditional economic activity occurs its territory, including the power to shape and/or reject projects which could affect this balance.


Native American Studies
Economics - Theory
Political Science




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Public Policy

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Theses and Dissertations

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