Thompson, C.T. (1969) Patterns of Housekeeping in Two Eskimo Settlements, Northern Science Research Group, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa

Keywords: architecture and designBaker LakeCape Dorsetgenderhousekeepingshack housingsocial housing

Research for this project was conducted from 1967-1968 in the communities of Baker Lake and Cape Dorset. Thompson was employed by the Northern Science Research Group, a subdivision within the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). The goals of the study were to influence future policies for housing programs, to report on changing attitudes in northern populations about present housing policies and procedures, and build a theoretical framework for potential use by the DIAND and social scientists (p. 1).

The author describes the ongoing rental housing project in northern communities, including a brief summary of Inuit housekeeping practices, dietary patterns, and material goods. Thompson collected data through participant observation, formal and informal interviewing, and a questionnaire administered in Inuktitut.

The rental housing program was implemented by the DIAND in 1965, with a 5 year goal of completion (p.1). The program administration identified 800 Inuit families interested in purchasing homes at the start of the program (p. 31). The administration repurchased and repurposed homes owned by Inuit to incorporate into the rental program. During the research period, there were 11 houses constructed in Baker Lake, although the community had been promised 42. In Cape Dorset, a total of 66 houses were constructed by 1968 (p. 3&5).

Several different models of houses were distributed through the program. Housing ranged from one-room to three-bedroom houses. One room houses may have included a bathroom (with a honey-bucket), a porch, and living room (p. 40-1). One-bedroom houses included a single bedroom, living room, porches (multiple types), and a bathroom (p. 42-3). Two-bedroom houses contained two bedrooms, a living room, sometimes a bathroom, and occasionally several porches (open and cold) (p.44-5). Three-bedroom houses contained three-bedrooms, kitchen, and living room, and sometimes it had a bathroom, food storage area, or porch (multiple types). Three-bedroom houses had more variations in floor plans than smaller housing models (diagrams, p. 46-52). The author noted that some Inuit added additional porches for extra storage of material goods, clothing, and foods (p. 14). Cold porches were considered important by Inuit because it was a place to store meats. Before rental houses were built, the author reported that Inuit families mainly lived in snowhouses and scrap houses.

Inuit families were selected to receive housing from this program based on need, assessed by the current living situations of each family. Families were likely to be eligible for the program if they were living in makeshift shacks, snowhouses, and tents on the land. There was a 3-tiered for system for rent based on employment status. Families were classified as being either fully employed, on welfare or pension, or as casual laborers (p. 9). Casual laborers included hunters and artists. Although both men and women within a household might be employed, rent was based on the employment status of Inuit men or the heads of the household (p. 9). Thompson noted that Inuit men who were fully employed resented paying higher rent than casual laborers. There was a general consensus among these men that rent should be low and all Inuit should pay the same amount. Overall, however, the administration had little trouble in collecting rent from Inuit families.

Thompson made some recommendations to the DIAND to improve the rental housing program. He suggested that the administration should conduct a thorough review of how Inuit pay for rental housing based on family income. In regards to housing design, however, Thompson listed recommendations from Inuit women but none from himself. He stated that Inuit women are concerned with storage space, water, and cooking facilities (p.29). According to Thompson, Inuit women wanted larger water tanks and stoves, along with water heating tanks, to be included in the rental housing models.