Kupfer, George and Charles W. Hobart (1978) Impact of oil exploration work on an Inuit Community, Arctic Anthropology 15(1): 58-67

Keywords: employmentKugluktuk (Coppermine)Mackenzie DeltaMackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry

George Kupfer and Charles Hobart were invited by Gulf Oil Canada to investigate the socioeconomic and social impacts of remote site oil & gas employment on the community and families of Inuit from Coppermine. This paper provides a review of their findings from an assessment done in 1973-74. (Hobart testified for the oil industry at the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry). Their research focused on where and how the income from Coppermine Gulf workers was spent in the community. Most Inuit had settled in Coppermine only 12 years prior to the assessment. Data was collected through unstructured interviews with the Inuit men employed by Gulf, Inuit and white residents who held positions of authority and influence in Coppermine, and the families of the employed men. A total of 172 interviews were conducted, 134 with Inuit and 38 with white residents.

The Mackenzie River Delta is approximately 800 miles (1250km) from Coppermine. Fifty-five (55) men (approximately half of the potential male workforce accepted employment. Most had been previously unemployed.

Much of the income generated was spent at the Hudson Bay Store, the only general store in the community. Most of the goods purchased were household items, such as record players, food, home improvements (e.g. home furnishings, carpeting) and liquor.

The authors report that employment at Gulf was seen as positive and that it had a far less effect on the life of the community than anticipated.

The biggest impact was the employment program was that it took away men from the home and family two-third of the time. From the married workers they interviewed, only 11% reported they disliked being away from home “a little” and 45% said they liked the separation. Approximately one-half said they did not worry about family problems while away.

Wives were asked if they had any troubles with their husbands away, and the authors report that none of the wives indicated so. Disruptions to family life were reported as minimal or the benefits of employment were seen to outweigh the problems. Children supported their father’s working because it increased their standard of living.