Condon, Richard G. (1983) Inuit Behavior and Seasonal Change in the Canadian Arctic, Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press.

Keywords: healthseasonal patterns of activitysocial housingUlukhaktok (Holman)

Richard Condon spent 17 months between 1978 and 1980 in Ulukhaktok (formerly Holman). He studied seasonal rhythmicity and its effects on Inuit behaviour and physiology (p. 2). During the time of Condon’s fieldwork, the Inuit population of Ulukhaktok was approximately 300.

The Ulukhaktok settlement was established in 1939 by the Hudson Bay Company (p. 29). Before government subsidized housing programs, Inuit built homes in and around the settlement from scrap wood, and other available materials (p. 36). Inuit used cardboard, paper, or moss in these make-shift dwellings to compensate for poor insulation. During the winter, snow that collected around the houses also provided insulation. These one-room structures were often crowded and unsanitary. Condon claims that from a health perspective these “permanent” dwellings were less desirable than traditional structures like snowhouses and tents because of the inability to move the permanent structures to new places before its conditions became too unsanitary (p. 36).

Before Inuit settled in Ulukhaktok, their traditional housing consisted of snowhouses and tents. During Condon’s research period, tents used by Inuit were made of canvas and constructed by Inuit women. Inuit men would sometimes purchase tents through mail or at the local cooperative (p. 43). Tents were usually erected in July around the settlement. Many tents were placed next to homes or in walking distance of town for Inuit who had wage employment commitments (p. 64). Occasionally, older Inuit would construct snowhouses when out on the land.

 In the 1960s, the Canadian government began building social housing in Ulukhaktok. The first “matchbox” houses (288 square feet) arrived in 1960 (p. 36). According to Condon, the settlement had 7 matchboxes, 6 scrap houses, 4 plywood shelters, and 1 frame house by 1963. In 1965, the settlement was moved from Kings Bay to Queens Bay because the latter’s terrain was more favorable for expanding the settlement (p. 35).

During Condon’s fieldwork there were 54 social housing units in Ulukhaktok. In 1979, the Holman Housing Association was established. The association was responsible for allocating housing units, maintenance, and repairs (p. 38). Families with children were given preference for newer housing (p. 42). The association also attempted to phase out the use of matchbox houses, but because of the lack of sufficient houses in the settlement matchboxes were still in use during the research period. Condon stated that all houses had electricity and were heated, but only 13 of them had “self-contained running water and sewage disposal systems” (p. 38). These 13 houses ranged in size from 2 bedrooms to 4 bedroom homes. The remaining 41 houses relied on water tanks and honey bucket sewage disposal. Most families resided in 3 bedroom houses built from 1966 to 1974 (appendix 1). Housing sizes ranged from a minimum of 309 sq. ft. to a maximum of 1392 sq. ft. as of 1979. Condon also states that due to better housing conditions and the increased time Inuit are spending in the settlement, Inuit homes are clean and neatly maintained (p. 103).

Condon identified inadequate insulation in arctic housing. The old buildings had three and one half inches of insulation on the walls, ceilings, and floors. The newer buildings had six inches of insulation on the floors and ceilings, but retained three and one half inches of insulation on the walls (p. 38). The houses were made according to southern building codes rather than constructed to suit the arctic environment. Wall panels sometimes separated from houses due to the freezing and thawing conditions of the environment. Outcry from Inuit organizations combined with high fuel bills pressured the HCNWT to design houses better suited to the environment (p. 39). The 14 houses constructed in 1980 and 1981 are better insulated than housing structures built pre-1978.

There were 6 government houses, reserved for government employees, in the settlement that were maintained by a separate division of the government of the NWT. Only 3 of these houses are occupied by Inuit families (p. 39). Condon states that these houses were once seen as luxurious but now have fewer amenities than the newer housing models.