Tuberculosis and Colonialism: Current Tales about Tuberculosis and Colonialism in Nunavut

  • Helle Møller Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta
Keywords: Inuit, Tuberculosis, Colonialism, Nunavut, Healthcare


The objective of this study was to examine Inuit experience and make meaning of tuberculosis (TB) and how this may relate to the prevalence of TB in Nunavut. The study was conducted through seven months of fieldwork in two Nunavut communities using ethnographic methods for data collection including interviews, observation, participant observation, and document review. The study found that Inuit participants made meaning of TB through a combination of biomedical and traditionally Inuit holistic explanations. The theme of colonialism recurred as an influence shaping the Inuit experience of TB, through socio-political effects of colonization, such as poverty and substance abuse, and through continuing colonialism, including offering public health education in culturally incongruent ways. Examples of discrimination within and outside the healthcare system were also described as effecting the Inuit experience of TB. In order to decrease the incidence of TB in Nunavut, decolonizing measures are necessary. Decolonizing measures include embracing Inuit ways and values in educational, health and political matters. In order for this to be possible and to reduce poverty, an infusion of funds from the federal government is needed. Euro Canadians working in the Nunavut healthcare system must also examine the assumptions, motivations and values that inform their work.