Seven Focal Economies for Six Focal Places: The Development of Economic Diversity in the Western Canadian Arctic

Matthew W. Betts


The Mackenzie River Delta is, by arctic standards, an area of unique ecological productivity and richness. Capitalizing on this resource abundance, Neoeskimo groups inhabiting the Mackenzie Delta region developed a diverse range of focal subsistence strategies, which evolved to support one of the most populous Inuit societies in the Canadian Arctic. By the historic period, the Mackenzie Inuit (the ancestors of the modern Inuvialuit) appear to have been segregated into at least seven distinct territorial groups. Economically, each group seems to have maintained a unique, and in most cases, focal, subsistence strategy, in part the product of the spatially heterogeneous nature of the resource aggregations in the area. In an effort to understand how this regional socioeconomic system developed, zooarchaeological data derived from 24 assemblages representing 19 sites are considered. The resulting analysis emphasizes the interaction between local resource aggregations and settlement patterns in the development of diversity in Mackenzie Inuit subsistence economies, and tracks how these economies phased in and out of a regional economic system in response to demographic, technological, and climatic changes over a period of approximately seven centuries.

  • Matthew W. Betts, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Archaeology and History Division, 100 Laurier St., P.O. Box 3100, Station B. Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

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