Traditional Knowledge Study
Scientists with myriad backgrounds and Inuit elders with traditional knowledge will combine results and insights to discover the purpose and function of the erupted tusk of the narwhal. This extraordinary tooth defies most of the principles and properties of teeth and remains a scientific enigma. Findings about its form and function will add to the evolutionary knowledge for this odd adaptation and will, because of unique findings of anatomy and histology recently discovered by this team, further define sensory capabilities of mammalian teeth. Scientific results have already begun to direct interest in future models of dental material design as the hard tissue of the narwhal tusk possesses a combination of unusual flexibility and strength characteristics that is highly desirable in restorative materials. These same tusk traits were observed by the Inuit before the laboratory testing was completed, and the results were reported. Likewise, traditional knowledge elucidates many aspects of narwhal anatomy, function, and behavior. Both the knowledge of Inuit elders and the findings of scientists are needed for a more complete understanding of the narwhal, Qilalugaq qernertaq.
Sample Letter Presented to Communities Involved in the Study
Elder observations of narwhal anatomy and behavior are valuable for my research on the tusk of the narwhal and complement the scientific studies. I would like to continue my work asking questions of elders about the narwhal as I have a deep respect for their insights, and find that many of their observations are more accurate than published scientific accounts. Rather than merely take this information for publication, I would like to write an article that demonstrates the value of taking the time to ask community elders about their experiences and observations and illustrate how these have proven invaluable to the body of knowledge known about the narwhal. I will talk with elders, acknowledged by the community for their experience about the narwhal, over a one week period in Pond Inlet during the summer of 2005; timing may be altered if an elder's health becomes an issue or additional information is needed. This community was selected for its elder's extensive experience and hunting of the narwhal. Questions have been prepared (see attachment) and answers will be transcribed from audio recordings. Results from the work will only be used with permission from the elders and under conditions prescribed by them. The intellectual property rights will always be maintained by the elders with me having permission to use gathered information for a combined social and scientific study. Any publications or use of information in another format will be accessible to the communities through copies made available directly to them. Copies of the recorded information will be given to the Nunavut Research Institute and the Rebecca P. Idlout Library at Pond Inlet after completion of this study for additional use or access by any interested individual. At all times during the course of this work, respect and attention to accuracy will be maintained as I value their knowledge and trust in my ability to use it wisely.