Effects of development and planning without thorough consideration of context are commonly manifests in loss of traditional lifestyles, cultural strength and social stability. This issue is particularly apparent in Northern Indigenous communities, which face large-scale climate change challenges, resource development and other forces. However, a proliferation of sustainability initiatives at various scales continue to ignore socio-cultural concerns, or address them as secondary to economic or environmental goals rather than essential preconditions for sustainability,This project was conducted as part of the Nunatsiavut Government’s SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik (Sustainable Communities) Initiative, in cooperation with Inuit communities of northern Labrador.
The objective was to better understand the values, principles and norms that are important to residents and should be considered in future community planning. Fieldwork used focus groups and participatory mapping to explore socio-cultural and environmental components of community sustainability. Results show that issues of connectivity (to others and the land) were central to participants’ sense of community sustainability. The need to retain strong cultural identity, grounded in language, land-based skills, traditional games and crafting, as well as maintain social cohesion were identified as critical to overall community sustainability. The natural environment was considered a fundamental resource that facilitates these relationships, traditions, and identity. As current and future threats change both social and natural landscapes, it is urgent that socio-cultural, and environmental, principles be identified by Indigenous communities and understood. They are foundational to appropriate planning, as they inform interaction with the environment, and determine communities’ capacity to adapt and plan for future sustainability.