Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Anthropology



Major Advisor

John P. Ziker, Ph.D.


Kathryn Demps, Ph.D.


Mark G. Plew, Ph.D.


The evaluation and minimization of risk and uncertainty is an integral part of human decision-making. There are many strategies humans employ to help manage risk and uncertainty. One kind of strategy that has been important for Homo sapiens involves technological innovation. For example, the ancestors of contemporary Inuit developed the dogsled which was likely critical to their expansion into, and survival in, the harsh environments of the North American and Greenlandic maritime Arctic. Much like how the automobile replaced the horse, however, snow machines have all but replaced the dog team as the main transportation technology employed by today’s Inuit. Focusing on the Nunavut community of Igloolik, this thesis examines the costs and benefits of dogsleds and snowmobiles through an evolutionary, economic, and social lens. This thesis reports on the results from an agent-based model used to test conditions under which the Inuit of today may or may not continue to use snowmobiles in favor of dogsleds in an increasingly variable climate. Several variables including weather variability, wind speed, hazard susceptibility, hazard avoidance, technology speed, carry weight, and others are tested against harvest rates and likelihood of the need for search and rescue based on ethnographically documented base parameters. The model shows that in highly variable wind conditions, the use of a dogsled results in a higher rate of successful harvests than the use of a snowmobile. This effect occurs in the model because as wind variability increases so does the probability of a snowmobile needing search and rescue. This study is important in that it sheds light on how uncertainty and risk in the Arctic can affect decisions about the acquisition of culturally significant country foods that require hunters to travel on the frozen sea ice.