It is the southernmost community on the Nunavut mainland and is close to the geographical centre of Canada. Arviat is a traditional Inuit community, having the third largest population in Nunavut, behind Rankin Inlet and the capital, Iqaluit. Arviat is currently growing at a faster rate than Rankin Inlet, however. From the 2001 census to the 2006 census there was a population increase of 8.5%. The mayor of Arviat is Johnny Mamgark.
Hunting and fishing are very active in the community; they are the primary source of sustenance. Three local stores, Padlei Co-op, Northern Stores and EPLS, carry a wide range of products. To the south, the town of Churchill, Manitoba is accessible by boat, snowmobile and Bombardier from Arviat and is often travelled to for supplies.
Arviat is well known around the Arctic for its artistic qualities. It is a striving community with many talented musicians: Susan Aglukark, a well known musician; Simon "Johnny Cash of the North" Sigyariaq; the band Uniaqtuq, with Arsene, Pelagie and Mary Angalik; the Arviat Band, with John and Billy Kuksuk, Paul Kattau and others; the Irksuk band, played by Paul Irksuk and sons. All have had CDs recorded commercially.
The only access is by air, by snowmobile and by annual sealift, but the Nunavut government and the federal Senate member for Nunavut (Willie Adams) are investigating the possibility of a billion dollar highway from Thompson, Lynn Lake, or Gillam to Rankin Inlet, through Arviat.
Arviat was originally inhabited by the Paallirmiut, a coastal/inland Inuit band. In 1957, dying of starvation, the last remaining Ihalmiut, another Caribou Inuit band, were relocated to Arviat by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Though there are differences between the two bands, they recognize a need to work together in order to benefit the community.
The Hudson Bay Quest sled-dog race was run from Churchill to Arviat for the first time in 2004.