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Our Changing Arctic


New-TeeviHeadshotBy Teevi Mackay
The Arctic has, in the last several years, generated a great deal of attention, particularly in research relating to climate change. Inuit should play a part in this research to create more meaningful partnerships between Inuit communities and Southern researchers. In this, the organization ArcticNet is a leader.

“ArcticNet is a Network of Centres of Excellence that brings together scientists and managers in the natural, human health and social sciences with their partners from Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector to study the impacts of climate change in the coastal Canadian Arctic. Over 145 ArcticNet researchers from 30 Canadian Universities, eight federal and 11 provincial agencies and departments collaborate with research teams in Denmark, Finland, France, Greenland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA,” reads ArcticNet’s website.

I had the opportunity to take part in a social science project entitled, Improving Access to University Education in the Canadian Arctic, co-funded by ArcticNet. In the second year of my journalism studies at Carleton, I worked part-time on this project. The work included interviewing Inuit who had either experience in post-secondary studies, or had successfully completed a program of study.

Through these interviews I learned how to succeed in university. One individual in particular said to never give up even when things seem very difficult. It was encouraging to ultimately gain advice through research into Inuit post secondary experience — anecdotal of how research is educational. The information gathered was used to create the Tukitaarvik: Inuit Student Centre website, geared to help Inuit access postsecondary education through pertinent information related to succeeding at this level and also gives appropriate information related to Aboriginal-specific transition programs nationwide. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) now administers this website.

ITK currently staffs a full-time ArcticNet Coordinator, who oversees Inuit Research Advisors working in Canada’s four Inuit regions and also administers ArcticNet’s Northern Travel Fund. The fund was developed to provide opportunity for Inuit from these regions to attend ArcticNet’s Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM), held in December of each year and to provide them with the opportunity to learn, participate, present and share their knowledge about climate change. This past December in Halifax, ArcticNet held their annual meeting. Inuit participated and presented in the sessions — sessions meant to share with others about certain research projects that span across the Canadian Arctic.

Jordan Konek, one of the recipients of the Northern Travel Fund says, “it was nice to see other young Inuit succeed in other research backgrounds. I did a presentation with McGill University on working with young people in filmmaking.” Konek worked with other young Inuit in Rigolet, Labrador, in April 2013 as a filmmaking mentor.

Inuit Research Advisors
Inuit Research Advisors (IRA) are mandated to help communicate research results, build capacity in Inuit communities, identify research needs, help with research proposals, identify funding sources and create partnerships between researchers and Inuit communities. One IRA is allocated to each region. Their positions are funded by three sources: ArcticNet, the Northern Contaminants Program and their host organizations.

Shannon O’Hara is the Inuit Research Advisor for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, housed at the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. She has served as advisor the longest and has done a lot of great work with communities promoting community-based research. O’Hara also publishes an annual newsletter that focuses on research topics happening in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

“The IRAs have a good understanding of the challenges Inuit face in regards to traditional knowledge and science, and work hard to bridge those gaps in their everyday work and at conferences and events,” says Kendra Tagoona, ITK ArcticNet Coordinator.

Tagoona says, “Betsy Palliser, IRA Nunavik, is located in Puvirnituq, therefore she works and lives independently from her host organization, the Kativik Regional Government. She is a strong Inuk woman who takes pride in Inuit culture, language and family. I believe that she contributes greatly to research and her region, through providing her knowledge about Inuit culture and values. This is essential to any research being conducted in Inuit regions, and Betsy is doing a great job to ensure traditional knowledge is respected and included in research.”

While at the ASM in December, I interviewed Carla Pamak and Romani Makkik.

Carla Pamak, the Nunatsiavut IRA, says that “within Nunatsiavut we are looking for research that is going to benefit our region.We may be going out looking for researchers that are going to come in and help us. I think this is something that is needed across the North. More Northerners need to get involved in the type of research that is happening and ask for the type of research they would like to see happening in their region.”

“There has been a lot of research conducted on impacts of climate change on the environment, but I think the most important part of research is looking at how we can include Inuit knowledge into the work that’s already happening—what is the human side to the impacts of climate change?” says Romani Makkik, the Nunavut Research Advisor.

Arctic Change 2014
December 2014 will see the International Arctic Change 2014 conference, the second event of its kind, taking place in Ottawa. ArcticNet’s national and international partners will team up at the conference to collaborate and share research in what is expected to be one of the largest Arctic research gatherings ever held in Canada. Normally, ArcticNet hosts its ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting in December, but the 2014 conference has been fittingly titled Arctic Change 2014 to highlight the conference’s international expanse.

“Arctic Change 2014 aims to stimulate discussion and foster collaborations among people with a vested interest in the Arctic and its peoples,” says Dr. Martin Fortier, ArcticNet’s Executive Director.

Arctic Change 2014 comes at a time when Canada is at the pinnacle of its chairmanship of the Arctic Council and it also marks the 10th anniversary of ArcticNet.

Kate Snow of Inuvik has a science biology degree and is currently finishing her masters in management. Snow says,“my dad is a researcher or was and all of my life I have been learning from him so it was a natural transition to go right into research myself to the point where I didn’t think it was a rare thing to happen until I realized there weren’t many other native people like myself involved.”

Snow is the Inuit Communications Officer for the ArcticNet Student Association (ASA) and will be assisting coordination for Student Day-Arctic Change 2014. She can be reached at kgasnow@yahoo.com.

From my personal research experience, interviewing Inuit about their successes and experience helped me along in my own studies at Carleton. This is why I strongly believe that taking part in research is beneficial and educational. It teaches you about the world around you and provides you with insights that you may not normally receive or endeavour to explore. I strongly encourage Northerners to take part.