These research projects explored the link between climate change and health in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and involved exchanging traditional knowledge and observations between elder and youth at the beluga whaling camps on Kendall Island and Egg Island. While at the camps, the elders and youth conducted interviews and surveys, and shared stories about the old days and changes they have observed.
Erin Goose, our summer student, travelled to the whaling camp at Kendall Island, where hunters from Inuvik have made camps to hunt whales for generations. She wrote:
“On July 23, 2012 a group of 3 youth and I, along with Elders, got ready for a 4 day camping trip that would take place on Kendall Island. The trip had included the youth and elders to work together to gather information from the local people that travel to the Island annually for the harvesting season that takes place during the summer months of July and August. The group interviewed 4 Elders that knew a lot about the land, water and animals in this area. Weather patterns and climate changes were a big part of their concerns during the interviews, also the numbers of whales that were being harvested. They also discussed concerns about losing the traditional ways of hunting and supporting the community. The travel route was from Inuvik to Kendall Island, a place called “Sanmiqaq” (an Inuvialuit place name for the Island).
I learned about the Mackenzie Delta is very beautiful and rich in wildlife, and minerals just by seeing the land. I also learned that the people are very knowledgeable in weather changes, climate change effects such as erosion, slumping and storms.
The people that live here at Kendall during the summer are also very smart in knowing how to hunt, cut up their catch and preserving food for storage. They are good at making a home feel welcome and sharing with outsiders when they are visiting. They are very warm people. I am glad that I got to experience this and see what the whale camp is all about, and I’m sure if given an opportunity like this again I will definitely take the trip to go out on the coast to learn more, maybe actually learning to prepare and store the whales that were caught.
Meanwhile, I travelled west from Paulatuk by boat, across Darnley bay to a thin strip of land called Egg Island. As soon as we arrived we got to work to train youth in interview skills so they could interview and film stories from their elders about changes in the fish, beluga whales, land, and culture. This field camp was important of passing knowledge fromelders on to youth, and giving youth in the community the capacity to do research on issues that will be important to them now and in the future.
The highlight of this trip was participating in the drum dancing that was organized Nolan Green, the leader of the Paulatuk Moonlight Drummers and Dancers group. All the elders were very happy to see the youth continuing the drum dancing traditions, and I felt very lucky to take part in such an interesting and important project to the local community.