Learning together: Science and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit join forces to better understand Iqalukpiit/Arctic Char in the Kitikmeot region

N. Thorpe, J.-S. Moore, and the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization

The Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization documented Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) of Arctic Char (iqalukpiit). This project on Arctic Char IQ—traditional knowledge—was part of a collaborative effort with the Ocean Tracking Network and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to study marine migrations of iqalukpiit. Local youth were trained to interview nine elders from the community and document IQ on iqalukpiit. Following the interviews, an Elder-youth camp was held at the traditional fishing site of Iqaluktuuq (the Ekalluk River) in August 2016. The event included community members, fisheries biologists. and social scientists. This community-led project recorded IQ through reports and a video-documentary. It also built local capacity and bridges between generations and disciplines. The Elder-youth camp provided an opportunity for healing on the land and facilitated new insights into iqalukpiit migrations. Together, these outcomes are instrumental in redefining a relationship between people and fish in a changing Arctic.

While the goal of the camp was to document iqalukpiit IQ, a more significant goal emerged upon arriving at Iqaluktuuq. People experienced an emotional homecoming that triggered powerful memories of forcibly leaving the land. It also led to a painful realization that subsisting off the land is challenging today given the many competing pressures that people face. Healing together on the land became more important than the iqalukpiit discussion. In spite of this profound context, shared learnings still occurred. For example, a local expert shared a crucial observation on fish migration behaviour and temperature regulation that inspired scientists to analyze their data differently. This ultimately led to new insights into the mechanisms driving the observed behaviour. Such community and agency collaborations, particularly on the land or in the field, may contribute to better environmental understandings. It may also contribute to reconciliation and healing among and between disciplines, generations, and peoples.

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