Year(s) Funded: 2014-2015
Topic Area: Food Security
Contact: Dr. Nancy Mackin (email@example.com)
Title: Kugluktukmiutand Inuvialuit Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit of willow and climate change
Action: With climate change, many plants and animals are changing in their range, size, and habits. In many parts of the Arctic, willow is becoming too abundant and tall, hampering country food harvesting and making it harder to see bears when young people and food harvesters are out on the land. This project led the way by bringing traditional willow uses back into everyday use, thereby finding useful ways to reduce willow growth while sharing Traditional Knowledge across generations and between the communities of Inuvik and Kugluktuk. The method used was inspired by Inuvialuit Elder Lillian Elias, who worried “Young people get lost because of climate change. The Elders get lost too, but they know how to survive. The younger ones don’t know what we know”. In discussion with Elders, we decided that knowing how to construct a tradition-based shelter from materials available on the land (willow, moss, and skins), and employing the shelter to harvest country foods including berries and willow shoots, would help younger people know how to survive.
Results:This project resulted in the development of a willow management plan and brought traditional uses for willow back into active use. The resulting shelter showed young people a possible way to survive if they were out on the land. To prepare for the work, they interviewed Inuvialuit knowledge-holder Persis Gruben in Aklavik, who explained exactly how the willow houses had been constructed and used when she was a young child, about 86 years ago. Then, knowledge-holders and students from Kugluktuk came to Inuvikin and participated in completing the qaluurvik adding moss for insulation and a waterproofing layer that traditionally would have been skins (students decided to use a translucent tarp, which had the added benefit of solar heat gain during the short daylight hours).
Students from Inuvik and Kugluktuk had hands-on experience in building a strong, tradition-based shelter using light, pliable willow and blocks of moss, both materials that are readily available in the region
Outputs: The construction events and the interviews with knowledge-holders were recorded and edited into a bilingual (English and Inuktitut) documentary film entitled “Willow is Survival: Nauttiangit for a Changing Landscape”. The documentary is a teaching resource for people of different ages and interests.
A learning module involving building scale models of shelters from Arctic willow with cladding of moss and skins was developed and employed in workshops with people of varying backgrounds and training, including high school students, climate change conference attendees, students of architecture, and senior architects.