International research collaboration to thrive through new Canada-Inuit Nunangat-United Kingdom Arctic Research Programme

2021 University of Minnesota Duluth-led Creativity for Entrepreneurship course student and young Qaumajuq member Tony Eetak from Arviat, Nunavut takes in the sights of historic St. Boniface and St. Vital during a week-long arts workshop in Winnipeg, Manitoba and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Eetak is a member of the ArcticNet-supported Inclusion in Northern Research project and is exploring the design of a pilot digital and cultural entrepreneurship with support from the Minnesota College of Art and Design. 

International research collaboration to thrive through new Canada-Inuit Nunangat-United Kingdom Arctic Research Programme

Carving Out Climate Testimony: Inuit Youth, Wellness & Environmental Stewardship and Inuit Qaujisarnirmut Pilirijjutit on Arctic Shipping Risks in Inuit Nunangat are among 13 projects announced for funding under the new Canada-Inuit Nunangat-United Kingdom (CINUK) Arctic Research Programme.

CINUK is funded through a partnership between Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), POLAR Knowledge Canada, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Parks Canada Agency, and Fonds de recherche du Québec. The programme will run from 2021 to 2025.

Its purpose is to increase understanding of and to address the environmental, social, economic, cultural, engineering and infrastructure impacts of climate change in the Canadian Arctic.

“Canada is committed to Indigenous self-determination in Arctic research as a pivotal element for strengthening capacity building, education, networking, and resilience,” said the Hon. Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs and Member of Parliament for St. Boniface and St. Vital riding in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

“This will help ensure that research conducted in the Arctic is impactful, and useful to governments, as well as the Indigenous Peoples and communities, whose traditional territories are being studied. This international collaboration highlights the invaluable role of Indigenous knowledge in the transformation of Arctic science.”

The research being conducted by the successful projects over the three years of the CINUK Programme covers a wide range of important areas, including shipping, wildlife health, country foods, ecosystem health, safe travel, search and rescue, renewable energy, community health, coastal erosion, plastics and pollution, and much more.

“I would like to congratulate the successful grant applicants and thank them for pursuing meaningful research in Inuit Nunangat,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed.

“Including Inuit as partners in the governance of Inuit Nunangat research is necessary for improving the efficacy, impact and usefulness of research activity taking place in our homeland. This program is a prime example of how that can be achieved through partnership co-development.”

Dr. Olaf Kuhlke from the Minnesota College of Art and Design and Winnipeg Art Gallery member Tony Eetak from the ArcticNet-supported Inclusion in Northern Research project have been experimenting with the design of a pilot incubator program for digital and cultural entrepreneurship. Their projects will be presented at the Auviqsaqtut Inuit Studies Conference at Qaumajuq June 21 and at the 2022 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meetings in December.

Carving out Climate Testimony: Inuit Youth, Wellness & Environmental Stewardship

Carving out Climate Testimony: Inuit Youth, Wellness & Environmental Stewardship asks a two-fold question: How does climate change impact Inuit youth and what are the resilience factors that enhance mental health and well-being?

The new initiative will see new opportunities for Inuit youth and research to collaborate on climate change research led by the University of Saskatchewan and Newcastle University in the UK.

“This will help ensure that research conducted in the Arctic is impactful, and useful to governments, as well as the Indigenous Peoples and communities, whose traditional territories are being studied.

Hon. Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs and Member of Parliament for St. Boniface-St. Vital

Echoing the National Inuit Strategy on Research (NISR), Carving out Climate Testimony views the question of health as a vital research priority. Specifically, it will explore how changes to terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems (sea-ice and coastal processes, freshwater, snow, permafrost thaw, and changing marine ecosystems) impact Inuit youth’s mental health and well-being.

In particular the project will work with an Inuit understanding of ‘storytelling’ (Inuktitut: Unikkausivut) which refers to verbal but also artistic expressions. Working alongside Inuit artists the project will explore how long-standing practices of storytelling can be used as a material and intergenerational method to visually convey climate realities and shape policy that enhances resilience strategies. An Inuit-led team brings the necessary expertise to address these questions in ways that support youth self-determination, centring youth as stewards of their own changing environments.

As well, an interdisciplinary team, with expertise across the physical and social sciences, will take a community-engaged and story-based approach to this research, and provide an Inuit-led structure and methodological pathway for community members to themselves determine how these systems are experienced.

“Developing our understanding of Inuit-led science and knowledge systems is key to addressing climate change in Inuit Nunangat,” said the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. 

“By supporting Indigenous leadership and self-determination, and Indigenous knowledge and knowledge systems, we are building a greener and more equitable future. Congratulations to the teams chosen and we look forward to collaborating.”

Dr. Olaf Kuhlke from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design-supported Our People, Our Climate project looks on as Eric Anoee, Jr. and Nangmalik Qanatsiaq from Arviat, Nunavut take in the the inaugural Qaumajuq exhibit INUA by curators Krista Ulujuk Zawadski, Kablusiak, asinnajaq and Dr. Heather Igloliorte from the Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq Project.

Inuit Qaujisarnirmut Pilirijjutit on Arctic Shipping Risks in Inuit Nunangat

A second project, Inuit Qaujisarnirmut Pilirijjutit on Arctic Shipping Risks in Inuit Nunangat, is co-developed by Inuit, Canadian and UK partners to generate knowledge about the risks associated with climate change-induced growth in Arctic shipping across Inuit Nunangat. 

The Hon. Dan Vandal speaks during the 2021 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meetings.

Led by the ArcticNet Network Centre of Excellence, this initiative will work to identify and evaluate potential management strategies that support Inuit self-determined shipping and oceans governance.

This project will investigate past, present and future trends in shipping activity through Inuit Nunangat and collect new data to assess the impacts of increased traffic on both the natural environment and the livelihoods, health and wellbeing of Inuit communities. 

Community researchers from Pond Inlet and Arviat will be integral to developing case studies for high and low shipping traffic sites respectively. Sampling and monitoring campaigns on ships of opportunity will enable us to assess environmental impacts within the main shipping routes. 

“By supporting Indigenous leadership and self-determination, and Indigenous knowledge and knowledge systems, we are building a greener and more equitable future. Congratulations to the teams chosen and we look forward to collaborating.”

Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

Research will focus on subjects ranging from underwater noise and the impacts on marine mammals; particulate contaminants in the air (black carbon emissions) and water (microplastics, paints and heavy fuel oil residues); and the risks of non-indigenous species establishing within Inuit Nunangat waters; as well as comprehensive risk mapping and analysis of governance options. This work will also provide evidence to guide future decision-making for marine traffic management in an increasingly more accessible Arctic.

HANDS-ON: The Incubator team learns from in-person visits with entrepreneurs including Constance Menzies at Chocolatier Constance Popp in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Photo: Jamie Bell
Members of the Inclusion in Northern Research, Our People Our Cilmate and the Winnipeg Incubator for Digital and Cultural Entrepreneurship discuss new collaborations during a workshop at Chocolatier Constance Popp in historic St. Boniface, Winnipeg this April. The workshop was one of the first held in almost two years and brought together artists, researchers and entrepreneurs from Winnipeg, Arviat, Northwestern Ontario and Minnesota.

Exploring new and inclusive approaches to international collaboration in Arctic research

Seeding innovation with Digital Greenhouse and the Canada Council for the Arts

The CINUK programme will also support increased connection and collaboration with community-based research projects. One of those initiatives is the ArcticNet-supported Inclusion in Northern Research. Developed through the course of these past two years and premiered at the ArcticNet Arctic Change 2020 and 2021 Annual Scientific Meetings, the grassroots initiative is now preparing for its third year.

Inclusion in Northern Research (INR) began with the creation of videos highlighting the varied journeys of a diverse group of researchers, youth, Elders and artists. In its first year, INR grew from a handful of supporters into an international online discussion that included over 1000 people in more than 40 countries, starting important conversations about inclusion in our research community in a safe and open space.

As the world begins to return to normal, and research season gets underway, several collaborators from both CINUK projects are gearing up to meet for the first time this June during the Auviqsaqtut 2022 Inuit Studies Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The international conference, held every two years, is being hosted in partnership with Qaumajuq, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the University of Winnipeg.

“Our program is new and we’re excited to be able to meet and learn with so many of the people and projects we’ve only been able to see through a screen these last two years,” said emerging Inuk artist and Inclusion in Northern Research team member Ethan Tassiuk from Arviat, Nunavut. “Self-determination in being able to design and lead our own, sustainable and community-led programs is even more important than ever before as we exit this pandemic.”

“It’s through programs like this new Digital Greenhouse program from Canada Council for the Arts that we’re able to experiment with designing and piloting an urban and land-based arts and culture program, and to do it by experimenting with new technologies and in our own ways,” he said. 

Tassiuk said the digital and cultural entrepreneurship incubator program aims to contribute to and expand on existing work on entrepreneurship incubation, with an emphasis on the creation of digital products and services. “We’re still thinking a lot about how we can design new programs differently,” said Tassiuk. “We started with just ideas, and testing what we want to build on ourselves.”

Ethan Tassiuk receives decoration for Volunteerism from Governor General of Canada Mary Simon
Inclusion in Northern Research, Arviat Film Society founding member and emerging artist Ethan Tassiuk receives the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Rt. Hon. Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada in April 2022. The 23-year-old Inuk artist is keen to resume his studies in Sports and Recreation Management at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario this fall.

The Digital Greenhouse is a new strategic digital innovation funding initiative for Canadian individuals, groups and organizations. The program supports addressing challenges and exploring digital solutions related to accessibility, equity, diversity, decolonization, social justice, and climate responsibility created by, or relevant to, the digital world, and to address challenges and exploring solutions related to the lack of access to digital infrastructure for remote regions and Northern and under-represented communities.

One of the projects the incubator team is working with is Our PeopleOur Climate. This innovative, international and community-driven project is both an artistic showcase and skills development program. Youth and young adult participants will learn the art of documentary storytelling using still photography, videography, drone aerial technology and interview techniques.

Our People, Our Climate was exhibited at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland during COP-26 in November 2021.

Digital Greenhouse also supports the development of sector-wide and cross-sector collaborations, partnerships, and networks to support innovative strategies and sectoral approaches aimed at strategically increasing the digital/data literacy and ongoing digital transformation of the arts sector.

“I don’t think we realized at first just how different and exciting an adventure this new Digital Greenhouse program would turn out to be,” said cultural entrepreneurship incubator and Inclusion in Northern Research team member Jamie Bell. “We’re starting to see youth, emerging Indigenous artists and communities coming together, they’re starting to create artists’ profiles, bouncing new ideas off each other and most importantly, being able to meaningfully contribute to building new, collaborative relationship building and incubating ideas and opportunities for bringing the arts to life after two really difficult years.”

The experimental incubator program follows examples set by Indigenous and People-of-Color-focused incubation programs such as Inclusion in Northern Research (Canada), Creative Startups (Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA), the Neighborhood Development Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA), Indigenous Talent Portal (Canada), the Incubator for Digital Entrepreneurship in the Arctic (Alaska, USA).

“We’re learning a lot about digital standards,” said Bell. “And about how we can encourage innovative thinking and approaches to digital arts and arts-based research creation. We’re starting to see creative environments emerging where artists and the communities they work with are better able to utilize more agile, open and user-focused methods.”

Team members from projects planning to collaborate with the two CINUK-supported initiatives will gather this June for a special roundtable conversation on using the arts in support of participatory and inclusive learning environments during the Inuit Studies Conference.

This week-long series of conversations and workshops, hosted by Qaumajuq, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the University of Winnipeg will bring together northern and southern youth, community builders, arts-based researchers, culture connectors, entrepreneurs and educators to share cultural and environmental observations, challenges and insights-based solutions for hands-on digital arts and technologies to tackle cultural and climate change through regenerative artistic creation, cultural entrepreneurship and participatory video training. 

It’s not just about creating or learning to create art, said Bell. “We’re also learning new techniques to ensure we can fully and better consider how to best leverage new approaches for digital delivery throughout all the projects we want to see developed. So much of this is about being able to learn, together, how to design new and innovative digital services to live, learn and create differently.

It’s a big goal, but what we all want to see happen is that everything we create will be open and freely shared for all Canadians to use, and to be able to it all from the palm of their hands in whatever community they live – whether urban, rural or northern and remote.”