May 3, 2019
Debating Inuktitut dog names, navigating the Arctic (poorly) by GPS, and riding a rollercoaster into the Gold Rush. Plus, war whales? War whales!
From Danny Ishulutak on Instagram: “#EatSealWearSeal, I too have had these moments with seal blood all over my face.”


The Simpsons visited Canada (again) to take some shots at the sealing industry. Canadian media gave far more coverage to the whole debacle than a late-period Simpsons episode demands. In the teleplay, idiot child Ralph is portrayed as a “Newfie” clubbing a stuffed white-coat and kicking around its head. A note to the cartoon’s writers from Inuit children across the North: don’t play with your food.

Congrats to our Up Here team on this week's
National Magazine Awards nomination for Best Magazine: Special Interest. Great news to wake up to on a cold Wednesday morning. Particularly, thanks to former editors Elaine Anselmi and Herb Mathisen for all their tireless work crafting a prestigious product over the past year. Fingers crossed we take home the win. 

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon



Everybody knows that everybody knows everybody in the North. For proof, let’s turn to last year’s Facebook data breach. It appears that only a single person in Nunavut downloaded Cambridge Analytica’s data-mining “This Is Your Digital Life” app. The result? Over 1,700 Northerners from that person’s friends list have had their personal information unknowingly scraped. (CBC)

Borders are imaginary. But how they impact people is both real and severe—whether that’s a wall between the US and Mexico or a wall of paperwork between the US and Canada. Thanks to a 200-year-old treaty, Indigenous residents of Canada can work and live in the United States without the standard immigration legalities. Canada refuses to recognize that treaty, though. The result is Gwitchin in Canada can’t follow caribou herds across the fictional Alaskan border for subsistence hunting, and Gwitchin who live on the American side can’t come over to Canada to visit their sacred gathering grounds. (Reuters)

“Here is a sentence that only makes sense if you know a little Inuktitut,” writes APTN journalist Kent Driscoll. “Every time I take my qimmiq for a walk, we meet qimmiit named ‘Qimmiq.’” Driscoll asks the question: “should non-Inuit be allowed to name dogs in Nunavut?” What began as an arbitrary Twitter poll evolved into a nuanced examination of dogs in Nunavut, settler appropriation, and some hilarious canine stories. (APTN)

The latest sobering climate change study estimates the warming Arctic could cost the world $70 trillion. The global GDP in 2016, for comparison, was just $76 trillion. The research study, published this week in Nature Communications, found melting Arctic ice and thawing permafrost will exasperate already warming temperatures worldwide, accelerating the impact of economic and ecological disasters. While there may be some small economic gains from a warmer Arctic, says National Geographic (such as shorter shipping routes and easier mineral extraction), those gains are microscopic compared to what will be lost. (National Geographic)

In fact, the Arctic is thawing so fast that scientists are losing their equipment. The Canadian Press reports that several metres of what was once called permafrost can now destabilize within days—often taking precision monitoring equipment with it. “We’ve lost dozens of field sites,” says University of Guelph biologist Merritt Turetsky. “We were collecting data on a forest and all of a sudden it’s a lake.” In related news, the Russian Hydrometeorological Institute had to be evacuated by helicopter this week as the polar ice underneath began to break up. Moscow Times reports that it's become increasingly difficult over the last several years to find ice floes stable enough to set up Russia's research expeditions. The last sizeable station was built in October of 2012 and had to be evacuated the following May. (Various)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “Northern experience” and what that means to southern Canada. Particularly, how an image of the territories has been packaged and sold to the lower provinces as an untamed adventure in the wilds. Daniel Francis writes about this in his book, National Dreams. There is a North of the mind, he says, “which exists independently of the geographic North and has always provided an identifiable marker for Canadianness. It imparts an element of freedom to Canadian life, even for those who never go there.” Welcome, then, to Frontier Land. The newest kingdom of Canada’s Wonderland is meant to evoke the Klondike Gold Rush. Attractions include the world record-breaking Yukon Striker rollercoaster, the Mighty Canadian Minebuster, Soaring Timbers, Flying Canoes, and Lumberjack Climb (formerly Jacob’s Ladder). There's also a “Miners Café” where park visitors can chow down on “delicious protein bowls.” Frontier Land was supposed to be a part of the Ontario theme park back when it opened in 1981. Pierre Burton even consulted on the attractions to provide “historically accurate ideas.” The idea was postponed and eventually scrapped—only now being resurrected for the next generation. (Canada’s Wonderland)

Meanwhile, in the actual North, it’s the end of the line for the Whitehorse trolley. The waterfront train that could, can't. It's too expensive for the government to keep on the tracks. The plan since 2000, when the yellow trolley started carrying sightseers, was that the enterprise would eventually be self-sufficient. But that hasn’t happened and the territory is sick of losing money. The Macbride Museum, which has operated the train for the past two years, is itself in dire financial straits. The heritage museum has asked the territory to buy it out after Whitehorse city levied a sudden $154,000 in back taxes on the non-profit facility. (CBC)

Navigating by GPS should be the most accurate way to get around. How could our feeble human brains and paper maps compare to satellites and computers? So we opt out of travel planning and cede authority to our smartphones. But in the Arctic, a lack of wayfinding experience, the speed of a snowmachine, and the false comfort of GPS can quickly lead to danger. Author M. R. O’Connor writes in her new book Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World, about how the arrival of GPS in Igloolik “lightened the cognitive load of memory itself.” Hunters chose to ignore environmental cues and instead rely on a mechanism physically detached from the environment around them. “GPS changed the routes that people take, sometimes away from paths whose safety had been proven over generations; some hunters can tell just from observing tracks in the snow who was using GPS to find their way because they were straight as an arrow—a computer-plotted track.” See also: Michael Scott driving into a lake. (Popular Science)

Remember when we spoke last week on the inaccessibility of Yellowknife? Those barriers, to no great surprise, extend across the territories. Wheelchair-user David Jayko lives in Taloyoak, where he has no car and no access to transportation. There’s no taxi service, nor ambulance, nor transit for him to get to the airport for his regular medical appointments in Edmonton. (Nunatsiaq)

Tyra Cockney-Goose is the only woman this year—and the first Inuk ever—to win the national STEAM Horizon award for outstanding student achievement in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The Inuvik student, currently studying at the University of Victoria, earns a $25,000 scholarship for her work studying sleep deprivation. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation has already taken Cockney-Goose on this summer to work as a Climate Change and Environmental Policy Assistant. (CBC)


Former NWT government workers somehow keep winning government contracts without having to actually compete for them. Take, for instance, former-principal secretary Richard Bargery who was handed $160,000 in sole-sourced consulting work to develop a park on Great Slave Lake. More examples of opaque public spending at the link. (CBC

The only gas station in Rigolet, Labrador is closing. The town council for the world's southernmost Inuit community says it couldn't find a private buyer to take over what's been a money-losing business. It was this or bankruptcy, Rigolet councillor Chelsea Morris tells the press. “We literally have no solutions from beyond this point.” (CBC)


Spin those tassels and mark your calendars. Boardwalk Burlesque takes the stage once more in Dawson City from May 16 to 18. The troupe was put together four years ago by Chevonne of the Yukon (Rachel Wiegers), the territory’s first modern burlesque performer. This year will be the second time Boardwalk graces the historic Palace Grand Theatre stage. Arizona Charlie Meadows built the original PG Theatre in 1899, advertising “40 shapely ladies” on stage to entice the miners. Tickets for Boardwalk’s show are on sale now.

If you're down in British Columbia this Friday, check out the Sechelt Arts Centre to hear a talk on Arctic entomology. Donna Giberson will dissect her 40 years spent collecting bugs from the rivers and lakes across Canada—including her many summers spent amongst the mosquitos up North. (
Coast Reporter)

The Amazing Race Canada landed in Yellowknife once again for another Northern-themed obstacle run. Just don’t ask anyone about it. The cast and crew are signed to secrecy about what crazy stunts are planned for the episode. ARC previously shot in Yellowknife six years ago, forcing contestants to partake in a polar bear dip.
My Yellowknife Now)


Icelanders enjoy their vacations. But all that air travel has a disastrous impact on the environment. So the Nordic island's inhabitants have coined a new term for their travel-based guilty conscience: flugskömm or “flight shame.” (High North News

Growing up gay in Greenland wasn’t easy for Niviaq Korneliussen, but neither was getting published. “The culture for writing is really almost zero because it is not a part of our culture,” she says. “Our culture is very rich, but it is mostly oral.” Korneliussen’s debut novel follows a group of young Greenlanders experimenting with sexuality and gender identity. It's already become a hit in her home country, and the English-translation is likewise bringing the young author acclaim. (Sydney Morning Herald

War whales? War whales!

Tété-Michel Kpomassie was climbing a tree in his small West African village when he was surprised by a snake and fell. While recuperating, he came across a book on Greenland. “I learned that it is so cold in Greenland that there is no snakes,” Kpomassie recalls in a new BBC documentary. “Where is that paradise?” When he was 16, Kpomassie left behind Togo and made his way North, eventually settling with the Kalaallit Inuit and writing a book on his experiences. “I was the first Black man they had ever seen.” The Brussels Institute of Fine Arts held a more in-depth conversation last year with Kpomassie about his story (who now lives in France, but hopes to end his life back up North). (BBC)
Jesses Tungilik finished his sealskin spacesuit. Perfect timing to accompany this lovely recollection from Peter Autut on mom’s advice for winter layering when heading out to hunt around Chesterfield Inlet

“When I was younger, my mom taught me the right way to dress in layers: like an astronaut. In some sense, we were really going where no others would be going. In -43 C with strong wind, we’d drive at least three hours to put out fishing nets. We had to chisel through 12 feet of ice and we didn’t have the auger in those days. It’d be too cold anyway for such a small engine, but I’ve seen them wrapped in caribou and used in extreme conditions.” (
Up Here)
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