July 3, 2020
More COVID concerns as the North reopens. Plus a Klondike golf rush, rethinking Jack London’s legacy, and decolonizing the story of the canoe. All in this week's Up Here newsletter.
A rendering of Space Perspective's balloon, which would carry passengers and payloads 31 kilometres above the earth. (ALASKA AEROSPACE)


Now that our summer comeback special is off to the printer my attention turns back to website updates. We're hoping that with the upcoming online refresh of we'll also be able to offer an expanded array of digital content. But I'd like to know what you would like to see.

Would you be inclined to subscribe to more newsletters, geared towards specific interests (travel, the environment, northern history)? Would you buy tickets for online webinars with northern guest speakers, or listen to an Up Here podcast? Let us know.

In the meantime...

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 


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The Northwest Territories' doctors are calling for an end to “harmful” COVID-19 social restrictions. The territorial medical association penned a letter to the NWT’s chief public health officer saying the practice has caused more harm than the handful of cases of the virus experienced so far in the North. The territory should accept more COVID cases will arrive, says the medical association, but focus instead on border control, contact tracing, and self-isolation to contain the spread. (CBC)

Local business groups are also calling for a loosening of travel restrictions to save the NWT’s tourism industry: “There are great promotions out there that I think are appreciated for staycations and staying within the territory. But there’s no way that that’s going to fill the void of 72,000 visitors.” (

Open borders sound great, unless you’re neighbouring America, where deaths and hospitalizations are still on the rise. Travel between the lower 48 states and Alaska has so-far been allowed through the Yukon, so long as non-discretionary travellers hightail it as quickly as possible through Canada. Unfortunately, it looks like some of those American visitors are setting up camp and staying for a while. (

Speaking of COVID’s unstoppable arrival, Nunavut has a presumptive case at Baffinland’s Mary River mine. Only non-Nunavummiut are working at the mine currently, and authorities say there’s been no contact between workers and the surrounding communities. A previous case of COVID-19 back in May in Pond Inlet, which is a couple of hundred kilometres south of Mary River, turned out to be a false-positive. (

Somewhat related, in terms of risks to the small Baffin Island community, are the findings of a new study from the University of Ottawa that says Pond has seen the greatest increase in shipping traffic over the last 20 years compared to any other Canadian Arctic community across all of Inuit Nunangat. (

Meanwhile, over in Nunavik, which had a rash of coronavirus cases earlier this spring, life is almost back to normal: “minus the trips to Montreal.” (

Amidst the pandemic, Yellowknife is experiencing a “crazy busy” retail boom, featuring “unprecedented” sales numbers from across all sectors. Polar Tech had to hire more employees during the pandemic to keep up with the sales of ATVs, which are now completely sold out. Boats are also nearly gone. “We’re waiting for manufacturing plants to reopen so we can get more product.” (

Meet the Inuk artist behind Twitter’s Indigenous month emoji: 21-year-old designer Aija Komangapik. The daughter of Nunavut sculptor Ruben Komangapik tells Nunatsiaq's Sarah Rogers that she was inspired by a smiling face emoji. “I wanted to do something cheeky and fun, so I thought, I should do that but with snow goggles,” she says. “I was trying to think of iconic Inuit images, but our whole culture shouldn’t boil down to igloos and ulu.” (

To get ready for a Canada Day golf tournament in Fort Providence, mayor Danny Beaulieu spent a week mowing the course’s grass. Luckily, he had some help from three hungry bison. (
Cabin Radio)

Elsewhere, six friends from Whitehorse played 54 holes of golf in 54 hours across five Yukon courses, spread out between Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Faro, and Dawson City. Call it a Klondike Golf Rush? (

The fight for an Innu land claim in Labrador that began in the ’80s is now close to being finalized. But a competing claim by “southern Inuit” could delay this long-fought battle for self-determination. Greg Mercer has this complicated story that illustrates the shifting narrative about what defines an Indigenous people in Canada. (The Globe and Mail)
The smoking hills. (Photo by Angsar Walk CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Daily Mail, with a very Daily Mail-headline, has taken notice of the NWT’s “hellish red-striped Smoking Hills—which have been burning for CENTURIES.” The Smoking Hills near Cape Bathurst are so-named for the layers of sulphur-rich brown coal that ignites upon exposure to the air from erosion and landslides. (MailOnline)

There’s an ongoing discussion on whether Whitehorse should
remove a bust of Jack London, with petitioners against the monument citing the famous author’s xenophobic and racist writings. “London actively wrote about the inferiority of people of colour and advocated for eugenic ideas,” says petition organizer Abdeer Ahmad. Murray Lundberg, a historian in Whitehorse, doesn’t agree and says London grew out of his racist beliefs, and even before that was only writing to his audience: “That feeling, you know against immigrants and against other races was popular at the time.”

A similar debate 
is happening in Alaska, where Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist Yéil Ya-Tseen Nicholas Galanin is leading a campaign to take down statues and rename places honouring Captain James Cook. A statue of the mariner stands in Anchorage, gifted to the town in 1976 by British Petroleum. Meanwhile, in NuukGreenland, locals likewise say the statue of Danish-Norwegian colonist Hans Egede should be taken down. The statue was covered in red paint last week during Greenland’s National Day. (Various)

The Dene Nation has published a
new booklet of on-the-land medicine, which describes 10 plants traditionally used to treat ailments, including black spruce for sore throats and dandelion for fever. A full PDF can be found at the link. (Cabin Radio)

The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre is still anticipated to open later this year, but for those who can’t travel to see it (or don’t want to travel right now), a Visible Vault Digital Platform will host artwork and stories of Inuit artists exhibited. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Paying the Land, comic journalist Joe Sacco’s new book about the recent history of the NWT’s Indigenous peoples, is a “powerful piece of work,” says The Guardian. I haven’t read a copy yet, but from this review, it's good to see Sacco recognized his own outsider status in making this book about Dene and Métis communities who’ve been exploited and subjugated for centuries. “After all,” he writes, “what’s the difference between me and an oil company. We’ve both come to extract something.” (
The Guardian)

It’s one of the Yukon’s best geological secrets, writes Jackie Hong: “A well-known but under-studied patch of land that’s home to biological oddities found in limited numbers, if at all, elsewhere in the North.” These are the Takhini salt flats. (
Yukon News)

Here’s Hong again, with a story of Two Horsemen Lake’s purple bacteria blobs. (
Yukon News)

Eight years ago, Lyle Fabian laid a kilometre of fibre optic cable in his home community of K'atl'odeeche First Nation (near Hay River), connecting several municipal buildings in the small community with cheap, reliable internet. Now, the entrepreneur has a 20-year-plan to bring his project to the rest of the territory. (

“We are creating a refuge that hopefully we will never need,” says Stephen Nitah, a former chief of Łutsël K’é and lead negotiator in the creation of the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve. “The prophecy speaks about a time in the future where the economy as we know it today collapses, societal structure as we know it collapses, food security is non-existent, a great migration of people will be looking to places that have water.” (
Canadian Geographic)

Did you know June 26 was National Canoe Day? The story of the “quintessential Canadian watercraft” is often told through a colonial lens of exploration and trade, but that hides the canoe’s multiple independent origins by Indigenous peoples across what’s now called Canada—and how it stands as a symbol of resilience, and resurgence. (
NWT Recreation & Parks Association)
Fires raging in the northern Russian region of Yakutsk. (Siberian Times)


Arctic wildfires in Siberia are worsening, and now threaten “Pleistocene Park,” near the town of Chersky, which contains a sub-Arctic steppe grassland meant to mimic the ecosystem that flourished during the time of wooly mammoths. (Siberian Times)

A $100-or-so mandatory COVID-19 test upon arrival is not likely to be the most expensive part of a trip to Iceland, but tour company Arctic Adventures is offering to cover the cost anyway to try and boost tourism numbers post-pandemic. (
Daily Hive)

Florida-based Space Perspective wants to fly tourists from Kodiak, Alaska to the edge of space, using a pressurized balloon the size of a football stadium to bring eight people per trip up 31 kilometres off the ground. The estimated cost for the six-hour trip is $125,000 US. (
Associated Press)

The Arctic eats helicopters, so Russia is sending in drones. Now there's a movie I'd watch. (
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