December 6, 2019

Nunavut’s hidden country-food economy, a gift of Yukon salmon sperm, and walking into Russia’s lethal “Valley of Death.” All in this week’s newsletter.

Multi-year ice in Tuvaijuittuq. (Photo by Pierre Coupel, courtesy DFO)


It finally got cold in Yellowknife. After hovering around –10, –13 for the last couple of weeks we're solidly into –37-with-the-windchill weather. I have broken out my parka. My friend Chris Miller, executive director of CPAWS Nova Scotia, picked the perfect time to visit. We're busy putting the finishing touches on our January/February travel issue so I'm just going to leave you with Chris' frozen face, and onto the newsletter we go...

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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In case you missed it, our profile of Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm (winner of Up Here’s 2019 Northerner of the Year) is now online. Tizya-Tramm is remarkably open about his battles with homelessness, addiction, and the trauma residential school inflicted on his family. Yet he remains passionately hopeful about the future for himself, and his people. (
Up Here)

A new app is combining smartphone tech with traditional Inuit knowledge. Siku allows users to trade observations about dangerous conditions, document wildlife sightings and share hunting stories, all incorporated with modern weather, sea ice info, and satellite imagery. (National Observer)

Congratulations to Ethel Blondin-Andrew, this year’s recipient of the Macleans Lifetime Achievement Award. Canada’s first Indigenous woman Member of Parliament held her Western Arctic (later NWT) riding through five consecutive elections. (Macleans)

The Yukon legislature passed a bill to finally make Yukon College into a university, becoming the first institution in the territories to grant a degree under its own name. But it's not the first university in Canada’s Arctic, as the Canadian Press and other outlets incorrectly reported. For the record Whitehorse, where the Yukon College is located, is about 700 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. It's like saying Quebec City is part of the Greater Toronto Area. (Canadian Press)

Merry Christmas! A British Columbia fishery has gifted the Carcross/Tagish Energy Corporation 11 years’ worth of salmon sperm. The cryopreserved milt will be used as an insurance policy should the Yukon River chinook population collapse. (CBC)

Check out these custom parkas given to Jagmeet Singh and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq on their recent trip to Iqaluit. Inuk seamstress Marlene Watson made the garments in bright NDP orange with Inuit markings and fur trim. (@Teirersias)

“How do you take measures to protect what’s predicted to be the last piece of ice? That’s the climate change issue.” Elaine Anselmi looks at the government protection plan for Tuvaijuittuq, a place where no person lives and few have ever visited—but that doesn’t mean its protection is in vain. (Up Here)

“The magnificence of the landscape, the sun on the horizon and the rhythmic pounding of his dog team’s paws on the snowy ground have proven to be big boosts to Devon Manik’s mindset.” One Resolute teenager’s feeling of freedom on the land. (Nunavut News)

Hay River’s Fiona Huang is one of the top student-athletes in Canada. The sprinter is in her second year at the University of Toronto, where she’s just been named an Academic All-Canadian by the country’s governing university athletics body. (CBC)

If you want to find water on Mars, look to Axel Heiberg Island. Wayne Pollard has spent 40 years studying permafrost in the High Arctic, and the extremely salty springs of water found throughout Axel Heiberg’s polar deserts. His work has brought him partnerships with NASA, and a $100,000 lifetime achievement award. (CBC)

Nunavut’s country food harvest is a hidden economy worth $143 million annually. So says a study presented at the ArcticNet conference in Halifax this past week, which calculated the volume of harvested meat in Nunavut per resident, per year. “If there was no hunting at all in Nunavut, there would be a $143-million food bill to make up.” (Nunatsiaq)

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated has released a 1990 cabinet document from the Mulroney government that shows the Canada deliberately blocked the use of Inuktut in government services: “singling out education and courts as two services for which government explicitly decided shall not have any Inuktut language guarantees or protections.” The document contains the Tory government's orders to federal lawyers negotiating what would become the Nunavut Agreement. (NNSL)
A photo of a dozen or more ice halos, taken by photographer Michael Schneider in the Swiss Alps. Mark McCaughrean helpfully annotated the halos. (Kottke)


In Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula lies a rarely visited gorge where invisible volcanic gases suffocate bears, birds, and any other animals that wander inside. “Welcome to the Valley of Death, a site that remains as darkly enchanting—and as lethal—as when it was discovered 44 years ago.” (Atlas Obscura)

The Sitka in Alaska have long survived off the local herring fishery. It’s an animal that holds deep cultural and economic significance for the Indigenous group. But between climate change and government mismanagement, this season not a single boat left the docks and not a single herring was caught. (The Guardian)

Before Christmas trees were imported to Greenland, families would decorate their homes by drilling holes in a broomstick and placing small branches and heather inside. (Arktisk Institut)

And finally, here's a video of 3,000 reindeer blocking a Siberian highway. See if you can spot Rudolph. (Daily Mail)
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