May 31, 2019
It’s time for Caribou Days and Gold Rush 2: The Sequel. Plus, the Yukon gets a Tesla, Alaskan mountain research could rewrite Arctic history, and why don’t fake Indigenous art makers go to jail?


Jonathan Nuss captures #RaptorsFever (above) all the way up in Taloyoak, Nunavut. “Kids are stoked here, the most Northern community on mainland Canada and I think that’s pretty amazing,” he writes on Instagram. Toronto's appearance in the NBA finals has united the country in Canada's national pastime: trying to prove we're better than Americans. Once again under the banner of We The North.

It's a successful bit of nation-branding condensing all Canadian identity down onto Toronto's playoff chances. The slogan itself was created for the NBA team a few years ago by Montreal-based, Dutch-originating, and Japanese-owned marketing company Sid Lee. Shannon Hosford, marketing director for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment,
tells Canadian Business magazine that people gravitated to the brand because of its Canadian resonance. “The thing that I love about We The North is that it’s authentic. It’s about who we are as Canadians. We spun all the negative things about where we come from into a positive; it might be cold but we are the North and we’re proud of it.”

But who actually is “the North” depends entirely on where it is you're standing. To anyone living above the Arctic Circle, we're all southerners. Those below the tree line would say the same of anybody living south of 60. “Moreover,”
notes the Northern Policy Institute, “the only major Canadian cities that are more geographically south of Toronto are Hamilton and London.” Even Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis, Minnesota have taken great joy in pointing out they're actually further North than the Raptors' hometown.

Inaccurate then, sure, but if it helps the rest of Canada actually tolerate Toronto, so be it.

As always, thanks for reading.
Jacob Boon



The Vuntut Gwich'in First Nation has hired a new caribou coordinator. Elizabeth Staples takes over a position that’s gone unfilled for the last decade as the battle to preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge rages on. Just in time, the Porcupine Caribou herd has arrived in Old Crow. Its return comes as a small surprise. The massive herd of animals has stayed farther north these last few years, making the Old Crow spring celebration a caribou festival in-name-only (and also severely impacting families who rely on caribou meat for sustenance). 

Eva Holland
dives deep on the caribou concerns for Longreads: how the preservation of a wilderness area is a settler concept sometimes at odds with land use by the people actually living there, and how quickly the lofty ideals of environmental protection are whittled down once there's money to be made.

“The language around the conservation movement’s idea of ‘wilderness’ so often implies an emptiness, an absence of humanity entirely—an erasure of the people who’ve been living in and with that wilderness all along. At the same time, the idea that only clueless southerners care about protecting ANWR entirely erases the consistent and unanimous resistance of the Gwich’in. James and others told me, over and over: To them, this wasn’t a conservation issue. It was a human rights issue.”

Elaine Anselmi wrote about the American government’s 30-year fight to drill for oil in caribou lands and its impact on the Vuntut Gwich'in,
in the March issue of Up Here. (Various)
Peter Mather took this photo of Porcupine caribou crossing the Blow River, Yukon.

Taxpayers remain on the hook for the estimated $1 billion it will take to clean up Giant Mine and freeze underground caverns outside Yellowknife containing a quarter of a million tonnes of toxic arsenic dust. Original estimates for long-term costs of that clean-up were $2 million per year, but as the territory and CBC now report, “the mine will require annual care and maintenance, at an estimated cost of $6 million, continuing forever.” That’s “only a rough estimate and costs may increase in the future.” Total cost determined by how long it takes the government to lose interest, or Canadian society to collapse. A federal team in charge of the cleanup plans was to have secured funding two years ago. As of today, they’ve only assembled a draft proposal (which is being kept from the public) and there’s no regulatory oversight to tell said bureaucrats to step it up. Over in the Yukon, federal costs to look after the Faro mine site will run $75 million this year, making the total cost of babysitting the abandoned mine for these past 21 years somewhere over half a billion dollars. (CBC)

Despite all those legacy costs, gold mining still has a sheen of romance and history to it in the territory. Case in point, Dawson City has launched an Indiegogo campaign for what it's calling Gold Rush 2. The sequel hopes to raise $100,000 in online donations—used to buy “genuine Yukon gold” which will then be dumped into Bonanza Creek where excited visitors and locals can pan for it at the end of August. (Newswire)

Remember that billion-year-old fossil fungi rewriting the origins of life on Earth that we talked about in last week’s newsletter? What we didn’t know at the time is that the fungal specimen was discovered as part of the same Geological Survey of Canada trip Vivien Cumming wrote about in the January/February edition of Up Here. Neat! 

Fort Smith is slipping into the river and the Kluane Ice Cave has collapsed
Matt Jacques took this ice cave shot for Montecristo Magazine.

Shedding some maple-syrup tears for the demise of Yellowknife’s Twin Pine Diner and its life-affirming waffles. Robin and Karen Wasicuna shut down the popular eatery last weekend after four years and a disastrous recent partnership with Harley’s strip club. The Yellowknife Women’s Society already has plans to transform the Arnica Inn complex that housed Twin Pine into transitional housing. (Cabin Radio)

Speaking of survival, two Canadian women went far North to endure some basic Arctic living for a shot at $500,000. It was all part of the History Channel’s reality series Alone. The hardest part of being stripped away from modern life and conveniences? Having to constantly set up three cameras so the viewers back in their comfy homes have something fun to watch. “You’re stuck behind the lens and you’re not fully engaged in the moment,” one contestant says. “You need to be fully engaged in the moment to survive successfully.” (National Post)

Boring, deadly times for survival enthusiasts who've been stuck waiting in line while climbing Mount Everest. This year's climbing season is so busy in fact that deaths in the aptly-named "death zone" have doubled. Business Insider perhaps wonders if there are less deadly adventures folks can take. Ultra-luxury travel company CEO Adam Sebba responds with several excursions free of deadly lineups. Number three on the list is Baffin Island. “If it's a 'world first' experience you're looking for, we can guarantee uncharted slopes, immersion into local culture and a real chance to test physical limits, all packed together.” (Business Insider)

Prince Charles, rock guitarist Joe Satriani, and models of Paris Fashion Week don’t have much in common, but they have all worn accessories crafted by Mathew Nuqingaq.” The president of the Inuit Art Foundation is profiled by the Daily Beast.

Mathew Nuqingaq shows off his unique studio in Iqaluit. (Photo by Sarah Rogers)

Staying on the arts beat, and spinning of the intellectual property rights discussion last week, Francesca Fionda asks, “Why don’t fake Indigenous art makers go to jail?” (Policy Options)

Nunavut’s lifted the ban on journalist Thomas Rohner visiting the territory’s correctional facilities. The former Nunatsiaq News reporter has chronicled the conditions of Nunavut’s justice system for various national media outlets—up until December, anyway, when the justice department barred his entry saying Rohner’s visits were hampering rehabilitation. The matter has now been settled to the “mutual satisfaction” of both sides. (Nunatsiaq News)

George Johnson was inducted into the Yukon Transportation Hall of Fame this week as “Pioneer of the Year.” The year in question being 1928, one would assume. That’s when K’aashtl’áa, otherwise known as Johnson, brought a four-door Chevy to the tiny community of Teslin before there were even any roads to drive it on. Johnson built his own road for his new car, offering taxi rides to locals. “In the winter, he painted the car white and drove it up and down Teslin Lake checking his traplines. In the fall, he painted the car in camouflage and used it to go hunting.” It’s still on display at the Teslin museum.

Which brings us to Mike Simon—the
man who owns the Yukon’s first Tesla. The government technical support worker tells Yukon News the vehicle handled well all winter, lasting three or four days without charging and saving him over $250 a month in gas costs. One would hope, given the $43,000 standard price tag. Ralf GorichanazSkagway’s first Tesla owner, says he’s already tested the vehicle’s autopilot on Alaska's roads. Yellowknife, meanwhile, was featured in a Toyota commercial.
Photo by Émile Brisson-Curadeau for Up Here.


The Canadian government, and many conservation groups, maintain polar bear hunting is sustainable. But Ole Liodden, a Norwegian polar bear researcher, disagrees. In his new book, Polar Bears and HumansLiodden argues the pelts in highest demand come from the biggest males. They also happen to be the strongest, healthiest animals that have the best chance of successful hunting as sea ice shrinks. It creates a sort of “survival of the weakest” for the species, says Liodden. The researcher believes subsistence hunting for meat and clothing can be sustainable, but commercial trade is too unpredictable. “The market will always push for the highest price and more killing.” (National Geographic)

A new study of Alaska’s Brooks Mountain Range could rewrite Arctic history. The Dartmouth-led study suggests the rocky landmass was transported from Greenland and the eastern Arctic some 300 million years ago, instead of breaking away from the closer Banks and Victoria Islands as was previously assumed. “As the Arctic continues to open for the development of oil, gas, and mineral resources, this new understanding of the region's history could change predictions of how much resource wealth lies in the area.” (Dartmouth College)

If you’re looking for a little piece of Alaska delivered right to your door, consider the Bear Box subscription service. The quarterly service sends anyone in the lower 48 states a package of Alaskan-made treats and handcrafted products from a range of vendors. “We have a weirdly high number of people in Florida buying our box,” says founder Leeanna Chronister. (NBC)

News from Carhenge, “a car-based replica of Stonehenge” in western Nebraska. Not exactly the circumpolar world, I know, but representative Mary Wenke recently took to the Nunavut group on Facebook looking for some help. “We have license plates from all 50 states, and every province of Canada except one—Nunavut.” Is there a more famous license plate? Probably New York’s, but other than that? It’s got to be the beloved polar bear. Anyway, contact Mary if you have a spare to send to Alliance, Nebraska. Carhenge, by the way, was built in 1987 out of 38 automobiles assembled in a circle.
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