March 8, 2019
This week Dene chiefs plan a gathering of “biblical” proportions, Nunavut says goodbye to the father of Inuktitut music, the Whitehorse Star cuts back on publishing, and some solutions take shape for reversing Arctic ice loss. Plus, how to clean up after yourself when nature calls out in the wild.

What's Happening Up Here

Our April/May issue went to the printer this week. Inside, we celebrate Nunavut's historic 20th birthday and look to its youthful population to ask what comes next for the territory. Look for it on newsstands in a few weeks (or save some money and get it sent right to your home by subscribing below).

As for future issues of the magazine, we're always on the hunt for freelance stories about the North and its people. Submission guidelines can be found at

Finally, we'd love to hear what you think about our new weekly newsletter. Is it interesting? Do you like some aspects more than others? Is your inbox so clogged up with other unread newsletters that you avoid us out of email anxiety? Let us know! Send any feedback to 

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon

The other big apology from Justin Trudeau this week was set to happen in Iqaluit, where the Prime Minister was expected to apologize for Canada’s treatment of Inuit with tuberculosis 80 years ago. (That is until a blizzard upended the itinerary.) Between the '40s and '60s, nearly half the Inuit in the eastern Arctic were taken south by the government for treatment, often without consent or an explanation. Some were put into sanitoriums for years, unable to speak the language and cut off from relatives. Many never returned and there are still families in Nunavut who don’t know what happened to their loved ones. (CBC)

Dene chiefs and leaders gathered earlier this week in Alberta to plan an international Dene conference, with the hope of bringing together Dene Athabaskan people from all around the world in one place. “The gathering of the Dene is the most important thing we've got going, especially in North America,” said Raymond Yakeleya, an organizer from the Northwest Territories. “We are the biggest First Nation Tribe coming back together again and it's almost biblical.” There are currently 750,000 self-identified Dene in North America. (CBC)

“Feces-covered outhouse toilet at border not a great introduction to the NWT,” reads an understated headline. A photo of the offending fixture made the rounds on Facebook this week, showing a toilet overflowing with feces, toilet paper and “what appears to be frozen urine and either frozen vomit or frozen feces on the floor.” The roadside outhouse occupies the unenviable position as the first encountered by travelers crossing the Alberta border. “It’s where the truckers stop, and they don’t take it easy on that bathroom,” says Hay River MLA R. J. Simpson. During the winter off-season, government-owned outhouses are cleaned once a month. (CBC)

Speaking of…well, you know. Northern tour guide Dave Weir has been giving clients the “toilet talk” for decades, to ensure the scenic vistas he travels through stay untainted. But his message about what to do when nature calls has become blunter over the years. Karen McColl speaks with the frustrated guide and offers up some tips on how to preserve the pristine when you've got to go out on the land. (Up Here)

Once more on the topic of big messes, it looks like party politics could be on the ballot in the Northwest Territories. Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart says he and like-minded colleagues are hoping to run under a Liberal Democratic banner come this fall’s territorial election. “If the end result of that is a political party, then so be it,” Testart tells CBC (which obtained leaked documents on the plan). The MLA tried last fall to change the Elections Act to allow for the registration and regulation of political parties. No one in the consensus-based legislative assembly supported the idea. (CBC)

The Whitehorse Star has cut back publication from five to three times a week due to all the standard financial hardships flaying newsrooms. Publisher Jackie Pierce said staff won’t be impacted by the change, at present, “but she added she can’t predict what the future will bring.” The 120-year-old paper (let that sink in) previously went to three issues a week in 1982 after several Yukon mines and the Yukon Route railway shut down. It ramped back up to five issues in 1985. (Whitehorse Star)

One mother in the NWT is lobbying to get Indigenous symbols recognized on birth certificates. This is the fifth year Shene Catholique Valpy has tried to get the fonts made official so that her children’s names can be properly spelled on government forms. Her daughter’s name, Sahᾴí̜ʔᾳ, contains a glottal stop symbol used in Chipewyan to signify both pronunciation and meaning. The GNWT is working on a “transliteration guide” that will allow government to use traditional spellings from nine of the territory's 11 official languages on birth certificates and passports. But a draft will still need federal approval before any implementation. (CBC)

Five years ago wildfires raged across the Northwest Territories, setting three million hectares of wilderness aflame. It also brought together government experts, university researchers and NASA scientists to collaborate, share data and find ways to improve fire management in case it ever happened again. And according to a conference reuniting that think-tank this week in Yellowknife, there were a lot of important lessons learned. (Up Here)

The father of Inuktitut music passed away this week. Charlie Panigoniak was 72. He was one of the first to write, perform and record music in Inuktitut—even now a rarity in Canadian songwriting. “His music is more than well-known in Nunavut, it is beloved and treasured in our communities,” Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said in a statement. “Though we mourn his passing, we hold on to his music to inspire and move us for years to come.” You owe it to yourself to spend the rest of the day listening to some of Charlie’s ridiculously enjoyable music. (Up Here)

The National Post looks at eroding coastlines forcing the relocation of homes in Tuktoyaktuk and how…wait, where have I read about this before? Oh, right, it was Up Here’s cover story back in December. Go read Weronika Murray’s feature instead, eh? (Up Here)


Here’s a ski trip for those who “caribou’t the environment.” (Thanks, Yukon News reporter Lori Fox for the great pun). Environment Yukon already held one “ski-bou” session on March 2, where cross-country skiers headed out to Lucky Lake to observe the caribou’s winter habitat and maybe even spot some of the wild animals. A second trek will head out on March 17 from the Mount Lorne Community Centre.


Kongsberg Satellite Services out of Norway is just weeks away from losing a major contract with the European Space Agency, all because a license Kongsberg applied for three years ago from Global Affairs Canada for its Inuvik satellite antennas still hasn’t been approved. These things take time, responds the government. (Canadian Press)

A new report says Inuit workers could miss out on upwards of $1 billion in jobs if the Mary River iron ore mine on Baffin Island doesn’t improve employment practices. Oceans North found Inuit employees represent a substantially smaller share of jobs at Mary River than other comparable mines in the North. (Nunatsiaq News)

ARCTIC TRIVIA: First unveiled on March 30, 1999, the ceremonial mace of Nunavut's Legislative Assembly is made from the tusk of what animal? (email your answer to


The emerging field of climate restoration shows some surprising success when it comes to reversing the loss of Arctic sea ice. Pacific Standard reports on Ice911; a Silicon Valley company that’s been testing reflective, microspherical “sand.” When sprayed over water, the sand reflects the sun’s heat back up, allowing the water underneath to freeze solid. Another technique takes inspiration from ice road builders to pump seawater from below the surface during the winter and spray it on top of existing ice, where it freezes in minutes. Some 80 per cent of Arctic ice volume has been lost over the past 40 years. A completely ice-free Arctic could be a reality by the summer of 2030. (Pacific Standard)

Russia is planning to launch surveillance drones in the Arctic along the Northern Sea Route. The vehicles are specially designed to operate in low temperatures, high winds and without GPS, which is unreliable so far up North. Canada, not to be out-droned, plans to buy its own high-altitude surveillance vehicle from Germany to track sea ice changes and spot oil spills. (High North News

Stormy the cat is being evicted from the Alaskan General Store that she’s called home since 2012. Homer News reports—a little judgmentally—that the “slightly overweight” female cat is often seen lounging on one of the store’s large wooden chairs or “tottering” up to customers for a pat or two on the head. But now Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation has told Stormy to scram, and people are not happy about it. Befitting a story about government bureaucrats battling a beloved town cat, the story has exploded across the internet. (Homer News)
Yellowknife in 1958


“What am I watching?” Edith Iglauer writes in her classic book, Denison’s Ice Road. “A man’s struggle to carve out a road in the dead of winter, over land and water that resist every effort to be tamed. Always further north. The ancient Greeks knew Denison before he knew himself. He is Sisyphus, rolling uphill a rock that forever rolls back on him.” Iglauer died on February 13 in a hospital near Vancouver at the age of 101. Millions know about the North’s ice roads because of Ice Road Truckers. But we know about the ice road truckers themselves largely because of Edith Iglauer.
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