February 28, 2020

Cannibal polar bears, sealskin budget shoes, and buried treasure in the Yukon. Plus, Baker Lake’s lack of barricades.

A snowy depiction of starman Chris Hadfield for Yellowknife's annual snow carving festival. (Via nanaleonserrano)


We're throwing a goodbye party for Jessica in the conference room so this will be brief. On to the news!

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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More fallout from the Edmonton CFL team’s decision to keep its problematic name. The Edmonton Eskimos have “fumbled a golden opportunity” for reconciliation, says an editorial in the
Winnipeg Free Press. Meanwhile, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation supports Edmonton’s status quo. As does the MLA for Nunakput. “It’s a good news story,” said Jackie Jacobson. “I’m a full-class Eskimo. That’s how I consider myself.” (Cabin Radio)

It’s festival season. Dead North kicks off this weekend in Yellowknife, along with the Snowking Winter Festival. Not to be outdone, Fort Simpson just hosted the first-ever Liidlii Kue Film Festival. Then, get ready in May for “Wonderhorse,” the Yukon’s newest music festival. And also this weekend, the city of Whitehorse will host the territory’s first sake festival, which is being organized to...uh, end the Wet’sutwet’en conflict? “I’m hoping we can contribute in a small way,” says the organizer. “Let’s try to just create a peaceful society, where everyone can work together, rather than blocking traffic.” (Various)

Speaking of Wet'suwet'en, in opposition to the ongoing conflict, Calgary Herald columnist Chris Nelson points to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories as “regions where various Indigenous cultures are the majority” and where there are no blockades. “Nobody’s erecting barricades in Baker Lake, the actual physical centre of this country,” Nelson writes. That would be difficult, given Baker Lake has no railroads or highways.

“I do believe we have found the worst take,” tweets APTN's 
Kent Driscoll.

It's worth noting that Dene chiefs, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and other northern Indigenous groups have expressed solidarity with their southern neighbours. Singer/songwriter Leela Gilday organized a benefit concert just last night in Yellowknife, and Baker Lake’s own Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, Member of Parliament for Nunavut, stood in the House of Commons last week to demand the government takes this reconciliation challenge seriously. (Calgary Herald)

Brian Adams is reconnecting with his Inuit roots through a photo tour of northern cultures. The latest project from the Anchorage-based photographer sees him visit and photograph Inuit across the circumpolar world. Some great photos at the link. (NPR)

Using a drone and laser scanner, a University of Calgary anthropologist has built 3D replicas of the historic buildings on Herschel Island, creating an online virtual exhibit for those who can’t make the trip to the high Arctic—and creating a blueprint for reconstructing the old houses should they be lost to Herschel's unprecedented coastline erosion. (RCI)

Inuvik athlete Julienne Chipesia is training to snowshoe at the Arctic Winter Games while she's in England, where, unfortunately, there’s no snow. (CBC)

There’s a new reality show about cold people trying to live northernerly. Life Below Zero: Canada from the Cottage Life channel, follows five off-grid Canadians across the North, including former Ice Lake Rebels star “Pike” Mike Harrison. “From long, dark, frozen winters to sweltering, bug-infested summers, Life Below Zero: Canada captures the day-to-day trials of people living in unforgiving environments.” (TV-EH)

When you're finance minister in the Northwest Territories, Budget Day means a new pair of sealskin pumps. (Twitter)

Nunavut’s government won’t support any new conservation areas until after a devolution deal can be reached with the feds. This from Premier Joe Savikataaq, who says the extent of Nunavut’s coastline—and limited options for marine conservation areas elsewhere in Canada—could see Ottawa overuse Nunavut to meet national conservation goals, limiting land and resources for the territory’s inhabitants.

Canada only met its last protected area target last year because of the creation of the
Tallurutiup Imanga Conservation Area and Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area. Though it's been 20 years since its creation, Nunavut is the only territory without control over managing its own public lands and resources, nor is the territorial government allowed to collect royalties from mineral production. Without a devolution agreement, it also can’t create its own protected land strategies. (Nunatsiaq)

Meanwhile, across the North, Indigenous communities are redefining conservation: “building on a growing awareness in the scientific community—the results of decades of Indigenous advocacy—of the central importance of traditional knowledge in preserving some of the world's most vulnerable species.” (CBC)

Sadly, even with the growing awareness of traditional knowledge, the inclusion of Inuit women remains lacking in scientific studies. A review of the academic literature on climate research in Nunavut found the involvement of local Inuit women was under-represented in the natural sciences, while not present at all in policy fields. The Dalhousie University study did find medical and natural hazard fields do an adequate job of including Indigenous women in their research. (Dal)

Nick Newbery has died of prostate cancer. The educator and photographer of Nunavut’s history moved north in 1976 and was a longtime teacher at Inukshuk High School. His photo collection—a great resource documenting, among many other important events, the birth of the territory in 1999—was donated to the Government of Nunavut a few years ago and is viewable here. (Nunavut News)

It could be finders, keepers for buried treasure in the Yukon. Miner Tony Kopp allegedly buried gold and silver on his claim near Whitehorse before his death three years ago. Soon after, Robert Venables says he stumbled across $106,000 in gold and silver near the property. Now the courts are trying to determine whether the money was found or stolen, or even if it belonged to Kopp at all. A good lesson not to bury your treasure. This is why we invented banks, people. (CBC)

For Black History Month, Glacier Hub has a lengthy profile of Arctic explorer Matthew Henson. Born to sharecroppers in Maryland one year after the Civil War, Henson would become the first person (maybe) to reach the North Pole. Henson was the right-hand man of explorer Robert Peary, who claimed to have reached the Pole in 1909. In a later newspaper interview, Henson said he had been in the lead party, ahead of his colleague, and actually overshot the marker by a couple of miles: “We went back then and I could see that my footprints were the first at the spot.” Nevertheless, and largely due to Henson's skin colour, for many years Peary received nearly all the acclaim and recognition. (Such as it was. The expedition's success was disputed almost immediately due to Peary’s disjointed logs, which record incredible speeds. Whether the team actually made it to the 90th parallel remains controversial to this day. It would take another 17 years for Roald Amundsen to make a scientifically verified trip to the Pole). Both Peary and Henson wed Inuit women and fathered children along their expedition, but the two explorers abandoned their families once they left the North. Henson’s direct descendent still reside in Greenland and Sweden, while his great-great-grandniece is actress Taraji P. Henson, star of Hidden Figures. (Various)
Steve Kroschel says wolverines show affection by wrapping their jaws around carotids “without applying a good ton of pressure.” We'll take his word on that.


Who needs sled dogs when you’ve got trained wolverines? Steve Kroschel says his “qavvik” are faster and have more stamina than dogs when pulling sleds full of firewood. “And without the barking.” The owner of Alaska’s Kroschel Wildlife Centre was profiled last year in this Alaska Magazine feature, “Dances with Wolverines.” (Facebook)

Iceland’s Jewish community has welcomed its first permanent Torah. The scroll, which took a year to write, was donated by the Jewish community of Zurich. (Times of Israel)

In 1946 there was a “disturbing rumour” that 40 large, white bathtubs were being shipped up to Alaska. The San Bernardino Daily Sun reported northern "sourdoughs" were apoplectic over the news. “Why, doggonit, that’s more bathtubs than there are in all Alaska north of Fairbanks,” said one angry fellow before “hurling a hunting knife into the board-walk.” Another trapper protested that this would mean the enforcement of bathtime: “Baths ain’t good for a guy in the wintertime.” It turns out the tubs were meant for a lodge in Kotzebue, which came as a relief to those for whom the “high north is still a place where a man can take a bath or leave it alone.” (Anchorage Daily News)

Another year, another group of hikers who need to be rescued after trying to reach the Into The Wild bus. (Associated Press)

Swedish scientists are launching rockets at the aurora borealis. You know, for research. Though I couldn't help but be reminded of the Mr. Show sketch where America chooses to blows up the moon: “We have the technology. The time is now. Science can wait no longer.” (RCI)

Human disturbance is increasing cannibalism among polar bears. Sounds like a good Dead North film. (The Guardian)
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