February 7, 2020

Inuit Emojis, Greenland’s new spring, and the last surviving bone collector. Plus, Arctic Russia’s thriving independent film industry. All in this week's newsletter.

I could fill this entire newsletter with just Tromsø pics from my trip, but I'll be merciful and spare you all from my poor iPhone photography. Well, just this one.


I have returned from Tromsø, and the Arctic Frontiers conference, and both were a spectacular time. I trepidatiously walked along the Arctic city's icy streets, met with other visiting Canadians, drank beer with circumpolar journalists, ate some reindeer, and even pissed off the American ambassador a little bit. All in all, a great trip. Look for a full report on Arctic Frontiers in the March issue. Now, there's a lot to catch up on since I've been gone, so let's get to it...

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Speaking of Europe, a new report by the European Commission says Inuit exemptions in Europe's seal ban have failed to create any positive socioeconomic benefit. The report found the 2015 amendments, made by the European Union, were more aspirational than practical, with many Inuit choosing local markets for their seal products instead of navigating a daunting web of confusing international regulations. (Nunatsiaq)

The Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa recently honoured 99-year-old Qapik Attagutsiak, a “living human treasure” and the last known surviving Inuk “bone collector.” As part of domestic efforts during World War II, Inuit across the territories were encouraged to salvage animal fat, along with walrus, seal, and dog bones. The collections were shipped south to be turned into glycerin, munitions, fertilizer and aircraft glue. “We were never very recognized as Canadians before, so this really made us part of Canada,” Kataisee Attagutsiak, Qaapik youngest biological daughter, told APTN. “So it’s very important that this is the story of Inuit, and the story came from my mom because she witnessed it herself. It’s very important for the history of Inuit and the history of Canada too.” (APTN)

Another year, another promise of a KFC and Starbucks in Yellowknife. Big news if construction actually happens, given this northern town’s long love affair with the dirty bird. (My Yellowknife Now)

“This qajaq, also spelled kayak, will never touch water,” but the wooden vessel with painted glass panels that was unveiled inside the Ottawa General Hospital is, “a symbol of hope and it’s a symbol of moving forward.” (APTN)

There are only 15 mushers running in this year’s Yukon Quest, the fewest in race history. The winning prize is likewise shrinking—at $100,000 it’s only half of what winners received in the 2000s. Blame everything from severe budget cuts to Alaska's cash-strapped economy and the rising costs for taking proper care of a sled team. Luckily, the race pays out prizes to the top 15 finishers. So all this field of competitors needs to do is cross the finish line. (Alaska Public)

Manitoba's auditor general says the province's tourism industry is unprepared for the impacts of climate change. Travel Manitoba's business plan touts Churchill—famed polar bear capital of the world—as one of the main drivers in Manitoba's economy and a centrepiece of its marketing campaigns. But the AG says the crown corporation has failed to plan for a future where polar bear habitats are disappearing. (OAG)

In the latest example of the Northwest Territories staggering lack of privacy controls, Paulatuk man Andy Kudlak’s blood test results were “inadvertently faxed” to the wrong government department. Kudluk’s case has been passed on to Cooper Regal, the law firm heading up a potential quasi-class action over multiple health privacy breaches in the territory. (CBC)

New Emojis are coming to Apple devices, including a bison, polar bear, and even a seal, which is already being ridiculed by Inuit for its design. “This is drawn by someone who has not recently looked at a photo of a seal, or maybe not even ever,” tweets Alethea Arnaquq Baril. “This emoji should come with a trigger warning,” says Pitsiulaaq. Another new emoji is the “pinched fingers,” which Apple intended to represent the Italian che vuoi, but the gesture is also used by Inuit in a game of “made-you-look.” (Various)

Congrats to all the northern artists nominated for this year's Juno awards. Northern Haze, Riit, and Digawolf all picked up nominations for Best Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year. Tanya Tagaq and Silla and Rise also earned noms. Digawolf’s latest single, “High Arctic,” is now available for streaming and download after debuting this week during a concert for Hockey Day in Canada. (Various)

Speaking of Hockey Day in Canada (which is in Yellowknife right now), the Stanley Cup and Ron McLean visited Délįne earlier this week. Predictably, out came the claims that this small northern community is the “birthplace of hockey.” It’s not. But that's OK! (Up Here)

In a sea can outside Gjoa Haven, rows of cherry tomatoes are ripening from green to red. Former Up Here editor Beth Brown peeks inside the Arctic Research Foundation’s solar and wind-powered greenhouse. (CBC)

Qaggiavuut’s feasibility study has come back stating that a performing arts centre in Iqaluit would support 408 full-time jobs and add $41 million into Nunavut’s economy over its first five years. (The study itself hasn't been made public yet.) Qaggiavuut has requested $30 million in federal funding to build the Qaggiq Hub in Nunavut, currently the only province or territory without a performing arts centre. (NNSL)

Coronavirus fears have cancelled trips and left empty hotel rooms in the Northwest Territories. Aurora Holiday in Yellowknife says more than 200 Chinese tourists have had to cancel their reservations in the last three weeks. Owner Hysan Lee tells CBC those bookings make up more than half of his business for the next two months. The Chinese government currently has suspended all international group tours to try and limit the spread of the virus. (RCI)

“It’s an odd feeling being surrounded by arsenic,” writes Niigaan Sinclair. “Especially when the world around you is so breathtaking.” The Winnipeg Free Press columnist visits Yellowknife to dig up Giant Mine’s legacy of poison. (Winnipeg Free Press)

“She was born at the start of a world fair, spoke four languages, played multiple instruments and was a well-known child performer. She wrote and starred in her own movie at the age of 18. Born in Chicago to a 15-year-old Labrador Inuit mother, her amazing story is worthy of a Hollywood movie. The name of Nancy Columbia is not well known in Labrador but, in her time, she was the most famous Inuk in the world.” (Chronicle Herald)

In lieu of Canada Post, Nunavut’s Court of Appeal will post case materials online via Facebook. Mailing paper copies of the volumes of material (related to a settlement decision in the Ed Horne and Kevin Amyot abuse case) would be “impractical and disproportional to the benefits” of the plaintiffs, says a court justice, given the high shipping costs and remote location of some recipients. (Canada Lawyer Mag)

A study from the Journal of Biological Rhythms that tracked the motion of 122 female polar bears over an eight-year period using collar-mounted accelerometers and GPS data has found that—despite more prey and longer hunting hours in the summer—bears stick to an average 11-hours of activity a day. Yes, you heard me right: it’s polar bear Fitbit.  (JBR)

One of the incredible shots in this photo essay of the Yakutia film industry by Alex Vasilyev. More of their work can be seen here.


Six times zones and 8,000 kilometres away from Moscow, in the far north of Yakutia, an independent film industry is thriving. Welcome to Sakhawood. (Time)

Greenland's melting ice sheet is producing some unexpected culinary benefits for citizens and chefs. Vegetable production has doubled since 2008. Michael Paterniti travels to the far north to enjoy the “bittersweet bounty” of Greenland’s new spring: “If food is identity, one of the urgent questions in Greenland these days seemed to be, how, exactly, are you supposed to approach and create and ingest that identity as it melts into some new form?” (GQ)

Meanwhile, the ice caps are melting so fast that the resulting weight of new water is pushing down the ocean floor—sinking the seabed by about 0.1 millimetres a year. (New Scientist)

“What other tourist darlings can learn from the sudden end of Iceland’s ‘miraculous’ tourism growth.” (Globe and Mail)

Nordic skiing has an addiction to toxic wax. (Outside Magazine)

Duane and Rena Ose are trying to sell their longtime home in the Alaskan wilderness via reality TV competition. Win the Wilderness: Alaska is somehow a BBC show that follows six British couples battling it out in “bizarre” and “increasingly demented” bush survival competitions for the chance to take over the Ose’s property. (The Guardian

In the late 1800s, Alaskan Gold Rush mining was destroying salmon streams all around the Nome River, causing starvation in Inupiat communities. So the US government came up with a quote-unquote solution: ship over 538 reindeer from Norway. (Data Wrapper)
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