June 12, 2020
Black Inuit share their stories, northern landscapes shape a queer identity, and fuzzy green glacier mice baffle scientists. All in this week’s Up Here newsletter.
The last aurora shoot of the season in Iqaluit. (Photo by North of 60 Photography)


Today, the NWT enters phase two of its "emerging wisely" post-pandemic playbook for opening the territory back up. And as I'm going to a barbeque to see some friends and there's lots of news to catch up on, let's get to it.

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 


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Hundreds attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Yellowknife
this week as global protests against racism continue to gain momentum. Today, NWT Minister of Justice Caroline Wawzonek released her department’s policing priorities for 2020/21. Number one is to promote confidence in policing service: “Confidence will come from trust; trust requires a relationship and mutual respect,” says Wawzonek. This comes as APTN reports a Dene man was assaulted by police in Yellowknife the day after the anti-racism event downtown. (Various)

The Inuit Circumpolar Council, which represents more than 150,000 Inuit across North America and Europe, has also thrown its support behind the movement: “We firmly share our voice to achieve a world free of anti-Blackness.” (

Nipivut, a community Inuit radio show from Montreal, recently dedicated an episode for Black Inuit to share their perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement and the reality of growing up multi-racial. (

Elsewhere, this 2019 article has been shared around a lot in recent days as an answer to calls to defund the police. Writer Genesee Keevil looked to the Yukon, where one First Nation has been keeping the peace with four officers, no weapons and no charges. (
The Globe And Mail)

It took 40 years to craft the memories of Dene elders into this book. Meaghan Brackenbury has the story behind We Remember the Coming of the White Man, a new collection of elders’ stories from documentary filmmaker Raymond Yakeleya. (
Cabin Radio)

“In the boreal, locked between the tundra, the coastal rainforests, and the prairies, I learned to relate to my body beyond my gender.” Yukon writer Lori Fox on how northern landscapes helped shape their queer identity. (
The Walrus)

A contaminated mess: How the Yukon’s Wolverine mine left behind a $35-million clean-up bill. (
The Narwhal)

The downfall of Dominion Diamond: How the COVID-19 pandemic pushed one of the North’s largest employers to the brink of financial collapse. (

While we’re on the subject of mining... Is a 100-per cent renewable-fuelled mine possible in the North? A new study says probably not right now, but an 80 per cent reduction in diesel is not only possible but economical. (

No one is really travelling right now, but if you happen to be in Warsaw this summer, check out Kinngait artist Qavavau Manumie’s work, which will be featured at the Polish capital’s Museum of Modern Art. (
Nunavut News)

As our
t-shirt says, there are really only two seasons in the North: winter and mosquito. A UBC researcher has added more confirmation to this unfortunate truth by discovering four more species of skeeters in the Yukon, bringing the total number of mosquitos species in the territory to an annoying 33. (CBC)
Happy birthday to Qaapik Attagutsiak who turned 100 this week. The Arctic Bay elder is pictured here in 2016 in her home, which is heated and lit only by her qulliq. (Photo by Clare Kines)
As the Northwest Territories enters phase two of its emerging wisely plan, borders once again have opened to tourists. Wait, no, maybe they didn’t? Honestly, no one seems to know. Five words from Premier Caroline Cochrane—“Tourism is on the table”—set off a “firestorm of confusion.” Some answers came late Friday, but why and how the rules changed without public notice is still a looming question. (CBC)

Meanwhile, a pair of globetrotting Bits have been waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic for two months—in a Whitehorse parking lot. “We were heading to the Arctic for the summer. But you know, got as far as Whitehorse and here we are,” says Julie Tuck. “We're just waiting it out. We've got plenty of time.” (

In spite of the pandemic, Dawson City’s famed outhouse races are a go. (

How do you rescue a sinking cabin? With the help of some friends in Tuktoyaktuk and a “small fleet of snowmobiles.” (CBC)

Elsewhere in Tuk, it’s been a good spring for hunters providing food to their community. “If you ask people if they need geese, no one has room in their freezers.” (

Yellowknife emergency room physician Courtney Howard has thrown her hat into the ring to replace Elizabeth May as leader of the federal Green Party. (

Warning to any narwhals reading this newsletter: the killer whales are hungry. A new research paper has found orcas are increasingly turning to narwhals as a food source. “The current number of killer whales in the region, under 200 animals, could already be eating as many as 1,504 narwhals during their yearly forays into north Baffin.” (Nunatsiaq)

Canada is in danger of losing 90 per cent of its unique wildlife, says a new report, while 40 per cent of the country’s wildlife, much of it in the North, is “critically imperiled.” (
The Times)
Photographer Ben Haggar during a solo “bike-packing” trip across Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail. More pics and video at the link. (PinkBike)


How Iceland beat the coronavirus: “Iceland never imposed a lockdown. Only a few types of businesses—night clubs and hair salons, for example—were ever ordered closed. Hardly anyone in Reykjavík wears a mask. And yet, by mid-May, when I went to talk to Pálmason, the tracing team had almost no one left to track... The country hadn’t just managed to flatten the curve; it had, it seemed, virtually eliminated it.” (New York Magazine)

More than 20,000 tonnes of diesel that spilled from a reservoir in Russia's Taymyr Peninsula is now one of the biggest ever oil spills in the Arctic, and an environmental catastrophe nobody’s sure how to clean up. Rivers 20 kilometres away from the accident site are clogged with a layer of oil as thick as 20 centimetres.
(Barents Observer)

Meanwhile, while COVID-19 has halted Arctic refuge bird research in Alaska, oil leasing continues. (

A feminist rap group in Iceland was mocked online and in the media, so the Daughters of Reykjavik are taking their music global. (NY Times)

Fuzzy green “glacier mice” are baffling scientists in Alaska. They’re actually balls of moss, “just resting there on ice” in great numbers. How they form is a puzzle, but it's not nearly as mysterious as how they movein a coordinated fashion, at the same speeds, and in the same directions. “They really do look like little mammals, little mice or chipmunks or rats or something running around on the glacier, although they run in obviously very slow motion.”  (
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