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May 24, 2019
Swimming through forests of Arctic kelp, feasting on caribou in northern Labrador, and rethinking how the media covers backcountry bear attacks. Plus, trying to define intellectual property rights for Inuit art.
The @lightsoutcrew on deployment in northern Alberta. Via Instagram.

UP HERE AT UP HERE


The June issue of Up Here is finally here. Inside we peel back how history has shrunk communication and travel across the North, learn life-and-death lessons at a muskrat camp for kids, and find out why mosquitos are the North’s most persistent pest (not counting Ottawa). Look for it late next week.

Somewhat related to that 'squito content, our big merchandise seller has long been the Up Here
“four seasons” t-shirt. But now we’ve also got baseball caps! Brushed cotton, navy bill, sand-coloured. Only $20 and available soon at the quickly expanding Up Here online store. Check back soon because we're planning to offer a growing collection of in-house swag and items from other Northern retailers.

As always, thanks for reading.
Jacob Boon
Editor

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COLD SNAPS


Summer’s on the way and the wildfires are already here. An inferno continues to rage south of High Level, Alberta, forcing the town to be evacuated, with some heading 300-kilometres north to Hay River. Highway 35 south of High Level—the only road up into the NWT—remains closed. Smoke from the blaze fell across the southern Northwest Territories and is now reaching Dawson City. Meanwhile, the GNWT issued a public warning after three “careless” fires were started in the territory in just 48 hours. (Various)
 

The Indigenous Music Awards took place in Winnipeg, bestowing well-deserved awards on two Inuit songwriters. Angela Amaraulik won Best Inuit, Indigenous Language or Francophone Album for her self-titled record. Beatrice Deer also won Best Folk Album for her record, My All To You. Deer beat out Cree artist Cikwes, whose use of throat singing prompted concerns from Inuit artists about cultural appropriation and ultimately lead to several renowned Indigenous artists boycotting the award show.

The boycott drew national and international attention—some good, some bad—to Nunavut's glowing music scene. The Guardian
follows that trend, going “with the floe” inside the “ice-cool Inuit pop scene.” Just in time, Northern Haze joins the party with a new music video for the band’s song, Qainna, off of its triumphant new album. The video was filmed in the band's hometown of Igloolik and is directed by fellow Aakuluk label mate Josh Qaumariaq, of Josh Q & The Trade Offs. (Various)
 

Summer road trip planning? Watch out for toads. The GNWT is asking drivers to be mindful of squashing at-risk western toads on the Liard Highway. Why do the territory’s 200 to 8,000 toads cross the road? To get to the other side (and reach their breeding grounds). Related wildlife collision story: Dead bison and abandoned Camaro discovered between Fort Smith and Hay River. (CBC, Cabin Radio)
 
Wayne Price buildings his dugout canoe. Photo by Mike Rudyk for CBC.
Tlingit master carver Wayne Price is patiently, painstakingly transforming a 450-year-old red cedar log into a traditional canoe. Price is demonstrating his skills in Carcross, where he’ll spend the next two months hollowing out the dugout canoe, mostly using hand tools. (CBC)
 

A hunting ban means it's been years since Inuit residents of Nain, Labrador have tasted caribou—the meat that sustained their ancestors for centuries. Which is why an avalanche on Valentine’s Day that killed two caribou suddenly became a community feast. “He skinned the caribou first, cutting from the chest down, the way his father had taught him. The hides, bruised and torn from the avalanche, weren’t worth saving. ‘I just start butchering it the way the women would want them, ready for cooking...After it was finished, it was like, “Hooray, we’re gonna feed people.”’’ (Macleans)
 

While we’re over in Nunatsiavut, The Narwhal’s ongoing in-depth series on the Muskrat Falls inquiry examines how the boondoggle of a dam threatens Inuit way of life. In Rigolet, traditional foods like trout and seal have been the backbone of families’ diets for generations, writes Sarah Cox. But this spring will be the last time those families can consume any country food without fear of the health impacts from methyl mercury, “a neurotoxin so dangerous the World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten chemicals of public health concern.” (The Narwhal)
Derrick Pottle carries sealskin boots and a caribou jacket from his shed while preparing for a hunting trip in Rigolet. Photo by Darren Calabrese (The Narwhal)


Valérie Théorêt and her 10-month-old daughter were killed last November by a starving grizzly bear near Einarson Lake, Yukon. The deaths rocked Whitehorse—the tight-knit city where Théorêt lived with her partner. Then, the story went viral. International reporters plagued family and coworkers with media requests. Commenters damned her for being out in the backcountry without a weapon; being out in the backcountry at all.

Eva Holland, writing for Outside Magazine, asks
how much does the world need to know about a deadly bear attack? “Bear attacks are personal here—there is no hiding from them, no distancing yourself from the horror and thinking, that could never happen to me...while strangers on the internet accused Valérie of being irresponsible for bringing her baby into bear country, every parent in Whitehorse knows that a bear could wander across their driveway or through their yard someday.”

Holland hits the nail on the head about fly-in journalism, especially in remote communities not understood or appreciated by those attempting to document their pain in exchange for clicks. Théorêt's death wasn’t reported on to highlight a community in pain or help those who knew her process her death. At least not for those international audiences. For them, it was little more than voyeurism.

“I've been undergoing sort of a slow-motion crisis of faith in the ways journalism intersects with tragedy, and this story is part of that,”
Holland tweets. “I know lots of people will disagree with me, but I hope you'll consider the ways reporters can make things harder, and whether it's worth it.”
 
Lands above the tree line are often barren with little to no vegetation. But under frigid Arctic waters grows lush forests of kelp. And they're thriving. Most Arctic species reinvaded these waters following the last Ice Age and as such are currently living in colder waters than they'd like, reports Karen Filbee-Dexter at the University of Laval. Climate change is changing that, to the likely benefit of these seaweed reefs. The numerous Arctic kelp species survive under sea ice and at depths reaching up to 60 metres. The forests, in turn, create habitat for other sea life. “More than 350 different species—up to 100,000 small invertebrates—can live on a  single kelp plant,” says Filbee-Dexter. “The Canadian Arctic alone represents 10 percent of the world’s coastlines, but we know little of the hidden kelp forests there.” (CBC)
 

Sticking on the science beat, researchers have discovered fungal fossils from a specimen that lived roughly one billion years ago—that’s billion with a b. It was found in shale rock from the NWT's Grassy Bay Formation and is twice as old as any other fungi specimens identified to date. Huge news. Just ask Vanderbilt University’s chair in biological sciences. “Here’s why this ancient fungal fossil discovery is so revealing,” writes Antonis Rokas, describing how the find shines light on what biologists call the “hidden kingdom” of multicellular organisms. “It’s one more clue that helps fill in the picture on how life on Earth evolved and one more step toward bringing this fascinating group of organisms to the limelight.” (Vice)
 

Annika Trimble, the outreach coordinator for the Aurora Research Institute in Inuvik, NWT has been recognized nationally by the Canadian Association of Science Centres for her work promoting STEM education to nearby schoolkids. She tells CBC the “Making A Difference” award is usually given to southern scientists engaged on research projects. “It’s meant for people who are actually on the ground doing hands-on science or helping people learn,” she says. So a big honour. Trimble skipped the award ceremony in Halifax, though. She had a prior commitment at the East Three Elementary School Gymnasium. (CBC)
 

Who creates a carving? The person who carves it, right? Maybe. Who owns a traditional Inuit design? Who owns a folk tale passed down orally for generations? Who has a right to make money from those things? Maybe it’s more complicated than it seems. The philosophical sticking points of artistic creation arise pretty fast when you start codifying intellectual property laws.

Last week, the World Intellectual Property Organization came to Iqaluit for a series of meetings to try and sort out some of these questions. Intellectual property rights have never really been developed with Indigenous peoples in mind, and the United Nations-backed agency wants to rectify that. Tricky, though. The very concept of intellectual property centres itself on an individual creator, whereas many Inuit and Indigenous societies operate more collectively when it comes to ownership.

“You cannot trace back who first invented throat singing or some of our tools or designs, so that’s a clear clash with the IP system, which is almost always tied back to the originator,” says Marie Belleau, counsel for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. There are also messy issues of capitalism to account for. “We don’t necessarily see our culture as an asset or something to be exploited or for monetary gain…We live and breathe who we are. We mainly want respect and we want those things to be acknowledged and protected, more so than seeing those things in a dollar sign.” (
Nunatsiaq)
 

ELSEWHERE IN THE ARCTIC


Fifty years ago a ship as long as the Empire State Building (pictured above) broke through the Northwest Passage. Begging his way aboard was Merritt Helfferich—geophysicist, ballistic meteorologist, flight safety officer, ice technician, and “do-everything guy.” Creator of the Great Tanana River Raft Race, Helfferich piloted the very first hot-air balloon flight from Barrow, Alaska. He died earlier this month after a life of adventure, at the age of 83. (ADN)
 

Temperatures in Northern Russia hit nearly 30 degrees Celsius last weekend, more than double the average for this time of year. The once inaccessible Arctic region is hot in other ways, too. Like other circumpolar regions, Northern Russia is proving very attractive to wealthy adventure tourists. (The Telegraph)
 

The westward expansion of white settlers in the 19th Century often, sadly, takes a narrative form of brave pioneers conquering the untamed wilderness and savage peoples. Just look at David McCullough’s recent nauseating history book titled, well, The Pioneers: The Heroic Story Of The Settlers Who Brought The American Ideal West. It's not getting great reviews. In contrast, Henry Allens’ trans-Alaska exploration in 1885 stands out, says researcher Russ Vander Lught. Allen travelled with few provisions, forcing him to barter, trade, even beg for food from Indigenous groups he encountered journeying from Prince William Sound along the Copper, Tanana, and Yukon Rivers. A friendly working relationship with Indigenous people—along with a genuine effort by Allen to learn their languages and avoid trespassing—is largely why the expedition was a success, says the University of Alaska Fairbanks PhD candidate, who interviewed descendants of those Allen encountered. “It’s very remarkable that we have oral histories, and to this day, they’re still saying positive things about Allen.” Though Vander Lugt is careful not to suggest Allen wasn’t a “man of his time,” whose personal writings indicate he viewed the area’s original inhabitants as wards in need of American charity. (Juneau Empire)
 
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