Parks Canada gathers Inuit knowledge for Nunavut park projects
“Parks Canada takes its work with Indigenous peoples very seriously"
Honore Aglukka has many times hunted, camped and travelled through and around Wager Bay, a huge inlet west of Southampton Island and southwest of Naujaat.
Aglukka was born in Naujaat, but his wife Elizabeth was born in an outpost camp near Wager Bay, so together, Honore and Elizabeth know a lot about the water and the land there, as well as the animals who call it home and the climate they live in.
That area, a traditional gathering and harvesting ground for Kivalliq Inuit, goes by another name as well: Ukkusiksalik National Park.
The park, established in 2003, forms a ring around Wager Bay and encompasses more than 500 known archaeological sites, including the remains of a Hudson’s Bay Company post which was active from 1925 to 1947.
Its unique history and ecology make Ukkusiksalik a northern jewel in the Parks Canada crown — but officials admit there’s a lot about the 20,880-square-kilometre park which they still don’t know.
Which is why they’re turning to people like Aglukka, to learn from his experiences and expertise.
“He said he really loved the meeting and he was really happy to have been part of it,” said Bernice Malliki, an Ukkusiksalik administrative assistant, helping to translate responses from Aglukka from the Parks Canada office in Naujaat.
Parks Canada formed the Inuit Knowledge Working Group in 2006, as part of a special project to gather information that only local people would know.
But the group’s input has become integral to a co-operative management model the federal department has adopted in recent years for Ukkusiksalik and other parks.
That’s according to Maryse Mahy, a Parks Canada ecologist team leader, who is based in Iqaluit. She said in recent years, the group has met several times annually, through conference calls and local, face-to-face meetings.
Officials held a face-to-face meeting this past January in Naujaat.
Three of the five working group members were able to attend, said Mahy: Aglukka, Mary Tuktudjuk and Elizabeth Kidlapik.
Four other local residents were invited to participate as well including Aglukka’s wife Elizabeth, Pie Sanertaut, David Tuktudjuk and Laurent Kringayurk.
“Those meetings work really well,” Mahy said. “The participants are really interested in sharing their knowledge and in their knowledge being reflected in Parks Canada programs.
“Parks Canada takes its work with Indigenous peoples very seriously,” she said.
Parks Canada is currently gathering local information for three different Ukkusiksalik projects launched in 2015:
• Marine baseline data collection — finding out from scientists and local knowledge holders everything they can about Wager Bay including seabed and hazard mapping, creatures that frequent the bay and contaminants;
• How best to reflect Inuit knowledge in the long-term health of the ecosystem — as Parks Canada tracks with science the health of the park into the future, it wants to find a way how to incorporate Inuit knowledge in park monitoring; and,
• Climate change impacts: whether Inuit have noticed any changes within the park boundary related to the changing Arctic climate.
Aglukka said the park is very special to Inuit in the area and he’s pleased to be a part of its preservation.
“He says it’s really important to him because it’s a very beautiful place with beautiful land and sea,” said Malliki, translating for Aglukka.
Mahy said the meeting went great, especially when maps were produced for the working group to discuss.
Local elders enjoyed telling stories of their experiences in the park and pointed out where they camped and hunted, Mahy said.
Those stories prompted some members to bring in old family photos from the 1950s and 60s to share with the group.
Participants shared a number of things, Mahy said, including marine hazards and other safety issues related to boating in the bay, as well as the kinds of fish, mammals and invertebrates that frequent the water.
That information will be incorporated into various projects currently underway in the park and also form part of the general pool of knowledge that the federal department has gathered about Ukkusiksalik, Mahy said.