Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land

(2013 - 2014)
Current funding: Health Canada and CIHR (via IKADAPT)
Research Leads Community of Ulukhaktok & Dr. Tristan Pearce, University of the Sunshine Coast

Researchers involved at McGill: James Ford, Ellie Stephenson, Lesya Nakoneczny

Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land is an Inuit-led cultural education program in Ulukhaktok, NWT, dedicated to enabling the transfer of local and traditional knowledge to younger generations. Specifically, it brings together youth and experienced hunters and sewers to gain subsistence skills for winter hunting. Such skills are crucial for food security, the functioning of sharing networks, and sense of place and wellbeing, but are under strain from rapid social and environmental change (ice dynamics and seasonal melting patterns, availability of species, ability to predict weather and travel safely). Researchers working with CCARG are facilitating and advancing research components of Nunamin Illihakvia: documenting health-related aspects of winter hunting and local knowledge in the context of a changing climate; investigating local perceptions of the benefits and risks of formalizing cultural education; and working with local youth and coordinators to produce multi-media learning tools in English and Inuinnaqtun that can be shared within Ulukhaktok and elsewhere in the Arctic. Fieldwork will be conducted in summer 2013 and winter 2014 by Tristan Pearce, Ellie Stephenson, and Lesya Nakoneczny.

Related Publications

Project News

    Linnaea Jasiuk: Memories from the Ulukhaktok Kingalik Jamboree

    2015 March 24

    Drumming at Jacks Bay, Ulukhaktok

    Each year the community of Ulukhaktok marks the migration of the Eider duck, known locally as kingaliks (male) and mitiinnaq (female). These birds, both nutritionally and culturally rich, are an important component of a northern diet. Each spring the birds migrate following open water leads and pass directly by the shores of the community. This migration route is normally predictable and brings them near enough to the edge of the ice where they become more easily accessible to hunters. This can be a bountiful season for many hunters, some harvesting as many as 100 ducks to last the year. It also elicits fond memories of spring times spent with family at key hunting locations near Mashuyak. Ulukhaktok celebrates the joy and thankfulness for the migration each year at the Kingalik Jamboree.

    The first time I visited Ulukhaktok in 2012 I missed the Jamboree by a week but heard all about the cookouts, games, and celebrations. Given the excitement and pride with which people shared their jamboree stories, I knew that it was something I wanted to experience one day! This year, on my second trip to Ulukhaktok, I was there for the return of the Kingaliks and got the full jamboree experience. Food was a central part of this experience with meals like musk ox stir-fry, caribou quak (frozen meat delicacy), piffy (a dried char treat), and every combination in between.

    Plucking contest at the Ulukhaktok Jamboree

    What stood out as much as, if not more than, the food itself was the level of participation and cooperation that made these meals (serving 400 people) successful. Throughout the entire jamboree period, women of all generations could be seen chopping, stirring, frying, or cleaning so that there was always pan sizzling over the fires or someone mixing a stir-fry or flipping bannock. I joined in by picking up an ulu to slice, dice, chop, and mince ingredients destined for one of the many frying pans. The cooking process fascinated me and the food was delicious. Everyone took great pride in their dishes and their country food from the land and, as I was someone from out of town, they made sure that I had a taste of everything.

    What struck me about these games was the way they promoted cross-generational interactions and learning.

    The games were another fun part of the jamboree and included a fishing derby, a duck hunting competition, plucking feathers from a Kingalik or Mitiinnaq, and skinning a seal. What struck me about these games was the way they promoted cross-generational interactions and learning. For example, teams often consisted of Elders and youth who worked together to be the first to complete a task. It also quickly became apparent to me that these were more than just games; they were lessons and channels for cultural continuity and skills transmission. I watched as Elders guided their young teammates to shoot with precision, pull feathers in the proper direction, and flesh a sealskin to make it soft. The games were played with an impressive spirit of gamesmanship and integrity with focus on collective success. In addition to these team games there was an assortment of laughter inducing games such as ‘best goggle tan’, egg races, and karaoke.

    The jamboree festivities demonstrated the strong community culture I experienced throughout my entire stay in Ulukhaktok. I learned that community collaboration and cooperation are important elements of life in Ulukhaktok. For example, those hunters who managed to harvest nearly 100 ducks would regularly share with their extended family or neighbours. Not every weekend in Ulukhaktok was as jam-packed as Jamboree weekend, but it was an excellent introductory course into the Ulukhaktok way of doing things.

    Schedule of CCARG activities at the 2014 Arctic Change conference in Ottawa

    2014 December 8

    You can find all the Arctic Change 2014 programs here.


    T17. Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in Arctic Regions. Co-chairs: Tristan Pearce, James Ford, Barry Smit. Room 210

    • 10:30 Pearce, Tristan Vulnerability and Adaptation Research in the Arctic
    • 10:45 Tjensvoll Kitching, Knut The Dynamics of Climate Change Vulnerability in the Southern Baffin Region, Nunavut
    • 11:15 Bunce, Anna Inuit Women and Climate Change: Perspectives and Experiences Regarding Climate Change and Adaptation in Iqaluit, Nunavut
    • 11:30 Parker, Colleen Freezer Space and Food Security in Ulukhaktok, NWT

    T04A. Education in Inuit Nunangat in a Time of Change. Co-chairs: Lars Kullerud, Mary Simon, Thierry Rodon. Room 201

    • 10:45 Lalonde, Genevieve Examining Perceptions of Learning Success among Inuit and Southern Educators

    T26C. Health and Well-Being in Arctic Communities: Advancements in Practices, Processes and Outcomes. Co-chairs: Chris Furgal, Eric Loring. Room 206

    • 11:15 Jasiuk, Linnaea Inuit Women’s Perspectives on a Healthy Life
    • 11:30 Cunsolo Willox, Ashlee IlikKuset-Ilingannet/Culture-Connect: Promoting Cultural-Based Youth Mentorship Programs to Support Mental Health, Resilience, and Cultural Sustainability in Nunatsiavut, Labrador
    • 16:15 Finner, Kaitlyn Context Matters: Developing an Approach for Food Systems Research in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut

    T09B. Arctic Wildlife Co-Management Challenges and Solutions – Bringing Together Inuit and Scientific Knowledge. Co-chairs: John Cheechoo, Lisa Loseto, Gregor Gilbert. Room 210

    • 16:30 Tjensvoll Kitching, Knut Tuktu and Climate Change: Inuit Harvesting on Southern Baffin Island


    T10. Arctic Youth: the Future to a Sustainable Arctic Environment. Co-chairs: Graham May, Justina LeeStolz, Jenna Gall. Room 102

    • 11:00 Petrasek MacDonald, Joanna Youth-Identified Protective Factors for Mental Health and Well-Being in a Changing Climate: Perspectives from Inuit Youth in Nunatsiavut, Labrador

    T24B. Addressing Food (In)security in the Arctic. Co-chairs: Leanna Ellsworth, Laura Bennett, Tiff -Annie Kenny. Room 206

    • 16:00 Statham, Sara The Nunavut Food Security Coalition’s Value Toward and Need for Food Security Research


    #7 Lalonde, Genevieve The cultural negotiation of Inuit education
    #37 Parker, Colleen Vulnerability of an Inuit Food System to Climate and Socio-Economic Change
    #48 Ford, James Inuit Traditional Knowledge for Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change
    #49 Jasiuk, Linnaea Inuit Women’s Conceptualizations of and Approaches to Health in a Changing Climate

    Nunamin Illihakvia featured in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Inuktitut magazine

    2014 July 24
    The Health Canada funded Nunamin Illihakvia project in Ulukhaktok was featured in the new edition of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Inuktitut magazine, on pages 26-31. From the article:

    “On a January morning, the headlights of a skidoo zigzag foxlike near Ulukhaktok. Like his father and grandfather before him, Adam Kolohouk Kudlak finds solace on the sea ice and appreciation for the sustenance it provides him, his family and community. Nattiq (ringed seal) were the staple for Inuit now living in Ulukhaktok, the lifeline that enabled Inuit to live in the region; a lifeline that Kolohouk continues to hold onto and strives to pass to younger generations.

    Ulukhaktomuit have always hunted seals in the winter, however, residents of this small hamlet on the west coast of Victoria Island in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories have undergone profound socio-economic and political changes in the last half-century. These changes have dramatically altered their lives and livelihoods, including their relationship with nattiq.”

    Continue reading online here or download a PDF version

    “Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land” video now available online

    2014 July 15

    The “Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land” video is now available online. “Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land” was an Ulukhaktok Community Corporation (UCC) led project funded by Health Canada in partnership with researchers from McGill University, the University of Guelph, and the University of the Sunshine Coast. The project brought together young Inuit adults with experienced hunters, sewers and elders to learn how to make equipment, travel on the sea ice and hunt seals in the winter, prepare seal skins for sewing, and sew traditional seal skin clothing.

    For more information on this and similar projects, please visit or

    CCARG at ICASS VIII: presentations, posters and more

    2014 May 20

    A number of CCARG members, affiliated researchers and community members will be participating in the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS) VIII Conference in Prince George, B.C. at the University of Northern British Columbia from May 22 – 26, 2014. The conference is organized by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association. See below for details on CCARG activities at ICASS VII!


    MAY 22

    • 15:30-17:00 | Room # 7-158
      Premiere of the new documentary: Attutauniujuk Nunami/Lament for the Land
      I am very pleased, excited, and honoured to announce the film premiere of our new documentary, Attutauniujuk Nunami/Lament for the Land at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences Eight Conference (ICASS VIII). We will be premiering the film on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 from 3:30-5:00pm in Room 7-158 on the University of Northern British Columbia campus. “This film weaves together the voices and wisdom of Labrador Inuit with stunning visual scenery to tell a powerful story of change, loss, and hope in the context of rapid climate change in the North.” This session will include an overview of research conducted in Nunatsiavut, Labrador on the connections among climate change, loss of livelihoods, culture, and identity, and mental wellbeing, followed by the premiere of Attaukauniujuk Nunami/Lament for the Land. After the film, there will be a Q&A and discussion with the myself and Inuit in the film. Click here to view the poster.


    MAY 22

    • 11:15-12:45 | Room # 6-305
      Knut Kitching will present Tuktu and Climate Change: Inuit Hunting on Southern Baffin Island on behalf of co-author James Ford.
    • 15:30-17:00 | Room # 6-205 / 211
      Tristan Pearce, Grete Kaare Hovelsrud and Halvor Dannevig will chair the session titled “Are we adapting: Arctic communities under stress or on the path to sustainability?” Dr. Pearce will also be giving the presentation Adaptation to Climate Change Across the Circumpolar North at this session.

    MAY 23

    • 10:30-12:00 | Room # 7-158
      Kaitlyn Finner and Inez Shiwak will present at the “Alternative food security strategies in the circumpolar North” session on behalf of co-author, Charlie Flowers, James Ford and Chris Furgal. Their talk is titled Including the Intangible: Photo-Cards as a Method for Analyzing the Social and Cultural Importance of Food in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut.

    MAY 25

    • 16:30-18:00 | Room # 6-306
      A number of CCARG members, affiliated researchers and community members will be presenting the talk Local Perspectives on the Formalization of Knowledge Transmission at the session “Teacher education, teaching and sustainable schools in the circumpolar North”, including Ellie Stephenson, Tristan Pearce, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox and Inez Shiwak on behalf of co-authors: Susan Kaodloak, Laverna Klengenberg, James and The Rigolet Inuit Community Government.

    MAY 26

    • 13:00-14:30 | Room # 7-158
      Joanna Petrasek MacDonald will be presenting the talk From the Minds of Youth: Using Participatory Video to Explore Youth Resilience to Mental Health and Well-being Challenges in a Changing Climate at the “Participatory Methods for Health” session on behalf of co-authors: Jordan and Curtis Konek, James Ford, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Marilyn Baikie and Inez Shiwak, Claudia Mitchell, and The Rigolet Inuit Community  Government.

    *A number of researchers will also be giving presentations on Arctic research at local elementary and high schools in Prince George.


    #18 Parker, Colleen (University of Guelph); Pearce, Tristan (University of the Sunshine Coast; University of Guelph)
    Vulnerability of an Inuit Food System to Climate and Socio-Economic Changes

    #175 Lalonde, Geneviève (University of Guelph); Pearce, Tristan (University of Sunshine Coast; University of Guelph)
    Perceptions of Learning Success Among Younger Generation Inuit in Ulukhaktok, NWT, Canada

    #308 Jasiuk, Linnaea (University of Guelph); Pearce, Tristan (University of Guelph / University of the Sunshine Coast)
    Inuit Traditional Knowledge and Adaptation to the Health Effects of Climate Change

    #484 Pearce, Tristan (University of the Sunshine Coast; University of Guelph); Stephenson, Ellie (McGill University); Kaodlak, Susan (Ulukhaktok Community Corporation)

    Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land