The Inuit in northern Canada say they are seeing the dramatic impact of climate change but that they will adapt because that’s what they do best. These are among the observations collected by Ian Mauro of the University of Victoria and Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk. They joined University of Manitoba Native Studies professors Christopher Trott and Peter Kulchyski to make an innovative film and research project to bring Inuit observations of climate change to the world.
Dr. Mauro, a postdoctoral fellow at UVic, says that after several summers of teaching in the North and hearing the stories from elders about climate change, he and Drs. Trott and Kulchyski resolved to do something to conserve these tales. After meeting Mr. Kunuk – director of the multi-award-winning Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner – at an Inuit studies conference last year, they hit on the idea of a feature film.
With funding in part from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Dr. Mauro and Mr. Kunuk went north last spring to Pangnirtung, Resolute Bay, Iqaluit and Igloolik to interview Inuit elders and hunters. All of the interviews with elders and hunters were done in the Inuktitut language.
The full film, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, is being produced by Isuma Production and should be completed this spring. A 15-minute cut was shown at the Copenhagen climate conference in December.
“Once Zacharias and I complete the film,” says Dr. Mauro, “we’ll be working with Peter and Chris on developing academic and popular publications about the project and its importance to climate research and society.”
Now, going through the information, U of Manitoba’s Dr. Trott says he was surprised by the elders’ positive attitude, compared with the doom-and-gloom rhetoric of those in the South. He adds that the film is a good way to return this knowledge to Inuit communities. “People in the North,” he says, “they’re sure not going to read the boring academic papers we write.”
Dr. Mauro agrees that academics need to make the results of their work publicly accessible. Film, he says, “should be respected as a research tool and also as a tool to disseminate information to the masses.”
For more in-depth information, read the Winter 2010 issue of Dialogue, a newsletter produced by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.