Jane Glassco Arctic Fellowship helps northerners do northern research

“We have our own people in our own communities who can do research”

By JANE GEORGE

The Jane Glassco fellow give northerners a voice, says Kyla Kakfwi Scott, who delivered one of the opening speeches at the recent International Polar Year conference in Montreal. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)


The Jane Glassco fellow give northerners a voice, says Kyla Kakfwi Scott, who delivered one of the opening speeches at the recent International Polar Year conference in Montreal. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Nancy Karetak-Lindell, the director of the Jane Glassco Arctic Fellowship Program, takes in the Polar Lines display of Arctic-themed cartoons during the recent International Polar Year Conference in Montreal. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)


Nancy Karetak-Lindell, the director of the Jane Glassco Arctic Fellowship Program, takes in the Polar Lines display of Arctic-themed cartoons during the recent International Polar Year Conference in Montreal. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

At a time when many northerners say they’re tired of being researched by people from the South, a program has worked on developing home-grown northern researchers and policy-makers.

Over the past two years, the Jane Glassco Arctic Fellowship Program, has helped about a dozen young northerners, aged 25 to 35, undertake and complete their own research projects.

“The program shows we have our own people in our own communities who can do research,” said the Jane Glassco Arctic Fellowship Program director (and former Nunavut MP) Nancy Karetak-Lindell, in a recent interview.

The program, offered through the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation with support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, provided 14 northerners with two-year fellowships of $25,000.

Fellowship applicants, who were not required to be university students or graduates, suggested their own projects.

“We didn’t want to tell them the areas that they wanted to work in,” Karetak-Lindell said. “I wanted to be surprised. I wanted them to tell us what they wanted to work on.”

Navarana Beveridge, now the executive director of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, proposed looking at the impact of the Inuit Language Protection Act and the Nunavut Official Languages Act on Inuit language use in early childhood education.

Nunavik McGill law school graduate Joseph Flowers examined the Kativik School Board’s student services, and produced a report called “Pijunnanivunnut – fulfilling our potential: A review of the KSB post-secondary students services support policy and program.”

“They’re the bridge — they have that chance to be the bridge [between the traditional knowledge and science],” Karetak-Lindell said about the Jane Glassco fellows.

During the participants’ two-year fellowship, they also attended four gatherings, including an orientation session in the North with an on-the-land component and a “southern skills/capacity building workshop.”

From June 24 to June 29, the fellows will visit Iqaluit, where they will meet for a policy forum designed to turn some of their research findings into policy recommendations.

The fellowship opened many doors to participants, said Karetak-Lindell, noting that some of the fellows’ research papers have already accepted to journals for publication.

Many of the fellows also presented their research during the recent International Polar Year conference in Montreal, where Karetak-Lindell chaired the Indigenous Knowledge Exchange program.

Jane Glassco fellow Kyla Kakfwi Scott, a community liasion officer for the mining giant BHP Billiton who lives in Yellowknife, also presented one of the opening speeches to an audience of more than 2,000 conference-goers, praising the fellowship program for encouraging aboriginal Northerners to have “a voice for our own issues.”

The legacy of the fellowships will be the fellows’ ability “to create positive changes together for our people.”

At the end of the IPY conference, Karetak-Lindell, in her closing remarks, also issued a challenge to the indigenous community: “to define priority areas we want to research, recruit our own people to conduct research, support our young people to pursue further education to become scientists, record our knowledge and use it to make our own people healthier, more self-sufficient and be recognized again as the rightful stewards of our land, animals and the environment.”

The Jane Glassco fellows are a step in that direction, she said, so that “we, the people, have to matter. We want to be more important to researchers, our country and the world than the polar bear and the seal.”

But to do that, “the onus is on us to be the future, to study the Arctic, and more sure this takes place,” Karetak-Lindell said in an interview.

As for the Jane Glassco Arctic Fellowship program, it’s future is not certain, she said. That’s because as foundation endowments’ investments produce less interest due to the poor global economy, many programs — and possibly this one — stand to be trimmed.

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