Nunavut historical society to produce CHARS research guide

“Local people have much to teach incoming researchers” at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station


Construction work ramps up at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, seen here in April. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Construction work ramps up at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, seen here in April. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

In this photo taken last month of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station you can see the huge wooden beams of the main research building's future public gathering area. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

In this photo taken last month of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station you can see the huge wooden beams of the main research building’s future public gathering area. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

A stream of researchers from many disciplines will start to head to Cambridge Bay after the opening of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station there in July 2017.

That’s why the Kitikmeot Heritage Society aims to develop a new research guide for scientists and researchers who plan to work in this western Nunavut community of about 1,800 people.

This guide, to be produced in co-operation with an agency called Polar Knowledge Canada, which runs CHARS, will provide researchers with an overview of Inuinnait culture.

Its goal: to align their research projects with the interests and needs of local people, said the society’s executive director, Pamela Gross.

As part of this guide, the KHS plans to include a community statement on research that takes place in Cambridge Bay.

The society’s elders are already involved in making sure the interior artwork in the main research building at CHARS reflects Inuinnait culture.

They will create a three-piece wall hanging called “A stitch in time,” which will show family portraits against backgrounds, ranging from a snow house to the Cam Main DEW line site and the now-demolished Loran long-range navigation tower, to the CHARS building itself.

The society’s five-point draft statement says CHARS research should:

• respond to needs identified by the community: “It is easy for research to become out of touch with non-academic populations.”

“As a fast-growing municipality, we have many challenges that we need to meet: our traditional language and culture are being lost, our youth needs education and direction. We need training and jobs. The more research can contribute to this effort, the better… when asked, we can help make connections between research topics and local priorities… when contemplating any form of research in or near Iqaluktuuttiaq, we encourage all researchers to contact someone in the community to discuss the project and figure out how it might best be developed to serve both scientific and local needs.”

• share its process and results in ways that are accessible:

“Sometimes, research is difficult for community members to access… while Internet is available, it is most often used for communicating with friends and family. We suggest that researchers try to understand where and how knowledge is transferred in our community, and share their studies and results accordingly.”

• train local people, but also build on strengths, knowledge and resources in the community:

“The hiring of local people for research brings geographically and culturally specific knowledge into a program, and gives residents of Iqaluktuuttiaq the opportunity to build their skills, experience and confidence… our community strives for independence, and the more we refine our current talents and train young people in new areas of expertise, the closer we come to this goal.”

• promote a co-learning of knowledge:

“Local people have much to teach incoming researchers. They have extensive knowledge of the surrounding environment, traditional lifeways and the reality of life in the Arctic… We like to see research projects that are open to two-way communication, and are willing to listen to, and learn from, local wisdom;” and,

• commit to meaningful and long-term relationships:

“We recognize that research projects cannot go on forever. We do, however, encourage research that involves a long-term commitment by all of its partners… researchers should ensure that proper infrastructure and support networks are in place to apply research results, and carry projects into the future… many long-lasting friendships have developed from research in our community, and often result in projects that are more committed to ensuring positive change over a long-term period.”

While research at CHARS is expected to focus on science and technology, researchers responding to the CHARS request for proposals on “Strengthening Northern Monitoring” and “Northern Regions of Significant Resource Development (the resource rich areas around western Nunavut, Baffin Island and Hudson Strait,) earmarked for $12 million until 2018, are already being encouraged to think about traditional knowledge.

“Northern communities have a wealth of knowledge that can enrich the content of research and monitoring,” the RFP document said.

Researchers are also supposed to state how their projects will “utilize local and/or traditional knowledge, unless not applicable.”

CHARS guidelines also require that “all funded projects be carried out in partnership with Northerners.”

“Scientists are encouraged to work with community leaders, Elders, hunters and other knowledgeable individuals to incorporate traditional knowledge into the design and conduct of the study. Community input to the research is important, as are sensitive and sound researcher — community relations; all must be clearly demonstrated in project proposals,” the guidelines say.

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