“Inuit knew the climate would change”
Kimmirut elder describes shift in weather
Simeonie Aqpik grew up in camps near Kimmirut, surrounded by the smells of Arctic heather and seal fat as he waited for hunters to return. When he shot his first ptarmigan, he says he was barely big enough to hold the butt of his uncle’s rifle.
Now 74, the Kimmirut elder says he’s watched climate change happen first-hand. Nunatsiaq News asked him to share his observations.
How is the weather today different from when you were young? What changes have you noticed?
“These days it doesn’t seem to get all that cold anymore, but back then, when we didn’t have enough warm clothing, like we have now, it used to be very cold. It was so cold, the dog teams would leave long trails of their breath along the way, when the winds were calm.
“It is now obvious that the climate is changing, because the ice takes a long time to freeze and the sun rises from a different direction these days. I always use the sun as a guide, so I have noticed the difference.
“The direction of the wind has also changed. For example, we haven’t get north winds for a long time. We’ve been waiting for them so that the ice can freeze up faster.”
How do these changes affect hunting?
“Not too long ago in Kimmirut, there used to be a lot of seals out in the harbour, right in front of the community. But there’s hardly any left every year. They’ve been gradually disappearing. We are always being warned about the food we eat because it might be contaminated.
“Seals that have been shot are sinking a lot faster than before and there’s fewer seals.”
Were you surprised by the warm weather we’ve had?
“Long time ago, we used to see yellow clouds coming in and people predicted that the trees down South were burning, even though they didn’t have any means to hear news about it. But they knew that because of the colour and smell of clouds and this usually happened only in the summer.
“Inuit knew the climate would change, they used to predict it would happen.
“Inuit have predicted that the starvation would some day arrive and that happened to our ancestors. They knew that would happen, so they were prepared for that, by catching and preserving animals.
“We as their next generation should prepare ourselves, because we cannot control the climate. We should not pollute our communities, by dumping anything everywhere, because we are to be blamed by contributing to less animals.”
With translation by Itee Akavak.