Taloyoak HTO manager recounts trip to Glasgow for climate summit

Jimmy Oleekatalik’s first trip abroad was an opportunity to speak on an international stage

Jimmy Oleekatalik, manager of the Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Organization, tried haggis, Scotland’s national dish, at the COP26 conference in Glasgow earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Laforest/World Wildlife Fund Canada)

By Mélanie Ritchot

After picking up his passport during a layover in Toronto and making his first-ever trip out of the country to attend the largest climate conference in the world, Jimmy Oleekatalik is home in Taloyoak to recount the tale.

“It’s nice to cool off,” Oleekatalik said with a laugh.

The temperature in Taloyoak hovered around -20 C Friday, compared to a relatively balmy 13 C in Glasgow.

Oleekatalik, manager of the Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Organization, attended this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. He was there for about a week, starting Nov. 3, and spent his time  speaking about the impacts of the warming weather on his northern community.

He said his first flight was delayed because of lots of mist and fog after an abnormally warm autumn, so he arrived at the conference four days later than planned.

“It was ironic I was going for climate change and I couldn’t get out of Taloyoak because of climate change,” Oleekatalik said.

The delay forced him to deliver his first two scheduled talks through videos, but after multiple flights he did eventually make it across the Atlantic.

“I’ve never sat on the plane for that long. I’m happy there were movies to watch,” he said.

“I was too full of adrenaline to sleep.”

Once he arrived, Oleekatalik spoke on panels and had meetings with people from around the world, including Glasgow’s minister of environment.

He also got the chance to tell Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister for environment and climate change, about the proposed Aviqtuuq Inuit Protected and Conserved Area near Taloyoak.

It would cover over 90,000 square kilometres of land, ocean, lakes and rivers in the Boothia Peninsula.

“He listened to me and wants to hear more about our project, so that was a very positive visit,” Oleekatalik said.

Inuit would manage the protected area. It could offer some economic development opportunities, through small fisheries, and create jobs, such as land guardian positions, he said.

Jimmy Oleekatalik was fully booked with attending conferences, meetings, and speaking engagements during his trip. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Laforest/World Wildlife Fund Canada)

In a presentation at the conference, Oleekatalik highlighted Niqihaqut, his project to open a new country food cut-and-wrap facility in Taloyoak.

Niqihaqut is still in the planning stages, but it would make meats such as caribou and beluga more accessible. The project won a $451,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize in February.

Colonization has disrupted hunting traditions and climate change is making it more difficult to get out on the land, Oleekatalik said. The aim of the facility is to help people have a healthy diet of country food and reconnect with their culture.

“We’re going to start programs to take young people and elders out on the land to start getting our tradition back,” he said.

Oleekatalik said the effects of climate change have been drastic in Taloyoak over the past five years.

“Hardly anybody was able to dry meat or fish because it was so rainy all spring and summer,” he said.

“And because of the ice not being able to form as quickly as it used to, a lot of people had a tough time seal hunting.”

He explained there was often too much ice to hunt seals from boats last winter, but the ice wasn’t thick enough to travel or even stand on.

Piita Irniq (left) sang while Jimmy Oleekatalik (right) drum danced at COP26. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Laforest/World Wildlife Fund Canada)

At the conference, Oleekatalik also spoke on a panel with members of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and drum danced while former Nunavut commissioner and elder Piita Irniq sang.

Oleekatalik said drum dancing was a way to celebrate people coming together to talk about possible solutions for climate change, and to have fun.

“It was pretty meaningful for us to drum dance for the people in Glasgow and people from around the world,” he said.

With fully booked days, Oleekatalik said he didn’t have much time to sight see, but he did try Scotland’s national dish, haggis, a type of savoury pudding traditionally made from the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, encased in the animal’s stomach.

“I liked it so much I had it twice,” he said, adding, “I probably would have had it every day it was so good.”

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Netsilik Inuk on

    This is amazing! Great job Jimmy! How wonderful those program sound that you are trying to set up for Taloyoak. We need more people like him in those positions with HTO.

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  2. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Interesting, that at a global meeting (COP 26), where the environment and global warming is the obvious topic, they would serve meals using styrofoam plates and metal/plastic soft drink cans. Hmmmmm.

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  3. Posted by Missing the point? on

    Sounds like you’re grasping at plastic straws here – that looks like a wooden fork on the table to me.

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  4. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    There are already a couple of meat and fish plants in Nunavut. They are barely holding their heads above water. How will a third one survive? How is that “development”? Such a naive perspective.

    These climate conferences are the latest examples of trends/fads that garner a lot of attention use up an enormous amount in fossil fuels and resources shuffling all these people to the venues, feeding them, giving them swag, etc…… Getting to be like the ribbon and T-shirt campaigns. They rake in a lot of money ….pink ribbon for breast cancer, pink T-shirt for Bullying, Orange T=Shirt for residential schools, etc…. there is a huge list-you can hardly keep up with what “day” it is..

    Climate change is real. I just wish everyone could smarten up and act as responsible individuals reducing their own carbon footprint and countries should bite the bullet and pass the legislation needed to bring the big industries in line with goals.

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  5. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    you won’t see me rubbing shoulders with Greta out on the front lawn of COP26 or whatever conference is in bloom these days.

    but seriously, how many people went to this Conference? couldn’t this be completed by electronic form? did Canada have to send a huge delegation from each Territory (did you read the bruwhaha on the NWT delegation from Cabin Radio?) how much did this conference cost the average joe because you know they did not pay their own way to Scotland. I’m sure it was a great trip and although haggis is not on my plate to try, what did they accomplish?

    we need to focus on the real issue. tackling this issue as a community, region, territory and country. it’s wonderful for Justin to sit on his high horse and spout promises to the world, while Territories like Nunavut wonder how he is going to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2030.

    um. so Nunavut, totally reliant on Diesel for power generation which powers our frickin boilers and furnaces. yeah, flick the switch at 2030. much appreciated. maybe Justin and Greta spouting hot air can keep us warm by then.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      There were 40,000 delegates for COP26. And the 26 stands for the number of times they have held this conference. This is the biggest one yet.

  6. Posted by Ambush in a hurry on

    Wow. With an eminent decline on caribou herds , you would think it would be heavily regulated but will bypass all policies set forth by the nu gov. (Tactics used will be the land claims agreement as usual) but The Black market is on fb for caribou meat
    Nu gov has failed miserably on the exploitation of “red gold” Happening in all the Nunavut communities over and over right under their noses. No land stewardship in Nunavut anymore since all outpost camps got their funding taken away when the Territory formed. Traditional knowledge is disappearing so quickly that some men looking for caribou don’t know where the caribou are. Cultural practices are all but memorable events nowadays. Traditional and cultural practices need to be revived and implemented with the right programs but no organization has not tried enough to get the young people back on their feet on the land.

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