Week 48: The Arctic Eider Society
Sometimes charity work puts you in contact with people and places you’ll never have the opportunity to see first-hand. Even without that first-hand contact, these interactions can become a path towards broadening your understanding of humanity and learning more about this amazing world. Such was my connection with The Arctic Eider Society, a non-profit working with Inuit and Cree communities in the far Northern Canadian Greater Hudson Bay area. Their focus is on understanding environmental changes and working with local communities to address food security, safety and environmental stewardship in this critical and understudied region of the arctic.
The organization was born from the grassroots efforts of the local communities who were noticing and experiencing major changes to the sea ice and marine ecosystems. For generations and generations, the local Inuit communities have been intricately woven into the environment and wildlife for survival. They rely on Eider ducks and seals for their primary clothing and food sources and relied on the changes in sea ice thickness and movement that coincided with the changing seasons in order to hunt and trap. Environmental changes and industrial development projects, including mining and electric plants have greatly affected the natural patterns of the ice sheets, which in turn has caused havoc in the duck and seal populations.
The Arctic Eider Society works to create community-driven research networks and community-first programs which build partnerships, offers training, tools and technology to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change, and promote environmental justice and climate change legislation and education. Other programs include coordinated efforts to bring meaningful employment to local Inuit and Cree populations, and working to engage the next generations of Inuit and Cree as environmental leaders and researchers.
I connected with the organization through a friend who had heard of their efforts during a trip to Canada. I was intrigued. The organization sent me one of their documentaries – People of a Feather – which brings the viewer into and alongside the Inuit community of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut and shares their daily lives and struggles. In this harsh, complex, fragile, and amazingly beautiful environment you see polar bears and white owls, seals and Eider ducks and beluga whales. You see a daily way of life and time-honored traditions passed down from generation to generation – the gathering of eider down from nests, leaving just enough to protect the eggs; the method of determining if an egg has a baby inside by seeing if it floats in the water; the deep understanding and knowledge of the weather and sea ice passed down through time…
And you see through their eyes and recorded experiences the changes in the ice structure, depth and flow over the past decade…. And what that means for the survival of the animals and the people. It’s an amazing glimpse into a world I will probably never get to see first-hand, but it brings you close to the community and leaves you with an understanding of the effects of man on the earth.
Unable to visit but able to have an email exchange with the researchers within the organization, I learned about their Youth Training and Mentorship program which connects local native youth with experienced hunters and mentors that can teach them land-based skills and research techniques. They also focus on empowering students to complete high school by engaging them with culturally relevant, hands-on, interactive math and science resources.
The society produced the documentary “People of a Feather” and an educational packet to go with the film, aimed at high school students, as a way of helping generate interest and further understanding about environmental changes and climate change. I was fortunate to receive one of the educational packages with includes lesson plans and classroom activities that further bring to life the film.
I also learned about the development of their SIKU platform which is a technology platform that will offer tools and services for norther indigenous communities to facilitate knowledge gathering and sharing, sea ice safety and mapping, language preservation, education and more.
The Arctic Eider Society is a great example of local communities working together to promote local education, science, climate change resiliency… AND to share that regional knowledge and experience with the world so that we all become aware of the impact of climate change and industrial development.
To learn more about the Arctic Eider Society, and to make a donation to support their programs and the local community, please visit: https://arcticeider.com/en/about
The photo of the two Eider ducks came from: https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/svalbard-eider-ducks-ice-and-fox/
The photo of the iceberg in the water is from: https://blog.caasco.com/local/18-spectacular-pictures-nunavut/
The photo of the single Eider duck on land came from the movie: People of a Feather – rent or buy from the Arctic Eider Society website (link above)