The Inuvialuit have lived around the Beaufort Sea for centuries. Over generations they have amassed an enormous bank of knowledge centered on this environmentally-sensitive area of Canada. This knowledge has traditionally been passed on orally – but now we are concerned that much of this knowledge may be lost , depriving us and all Canadians – of a valuable repository of information on which future political and economic decisions can be made.
(Photo: Students interviewed 96 year-old Persis Gruben.)
How will you solve it?
One way to retain this knowledge is through video. Last year, Tuktoyaktuk students spent 2 hours preparing their interview with an elder. They spent an additional 2 hours learning to use the video and sound equipment. The entire group went to the elder’s house to shoot the interview and then decided how the interview should be edited. Each student spent 5 hrs immersed in our history. They gained knowledge not as individuals but as a generation.
We are fortunate that a number of exceptional artists have agreed to participate in this project. Dennis Allen is an accomplished film maker of Inuvialuit heritage, whose documentary films have won awards at film festivals in Canada and the United States. Still photographer Linda MacCannell has taught in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary. Their participation in this project provides students in the north with exceptional opportunities for instruction.
(Photo: Dennis Allen demonstrates how to shoot video to students in Paulatuk.)
Two years ago, the Tuktoyaktuk Education Council had the opportunity to listen to audio tapes that were recorded by UBC Law Professor Michael Jackson while he was Special Counsel to the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in 1976. We heard the voices of elders, describing their concerns about the drilling for hydrocarbons that was taking place in the ice-infested waters of the Beaufort Sea near our community.
The Mackenzie Delta is an environmentally-rich ecosystem and the elders from Tuk – and other Beaufort Sea communities – were worried that a blowout would foul the calving grounds of the beluga whales and destroy the nesting areas where millions of seabirds migrate each summer.
Last year, the Tuk Education Council held two workshops – one in the fall and one in the spring – so that teachers in Mangilaluk School could listen to these voices and learn about the importance of protecting the unique environment of our region. Then we invited Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen to work with our high school students to shoot two short video documentaries with the oldest residents of our communities. On the same trip the filmmakers were able to visit Paulatuk and shoot a documentary with students there.
This grant would enable the filmmakers to visit the remaining two communities of the Beaufort Sea – Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok – and then return to Tuk for a “film festival” with the documentaries shot by our students. We are hoping that the whole community can attend and applaud the creative work of our young people. The completed videos will become a curriculum that can be used in history and environmental studies classes in the seven schools of the Beaufort-Delta district.
- $3000 air fare
- $2000 room and board in remote communities
- $35 Small Change Fund fee
- $150 Credit card processing fees, so that 100% of your donation goes directly to our project!
Why Through the Eyes of Our Elders?
The generation that lived on the land during the 1940s and 1950s, before the move to settlements, had an extraordinary understanding of northern wildlife species: their behaviour, their migration patterns, and the threats that might be posed by industrial activity. Each year we lose a few more of these elders. In the last year alone, two of the elders who participated in the project passed away. For that reason, we want to engage our young people.
We believe the high school students from each community can create one five- or six-minute documentary with an elder. In larger communities, like Tuktoyaktuk, our students may produce more than one documentary. By linking the videos from all of the communities, we will have a half-hour production that explores stories about protecting the land and wildlife across the Western Arctic.
The completed videos will be incorporated into a website and will be placed on the server of the Beaufort-Delta Education Council. A plan for utilizing the materials was discussed by teachers from all of the regional schools at the beginning of this academic year. They concluded that the content would not only be valuable for high schools students, but could be incorporated into elementary classes and Heritage Fair projects as well.
We believe this project has much to offer to schools, not only in our district, but across the Northwest Territories. Therefore, we hope that it will be adopted by the NWT Ministry of Education. The Ministry is, in turn, part of an educational coalition in the Western provinces, a collaboration that allows for sharing curriculum materials. This would encourage schools in the four Western provinces and Yukon to use the materials as well.
(Photo of Tuk by Linda MacCannell.)