The Kitikmeot Heritage Society has been working with Polar Knowledge Canada to develop a new research guide for scientists and researchers who plan to work in Iqaluktuuttiaq. This guide provides researchers with an overview of Inuinnait culture, and helps align their projects with the interests and needs of local people. As part of this project, we have been developing a community statement surrounding research that takes place in Cambridge Bay. We are trying to get feedback from a wide range of community members about the contents of this statement. Please read through the 5 points about research in Iqaluktuuttiaq and let us know what you think. Is there anything else incoming researchers should know? Do the 5 points adequately describe our community? We are trying to keep this statement short, but will try our best to include all comments and concerns raised by the community. If there are any questions about the project, please contact either Pam Gross (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Brendan Griebel (email@example.com).
1) We want research that responds to needs identified by our own community.
It is easy for research to become out of touch with non-academic populations. Research is often dedicated to extremely focused research topics, and academics become used to communicating with like-minded individuals. Whatever the reason, some research loses sight of the bigger picture of life in Iqaluktuuttiaq. This research typically moves through our community without us noticing it, or us being noticed in turn. 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.
2) We want research that shares its process and results in ways that are accessible to our community.
Sometimes, research is difficult for community members to access. We are genuinely interested in learning more about our surrounding environment and like to see what techniques researchers use to investigate the land, weather and animals. We like research that can take the time to explain its methodologies and results in words we understand. There are many ways to do this, and these are covered in this guidebook’s section on communicating research.
It is important for researchers to understand that communication in our community might take place differently than what they are used to. Inuinnait culture is an oral culture. Some of us read only in Inuinnaqtun, or do not read at all. We often have no access to the journals where researchers publish their results. 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.
3) We want research that not only trains local people, but also builds on strengths, knowledge and resources already present in the community.
As a community, we have a lot to offer incoming researchers. We are a community of diverse talents and expertise, and would like to further develop these strengths by applying them to research programs. 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. By working alongside people already knowledgeable about the community, researchers gain direct access to logistical information about what products are available for purchase, what project timelines are feasible, and who can best be contacted regarding specific needs. 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.
4) We want research that promotes 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.
5) We want research committed 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. Projects started in our community should be considered in terms of long-term benefits and impacts. Proper oversight should exist to ensure the sustainability of projects left behind for the community to manage: Local people should be educated in the process and meaning of the research, technical knowledge and hard-to-find parts should be in place should future repairs be needed. Researchers should ensure that proper infrastructure and support networks are in place to apply research results, and carry projects into the future.
We also like to see that long-term relationships are developed between community members and researchers. Establishing the trust and personal connections needed to properly conduct projects often requires that researchers get to know and understand local people outside of a working context. The benefits of strong personal relationships go both ways: researchers have their eyes opened to meaningful personal experiences and a broader picture of life in the north, and local people are able to learn more about projects and perspectives they would otherwise have no access to. 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.