Responding to Change in NW Alaska: Ethnographic Film and the Voices of the People

Monday, 15 December 2014
Scott Craig Gerlach, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, Sarah Renee Betcher, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States, David E Atkinson, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada and Philip A Loring, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Communities in the NW arctic rely on subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering to ensure their food security and to maintain a cultural identity but climate change is altering the timing and distribution of plants and animals. Arctic Alaskan villages are only accessible by air or watercraft thus limiting the options of goods and services and increasing the cost due to vast distances traveled. Additionally, these goods and services must be transported during winter months, which include some of the most extreme temperatures and landscapes people permanently occupy. Many rural community members mitigate these high food prices by maintaining their traditional lifestyle of hunting fishing and gathering of marine mammals, fish, greens and berries.

These essential subsistence activities are impacted by a warming arctic as reduced sea ice extent, permafrost thaw, increased storm severity and shifting seasonality alters plant and animal patterns that people in the region have knowledge about for thousands of years. Now with increased weather variability and a changing climate the people in the region are adapting and responding to these changes. Local traditional knowledge (LTK) of active hunters, fishers, and gatherers can provide a deeper and more comprehensive understanding to western science of how climate change is impacting the Arctic. This documentary film captures footage from the summer and fall of 2013 of activities of hunters fishers and gatherers and recorded their sentiments of how climate changes has impacted their subsistence way of life, and how arctic residence are responding to both climate and extreme weather events. Video is taken from the land, sea and air in and around Kotzebue, Kivalina, Point Hope, Noatak, Ambler, Buckland and Deering. The presenters will discuss how the film shows responses to change and how the film was made in close collaboration with NW arctic residents.