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Arviat researchers present on Resources and Sustainable Development

Dr. Frank Tester (University of British Columbia), Dr. Zacharias Kunuk (Isuma TV) and Jamie Bell (Arviat TV) discuss the importance of film and media for knowledge mobilization at the Resources and Sustainable Development Workshops in Iqaluit, 2013.

Several Arviat media and research project members presented at the Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic annual workshop at the Frobisher Inn this week. The event brought social sciences researchers from across Canada, the US and circumpolar world to participate.

Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA)

ReSDA is a SSHRC funded Major Collaborative Research Initiative that brings together a broad range of disciplines and organizations representing universities, colleges, communities, government, the private sector and non-profits in northern Canada and other Circumpolar countries. More than 51 researchers from 29 universities in 9 countries are collaborating on the seven-year project.

ReSDA is built upon northern partnerships and collaborations. There are five coordination centres supporting ReSDA operations located at the Yukon Research Centre, Nunavut Research Institute, the Labrador Institute, Aurora Research Institute and Makivik Corporation.

The primary objective of the research is to cultivate innovative approaches for the best ways of natural resource developments in order to improve the well-being of northern communities while preserving the region’s unique environment. This issue is all the more pressing given the increased demand for natural resources globally, with many of these resources existing in Arctic locations.

The circumpolar research network is also examining ways to ensure that a larger share of the benefits of resource developments stay in northern regions with fewer costs to communities.

Over the course of the project, researchers from around the Circumpolar world will be developing, conducting and mobilizing research aimed at the sustainable development of Arctic natural resources in ways that will improve the health and well-being of Canada’s northern communities while preserving the region’s unique environment.

One example of how researchers can communicate with communities that was presented during this year’s annual ReSDA workshop was the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project.

Jordan Konek: “There’s so much going on in Arviat now”

Jordan Konek pushes the play button at the Nunavut Research Institute this Oct.

At a special Research Cafe held on Oct 8 at the Nunavut Research Institute, more than 50 people turned out to see Nanisiniq Arviat History Project member Jordan Konek present a special screening his documentary Nanisiniq.

Nanisiniq means “journey of discovery” in Inuktitut. The journey to self-awareness is the central theme of the new documentary created by Inuit filmmaker Jordan Konek and Dr. Frank Tester the project’s Principal Investigator, in association with the University of Social Work, University of British Columbia and Ardent Group Media, Vancouver.

The Nanisiniq Arviat History Project ( started as journey of discovery, bringing Inuit Elders and youth from Arviat, Nunavut, together to explore and re-examine much of what has been said about Inuit history and culture. In the film, Inuit youth bring that wisdom forward, using new social media, to help their community, Inuit youth—and others—understand the challenges of being Inuit in a modern world confronting issues like climate change and northern development.

The two-year youth participatory action research project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the School of Social Work, University of British Columbia.

While introducing the film, Jordan told the audience about how participating in the Nanisiniq Project gave him and the other team members the opportunity to see the world and to really experience and share Inuit history with people. “That’s where it gave us the opportunity to speak to people,” he said.

Youth involved with Nanisiniq travelled around the world to present at conferences such as COP-17 in Durban South Africa, Phelisanong in Lesotho, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa and International Polar Year in Montreal.

Konek, who now works full-time as a Reporter/Editor with CBC North in Iqaluit highlighted how the Nanisiniq research experience opened new doors for himself and the other youth researchers.

“In just one and a half years, things changed so much for me,” he said. “And to see all the things that are happening, and the things that are happening to the research team as well …

There’s so much going on in Arviat now.”

Zacharias Kunuk: “Exciting Times”

Also speaking at this year’s workshop was Nunavut’s own award-winning filmmaker and director from Igloolik, Zacharias Kunuk of Isuma TV.

Kunuk, a Member of the Order of Canada is known around the world for his work as a filmmaker, director, and producer of award-winning films such as Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001), The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006), and Before Tomorrow.

He’s been a long-time supporter of youth engagement and participation through both the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project and the community’s new Arviat TV initiative. He spoke passionately about challenges and economic development advantages available to Nunavut’s growing film and media production industry. “You’re always after the money, said Kunuk. “And when you get the money, you see the spin-off.”

“It’s like when we did the film Atanarjuat. We put a lot of people to work. Costume makers, hunters, building tools, kids, Elders, costumes are being made, employing a lot of people,” he said. “That’s the thing I like about making a feature film. You put a lot of people to work.”

Kunuk also spoke about the value of encouraging young people to take an interest in film and media. ‘It’s an exciting life, and a lot of kids want to do what we do,” he told the researchers. “It’s an exciting job. It’s like every day you’re on holiday. Filming, moving, hunting, going after stories.”

“When I started, I was the only one. Now there’s lots of filmmakers,” he said. “Really good ones, like Jordan, because we’re always doing serious work. And then we have another group, Arnait video which produces women’s films, and then we have the young people, producing young people stuff.”

“But we need more of us.”

Nanisiniq Arviat History Project members Curtis Konek and Jordan Konek join Arviat Elder Martha Okotak and Igloolik filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk at International Polar Year in Montreal last year. Kunuk has been a strong source of encouragement and support for the Nanisiniq Project and the Arviat Film Society’s Arviat TV initiative. Photo: Ian Mauro

Jamie Bell: Engaging youth in community-based research

The workshop also featured panel discussions from Rajiv Rawat from the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, Jamie Bell from the Nunavut Research Institute in Arviat and Elizabeth Kingston from the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines in Iqaluit. The trio presented on the use the Internet and multimedia to share knowledge in the Canadian North and Circumpolar networks on issues and impacts of resource development.

Arviat Film Society was visited by Windfall Films this fall. Linking youth with industry provides opportunities to explore career and post-secondary education options in media, communications and research.

In a 20-minute presentation Jamie used photos from youth projects to show how Arviat youth have been getting involved in science and research. The Nunavut Research Institute has been supporting youth participation in research since the Arviat Research Support Centre opened in 2011.

Gord and the kids explore Adobe Premiere and Photoshop with Adobe Youth Voices

Youth and community interest in research, media and technology opportunities is growing. The Film Society has grown to include almost 30 regular participants, ranging in age from 13 to 66 years old in a diverse mix of students and youth, graduates and educators from both the secondary and post-secondary systems.

“When the Nanisiniq Project started in 2010, there were five youth involved,” said Bell. “This year almost 20 students were employed in Arviat with community-based research projects through funding from organizations such as the Hamlet of Arviat, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Network and the Canadian Institute for Child Health.”

The Arviat Film Society youth have been working and collaborating with a number of ReSDA network partner organizations including the University of British Columbia, Carleton University, Mount Allison University, Isuma TV and Arctic Co-Operatives.

“There are a lot of positive opportunities available for researchers, communities and youth to work together,” said Bell. “Over the last few years, we’ve come a long way towards developing a model that encourages youth participation in research.”

Whether it’s through media, filmmaking, translation, or interpretation, there are a lot of ways that researchers and communities can leverage opportunities to expose Arviat’s young people to different careers and post-secondary learning opportunities.

These kinds of outreach can help youth learn about and explore hands-on to see if a career in science, media or communications is right for them.

This year, in partnership with Isuma TV, the Society is launching a new youth-driven community television station with funding from the Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream. The youth have also partnered with TakingITGlobal to deliver the Adobe Youth Voices Program to enhance training opportunities and creative confidence for both the youth and educators taking part.

Students at John Arnalukjuak High School’s computer lab install Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements software on the computers in the lab where their Isuma streaming servers are hosted. Youth produce content and healthy youth-to-youth messaging after school for the new community television station as part of their media training with the Adobe Youth Voices program.

“On behalf of all of us at the Arviat Film Society and the Nunavut Research Institute here in Arviat, I’d like to thank the ReSDA steering committee and its partner organizations for inviting us to take part in this year’s workshops,” he said. “This year’s workshops helped us build stronger connections with a lot of the people and organizations we’re already working with, and to identify new opportunities for the collaborative co-creation and sharing of knowledge through technology and community-based research.”