Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

About the film

Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change had its world premiere October 23, 2010, at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto. The complete film also streamed online simultaneously watched by more than 1500 viewers around the world. Following the film, a Q&A with filmmakers Zacharias Kunuk and Dr. Ian Mauro included live call-in by Skype from viewers from Pond Inlet, New York, Sydney, Australia and other locations.

Nunavut-based director Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat The Fast Runner) and researcher and filmmaker Dr. Ian Mauro (Seeds of Change) have teamed up with Inuit communities to document their knowledge and experience regarding climate change. This new documentary, the world’s first Inuktitut language film on the topic, takes the viewer “on the land” with elders and hunters to explore the social and ecological impacts of a warming Arctic. This unforgettable film helps us to appreciate Inuit culture and expertise regarding environmental change and indigenous ways of adapting to it.

Exploring centuries of Inuit knowledge, allowing the viewer to learn about climate change first-hand from Arctic residents themselves, the film portrays Inuit as experts regarding their land and wildlife and makes it clear that climate change is a human rights issue affecting this ingenious Indigenous culture. Hear stories about Arctic melting and how Inuit believe that human and animal intelligence are key to adaptability and survival in a warming world.

From the Edmonton Journal

Inuit experience tells us adaptation is key to the future

Climate change seen as opportunity to learn sustainable ways to live in natural world

I was born in 1957 in a sod house at Kapuivik on the northwest coast of Baffin Island, when my family still lived as my ancestors lived for 4,000 years. As a child, I fell asleep with eight brothers and sisters listening to our mother tell stories and legends that teach what every good person should know. In the mornings I woke up on my pillow of frozen sealskin kamiks and hurried outdoors to check the weather, as all Inuit children were taught.

I was nine years old, learning to train my own dog team, when my parents dropped me off in the new government town of Igloolik; they were told I had to go to school or they would lose their government family allowance. I learned English in town while my family lived their last few years following the seasons, weather, sky, wind and ice, living off the land and animals we Inuit knew so well.

As a teenager, I learned to carve soapstone to earn the 25 cents I needed to see movies at the community hall. The ones I liked best were John Wayne westerns; John would find some cavalry troopers shot full of arrows and say, "What kind of savages would do something like this?"

I identified with John and the cavalry; those "savages" had nothing to do with me.

Then one day I figured out there are two sides to every story. In 1981, a year before my community had television, I sold some carvings in Montreal and brought home the Arctic's first video camera.

I decided to be a filmmaker to tell our Inuit side.

Twenty years later, Isuma Productions' first Inuit-language feature film, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, won the Camera d'or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. Shown all over the world, subtitled into Spanish and Japanese and other languages, Atanarjuat adapted one of the most exciting legends my mother told us kids growing up.

We all had imagined that naked man running for his life across the ice, his hair blowing in the wind; now our film shared this legend with Canada and the world.

Ten years later again, we're ready to release our first online film, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, a title that speaks for itself. Inuit have gone from Stone Age to Digital Age in one generation.

I am living that change in my lifetime.

Thirty years ago, as scientists began to notice a warming planet, no one bothered to ask Inuit elders and hunters what they knew about their Arctic homeland from observing the weather every minute of every day. Now through our skills as digital filmmakers -- using 2.0 interactive Internet -- the whole world has a chance to join Inuit in dealing fairly with our common problems. Like The Fast Runner and 30 other films we have made since 1988, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change allows Inuit to speak for themselves in their own language: how the wind has changed direction, how wildlife biologists endanger polar bears more than hunters, how permafrost, sea ice and glaciers are degrading across the Arctic at an astonishing rate.

Most surprising, Inuit elders agree the sun doesn't rise and set where it used to when they were children. Even the sky appears changed, as if the Earth is tilted off its axis.

Inuit also bring different values to the art of civilized conversation. Traditional Inuit knowledge, known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit or IQ, defines six commandments of intelligent problem solving that apply as much to today's problems as they did to my ancestors'.

Besides stressing the key relationship people have with their environment, Inuit values recognize the importance of working together for a common purpose, avoiding conflict and finding consensus and, especially, what we call Qanuqtuurungnarniq, the concept of being resourceful, demonstrating adaptability and flexibility in response to a rapidly changing world.

Inuit approach climate change not only as a crisis, but as an opportunity to adapt, to find new techniques for living sustainably within the natural world. One after another, elders in our film tell us that hope lies in our capacity to be intelligent, resilient and well adapted to our environment.

Having survived and thrived through past climate changes, and the daily challenge of depending on weather and animals, Inuit experience tells us that the only constant is change itself, and adaptation is the key to a successful human future. To Inuit, climate change is a human rights issue -- how people adapt to change and still respect the rights of others.

I learned to adapt, not only as a hunter but also as a filmmaker.

Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change had its world premiere Oct. 23 at Toronto's imagine NATIVE Film Festival in a sold-out theatre. But our website showed the film at the same time to 1,500 online viewers across Canada and around the world. We took questions live by Skype from viewers in Pond Inlet, New York and Sydney, and shared our answers with a global audience by Internet.

Don't forget to visit the website for the movie and get more information.

Kunuk, Zacharias and Mauro, Ian J. . 2010. "Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change". Isuma TV. Posted: November 12, 2010. Available online:

Kunuk, Zacharias. 2010. "Inuit experience tells us adaptation is key to the future". Edmonton Journal. Posted: November 11, 2010. Available online:

No comments: