It was an honour to host Zacharias Kunuk and Ian Mauro at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton for a screening of Qapirangajuq: Inuit knowledge and Climate Change last February. Although the planning period – little over a month – was short, the event seemed to have a life of its own, and support for it snowballed like a winter-sculptor’s dream. My colleague, Erin Morton, was enthused to get involved in the organizing. We received generous support from departmental staff at UNB and St. Thomas University (we share a campus), the Maliseet Women’s Drum Group was excited to play, and the St. Thomas Students for Sustainability had a bake sale to contribute to the fundraising!
Qapirangajuq, the first Inuktitut-language film on the subject of climate change, is a communique from the North, a way for the people of Nunavut, at the Arctic heart of the world, to share the meaning and implications of climate change for their lives. As Kunuk put it before the film was screened, it is the Inuit putting their two cents in, because so many scientists and corporations are not asking them for their observations, experiences, and knowledge. Qapirangajuq explores the changes that Inuit have observed in the ice, waters, animals, and skies of their homeland. From the increasing impossibility of predicting the weather based on traditional knowledge, to the way that Inuit education, values and law continue to provide strategies for living in the North, the film is a new approach to dialogues about climate change. It is an injection of reality to a conversation that is commonly limited by scientific uncertainties and media sound-biting, which often leave the mind with nothing on which to chew.
The event at UNB began with a traditional feast of corn soup and bannock, made by women at the local St. Mary’s Reserve, and co-ordinated by Lisa Perley-Dutcher, Jodi MacDonald, and Stephen Dutcher. Darryl Nicholas gave a bilingual welcome to our guests, and all present, to Wolastoqiyik (or Maliseet) Territory. “May we hear what we have to know so we will also survive in this land.” His offering and invitation set the tone for the evening. Whether it was standing for the Honour chant played by the Maliseet women, or asking questions following the film, the 150+ participants in the evening’s events were more than an audience. Some of the greatest gifts that I took away from the experience were the messages that Kunuk and Mauro imparted during the Q and A. “I feel that we did our part. This film is going to live on, sending the message,” Kunuk replied when asked what the film-makers ‘would have us do’ now. Mauro responded “all we can do is follow what’s right for us in our hearts. …Without a doubt, the science around climate change is indicating that this is one of the most pressing global issues that we will face as a species: that’s not hyperbole. … And for me, that’s to be celebrated. We’re in a situation where we can rebuild the system …that’s a phoenix-from-the-ashes scenario. … If we re-purpose the Western mindset with all of the technological prowess that we have at our ‘dispose-ability’ – we would be able to tackle climate change in a second.” We have the choice and the responsibility to challenge our political leaders to address this issue now. “We’re not alone. And we have the tools.”
Qapirangajuq: Inuit knowledge and Climate Change, can be screened on the website of Isuma Productions. See it for yourself: http://www.isuma.tv/isuma-productions .
The “Welcomes” and “Q and A” can be streamed at http://bcove.me/l96ewrz5
Teresa Devor is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick.