The Arctic is ruled by ice. For Inuit, it is a highway, a hunting ground, and the platform on which life is lived. While the international community argues about sovereignty, security, and resource development at the top of the world, the Inuit remind us that they are the original inhabitants of this magnificent place – and that it is undergoing a dangerous transformation. The Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate and Inuit have become the direct witnesses and messengers of climate change.
Through an examination of Inuit history and culture, alongside the experiences of newcomers to the Arctic seeking land, wealth, adventure, and power, Our Ice Is Vanishing describes the legacies of exploration, intervention, and resilience. Combining scientific and legal information with political and individual perspectives, Shelley Wright follows the history of the Canadian presence in the Arctic and shares her own journey in recollections and photographs, presenting the far North as few people have seen it.
Climate change is redrawing the boundaries of what Inuit and non-Inuit have learned to expect from our world. Our Ice Is Vanishing demonstrates that we must engage with the knowledge of the Inuit in order to understand and negotiate issues of climate change and sovereignty claims in the region.
Note on Terminology xvii
Colour plates follow page 22
1 Sikuvut: Our Ice 3
2 Iglulik: The Place Where There Is a House 23
3 The Northwest Passage 46
4 Inuit Odysseys 75
5 Canada’s Arctic Dominion 100
6 Human Flagpoles 142
7 Nunavut: Our Land 174
8 Silaup Aulaninga: Climate Change 216
9 Is the Arctic Safe for Polar Bears? 257
10 Tusaqtittijiit: Messengers 281
1 Inuit Circumpolar Council, A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic 303
2 Inuit Circumpolar Council, A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat 312
3 United Nations, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 322
Shelley Wright is professor of Aboriginal Studies at Langara College.
"Wright succeeds brilliantly in painting a vivid picture not only of the physical grandeur and beauty of the Arctic, but also of the resilience and wisdom of its Inuit inhabitants. Our Ice Is Vanishing is an intimate, fascinating, and stimulating account of the Inuit presence in the North and its immeasurable value for the future."
– Suzanne Lalonde, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
"Our Ice Is Vanishing is authorative and entertaining, original, exhaustively researched, and informed by personal experience. Wright spent years living in the Arctic and it shows. She has written a wonderful book."
– Ken McGoogan, author of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World
"Wright's book is an academic study that is nonetheless deeply moving, clearly written, and suitable for general readers. It is essential reading for anyone wishing to learn about how "humans are inextricably connected to the chain of life on this planet." Tackling global warming rests on us recognizing this deceptively simple fact."
– Publisher's Weekly
"Based on extensive interviews with Inuit elders and community leaders, wide-ranging travel in the region and original research, [Our Ice is Vanishing / Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq] scrutinizes the evolution of indigenous debates about sovereignty, assimilation, human rights and climate change. At the same time, Wright dwells extensively and with skillful storytelling on the history of Inuit encounters with qallunaat (an Inuktitut term for white European and Canadian visitors)."
– This Magazine