Introducing… the InukSUK Program in Nunatsiavut, Labrador

For the past two years, I’ve been working with some wonderful folks in Nunatsiavut, Labrador to conceptualize, design, and develop an Inuit-led, Inuit-run community-based environment and health monitoring program. The InukSUK program is based on Inuit-identified priorities, ways of knowing, and cultural contexts, and unites cutting-edge app technology with traditional knowledge and storytelling. It’s an exciting new project, and we’re just in the early stages.

If you’re interested in learning more, click on the picture to read the full article, free online.


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Big thanks to all the amazing people with whom I get to work:

Dr. Sherilee Harper, Dr. Dan Gillis, Charlie Flowers, Inez Shiwak, Dr. Chris Furgal, Dr. James Ford, Michele Wood, Tom Sheldon, Anna Bunce, Alex Sawatzky, Oliver Cook, and the Rigolet Inuit Community Government. And of course, to all the amazing people in Rigolet who have lent their time, ideas, wisdom, expertise, and knowledge to the development of this app, and will make the program possible. Nakummek!

Coverage of Climate Change & Mental Health Research

Today, the Toronto Star published the second in a series of articles by Tyler Hamilton examining the many complex facets related to climate change and mental health, and featured our work in Nunatsiavut, Labrador.

Sometimes there are moments in life that change you, that alter you in ways that you can never really fully articulate… and that continue to teach you things years later. This research, and working with the Inuit communities in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, is one of the moments. Hearing the voices, experiences, and wisdom of the people with whom I work is humbling beyond belief. And dealing with, responding too, and hopefully mitigating the mental and emotional impacts of a rapidly changing climate and environment is something that continues, daily, to occupy my thoughts and drive my actions.


An excerpt:

Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, an assistant professor of indigenous studies at Cape Breton University, said the connection between mental health and climate change in Canada’s North is growing stronger and in “urgent” need of further investigation.

“There’s this dialogue that’s just waiting to leap out into the national and international consciousness,” she said. “In Canada, we have this active fishing culture, active farming culture, and large Arctic indigenous groups who are on the front lines of climate change, yet we have been really quiet on this topic.”

This is indeed a national dialogue that needs to happen in this country, and we are in a time in this country that I believe there is a willingness and and ability to listen and to act.

Thank you to Tyler Hamilton for his excellent reporting, and for his interest in this topic. His work is making sure this information and these voices get out, and for that, I am eternally grateful.


Climate Change & Inuit Mental Health

Today, an agreement is being tabled at COP21, calling on over 200 countries to sign on. As we continue these national and international dialogues, it is important to remember human impacts, including human suffering, distress, and psychological impacts.

I am pleased to share this new ebook feature through Adjacent Government that was just released to coincide with COP21. Click on the picture below to access the article.

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New Article on Inuit-Youth-Led Participatory Video & Adaptation

Just in time for the annual ArcticNet Annual Scientific conference in Vancouver, BC, Arctic has released our new article on using Inuit-youth-led participatory video as a strategy to enhance adaptive capacities and support known protective facts.

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TEDx Cape Breton Talks Released

The TEDx Cape Breton videos are now live! Happy to share a link to my talk on the impacts of climatic and environmental change on Inuit lives, livelihoods, and wellbeing in Nunatsiavut. Thanks to all who pulled this together!

Introducing the IlikKuset-Illingannet/Culture-Connect Program!

I am extremely excited and pleased to share a new video celebrating the wonderful youth and mentors of the IlikKuset-Illingannet/Culture-Connect Program, which ran in Rigolet, Makkovik, and Postville, Nunatsiavut, Labrador.

This progracommap-390x470-2m united 5 youth and 5 mentors in each community to learn culturally-based skills, such as trapping, fur preparation, wild meat cooking, snowshoe making, carving, music, and art. Youth spent approximately 4-5 weeks with each mentor learning these skills, with approximately 2,500 youth-adult mentor hours in total throughout the program.

This video was made during a youth gathering in Rigolet in March/April 2014 to celebrate the end of the program. We were lucky enough to work with Jordan Konek of Konek Productions, editor extraordinaire, to make this video. Jordan flew in from Iqaluit, and after experiencing weather delay after weather delay, finally arrived in Rigolet and helped our group put this together in 48 hours!

Special thanks to the youth and mentors of this program, without whom this wouldn’t be possible. Your passion, dedication, wisdom, knowledge, and skills are inspiring! Thank you to the Inuit Community Governments of Rigolet, Makkovik, and Postville for supporting this program, and to Inez Shiwak from the ‘My Word’: Storytelling & Digital Media Lab in Rigolet, Michele Wood in the Nunatsiavut Department of Health & Social Development, and Joanna Petrasek MacDonald from McGill University for all your help and support!

Many thanks to Health Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation in Northern First Nations and Inuit Communities program, the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments, IK-ADAPT, IMHACC, and the Canada Research Chair program for funding.






Film Documents Impacts of Climate Change on Labrador Inuit

Our team has been so thankful and humbled by the interest that our new film, Attutauniujuk Nunami / Lament for the Land. Recently, myself and my colleague, Inez Shiwak from Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, were interviewed by Elyse Skura from CBC North about our film premiere in Prince George at the recent International Congress on Arctic Social Sciences.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.48.58 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.51.45 PMClick here to access the article on CBC.

Click here to watch a shortened interview on CBC Northbeat (start at 15:25).






A new film about the effects of climate change in Nunatsiavut, in Labrador, was met with an emotional reaction at it’s international premiere.

“A lot of people in the audience cried throughout the film and were very emotionally moved,” says Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities at Cape Breton University.

Lament for the Land documents how changes are affecting Inuit, both culturally and emotionally in the southernmost Inuit communities in the world.

“We had a number of people after come up and just say how connected they felt to the film and how much they learned and how they suddenly realized this deep connection they had to the land and the ice and the snow.”

The screening took place at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Prince George, B.C., last month.

“The ones that meant the most to us were the other circumpolar indigenous peoples who were in the room, who came up after and said, ‘You know, that’s exactly how we’re feeling in Norway or Alaska or Russia.’ That it was very reflective of their experiences and their love of the land and how things were changing for them.”

Cunsolo Willox is the principal investigator of the Inuit Mental Health and Adaptations to Climate Change (IMHACC) project, from which the film emerged.

Five Inuit communities in Nunatsiavut — Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet ​— provided feedback during the film’s editing process.

“We now move forward, kind of feeling that the story that we’re sharing is the story that people in Labrador and in Nunatsiavut want to share, about what they want people to know.”

Cunsolo Willox hopes the film will add a human factor to the issue of climate change, and be educational for people who haven’t had the privilege of travelling in northern Canada.

‘Like a release’

Inez Shiwak works with the “My Word: Storytelling and Digital Media Lab” at the Rigolet Inuit Community Government and works on the same research project that became the basis forLament for the Land.

For her, climate change is personal.

“When I was growing up, by Halloween, we had snow… but as climate change is affecting us more we can’t get out on our Ski-Doos until January.”

Shiwak describes the film screening as “like a release, because other communities were feeling this too. Not just us.”

She says many Inuit are depressed since they spend fewer months on the land, and hopes the film can help other places get ahead of some of these problems.

Cunsolo Willox plans to show the film at some international conferences this summer. She’s also planning smaller film tours around Atlantic Canada.

Eventually, Cunsolo Willox hopes the film, and all of the research that went into it, will be made available online, for free.