Leanne Beaulieu didn’t spend much time on the sea ice when she was young. Her grandparents felt it was too dangerous.
“They were pretty nervous about taking me and my siblings onto the land, because of the unpredictability of the sea ice,” she said from Gjoa Haven, where she lives. “They worried about something happening to us.”
Today, things are different.
Nunavut’s sea ice is a huge part of Beaulieu’s life, thanks to her job as a Sikumik Qaujimajjuti mapping specialist with SmartICE, a community-based enterprise that integrates Inuit knowledge with monitoring technology to provide a range of sea ice-related tools and resources.
On June 13, SmartICE released a book of sea ice terminology, tailored specifically to the community of Gjoa Haven. The hope is that it will make it easier for community members of all ages to communicate about sea ice conditions, which are changing rapidly due to climate change.
The book, which features 61 terms, is printed in Inuktitut and English, and also features photos and graphics.
Beaulieu has already distributed copies around the community
“It’s a good thing to finally have it out there and to hear such nice positive feedback from everyone,” she said.
“So far it’s all just been people saying this is such important work.”
The terminology contained in the Gjoa Haven book was researched and documented in meetings that began in October, 2021, and concluded earlier this year. SmartICE favours group meetings over one-on-on interviews, as it allows participants to correct and verify each other’s information and spelling. The meetings in Gjoa Haven were attended by representatives from the local Hunters and Trappers Association and search and rescue organization, government officials, and community Elders – including Beaulieu’s grandparents.
“My grandparents actually joined the SmartICE committee, so I was learning from them,” she said. “It’s really special. I’m super grateful to get that knowledge from them.”
Gjoa Haven is the second Nunavut community to get a SmartICE terminology book. Pond Inlet was the first.
Pond Inlet’s book, which features just shy of 70 terms, launched in 2022, and has since been distributed across the community, even making it into schools and libraries.
Andrew Arreak, SmartICE’s Regional Operations Lead for Qikiqtaaluk, was a crucial part of that project, and says the books are also about preserving the Inuktitut language.
“The ice terminology being documented, and us knowing it will be around for a while, and knowing that most schools here in the community have copies of our book, it’s a great feeling,” he said.
“In the past, what was taught to us was all verbal. Nothing was ever documented. As Inuit, a part of our culture is being out on the ice. It’s a part of our identity, and not every young man has a father figure who can teach him what conditions or what types of ice are called in our language, in Inuktitut.”
Gjoa Haven will not be the last Nunavut community to receive a sea ice terminology booklet. SmartICE is undertaking similar projects in Arctic Bay, Arviat, Qikiqtarjuaq, and Taloyoak.
“I’m glad other communities are mimicking the booklet in their dialect also,” Arreak said.
SmartICE, which is an acronym for “sea-ice monitoring and real-time information for coastal environments,” was co-created with the government of Labrador’s Nunatsiavut region in response to the dangerous sea ice conditions around Nain in winter of 2010. The organization is also producing a sea ice terminology book for that community.
In addition to the books it has distributed, SmartICE has also produced maps and informational posters, and even designed an interactive online game called Safe Travels, which aims to teach traditional Inuit ice safety knowledge and terminology to young children.