The Arviat Young Hunters program was recognized last week by Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal as being a leader in community and Inuit-led climate change adaptation.
The program, overseen by the Aqqiumavvik Society, brings youth aged eight to 18 together with elders to build cultural resilience, community wellness and food security through traditional hunting and survival practices.
The society is also developing and delivering the Ujjiqsuiniq Project, which is being integrated into the Young Hunters program.
The Ujjiqsuiniq Young Hunters Project hires and trains Guardians to collect data to better understand the impacts of climate change on wildlife populations.
They train Inuit youth and, through them, community members in data analysis in order to plan for a sustainable future.
Vandal was supposed to travel to Arviat on Feb. 12 but was weathered out instead spent some time in Rankin Inlet. He said the Young Hunters program reconnects youth with their elders, culture and heritage.
He said everything being done is an attempt to reconnect the youth with their language, traditional foods and traditional way of life.
“If you add on the underlying context of climate change, which is much greater in the North than it is in the south, it really underpins everything that’s happening in the North,” said Vandal.
“It also gives the youth some real skills and knowledge about climate change in order to try and understand how to monitor and adapt to its effects.
“This is an excellent program that we’re investing in over several years, and we’re excited about it because it’s a real partnership between the community, government, young people and elders.”
Vandal said the success and strength of the Young Hunters program comes from the fact it’s a homegrown program.
He said the initiative comes from the community of Arviat and the people who live there, involving their youth, adults and elders in its design and delivery.
“There’s a real sense of ownership with this program,” said Vandal, who is from Winnipeg. “It’s really the sort of thing that was easy for our government to support because it involves traditional ways, reconnecting to one’s culture and climate change.
“It’s kind of a marriage between traditional ways and the new challenges we have in climate change, so it’s very exciting to be part of such a successful homegrown program.”
Vandal said he hopes the data collected from the program will have a positive impact in understanding and adapting to the effects of climate change.
He said the challenge is to make the project relevant and valid in terms of the work being done and the data being collected.
“I have a positive attitude and I’m confident the project is going to have a very important impact through the data collected and, also, a personal impact on individual lives, said Vandal.
“If we can take one young person at a time and introduce a change in their knowledge and perception, then that’s a positive thing.
“You can’t overestimate the importance of culture, heritage and language. It’s all about feeling good about who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going to go.
“And that’s what we’re attempting to do in partnership with the people who live in the community and the territory. The Young Hunters program is a homegrown program that we’re proud to be a part of it.”
The program is receiving three-year funding in the amounts of $412,062 from the Climate Change Preparedness in the North program and $375,000 from the Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring Program, as well as $439,954 from the Climate Change and Health Adaptation program over a four-year period.