Environment, Commerce, and Science in Western Arctic History

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences, environmental change, history, resource development

Principal Investigator: Stuhl, Andrew T (3)
Licence Number: 14868
Organization: UW-Madison
Licenced Year(s): 2011 2010
Issued: Feb 11, 2011

Objective(s): To reach a greater understanding of the broad patterns of scientific research, natural resource development, and environmental change in the Beaufort-Delta from 1889 until today.

Project Description: There are several goals for this research project. The first is to reach a greater understanding of the broad patterns of scientific research, natural resource development, and environmental change in the Beaufort-Delta from 1889 until today. The second goal for this research is to follow a public-scholarship approach throughout the research process, from developing and refining the research questions, to carrying out the research, to communicating the results.

The core of this research will be carried out in public governmental and non-governmental archives in Inuvik and Yellowknife, as well as in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Washington DC, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Berkeley, and Oxford, England. These archives contain information of the personal papers and correspondence of several scientists of interest in this study, as well as their linkages to governmental and corporate activities.

Participation in interviews will be completely voluntary. Potential interviewees will be members of the current Delta communities who hold leadership positions in natural resource development and scientific research. These informants can be identified through conversations in town or through the publicly available websites of major community and territorial organizations. These informants will help refine the research questions so as to make them both more sophisticated as appropriate to the experiences in the Delta. These informants will also be key in identifying other potential interviewees.

Interviews will be carried out in a place of convenience and comfort for the interviewee. Because participating in interviews can bear costs (time off work, child care, transportation), participants will be compensated for any costs associated. Interviews will vary in length, but 2 hours is anticipated to be an average time for an interview. The privacy and confidentiality of interviewees will be considered.

With participant’s permission, interviews will be audio recorded and videotaped. Audio recordings are important because they provide a documented record of the participant's testimony. Video recordings are important because visual cues, like hand gestures and facial expressions, often help give meaning that audio recordings conceal. Participants will have the choice of concealing their identity in interviews or allowing it to be known. If they would like their identity concealed, their name will not be recorded and instead will assign a number (like the date of the interview, for example) to the file in order to keep it separate from others. In these cases, the video recordings will not be shared with anyone other than the research supervisor and will not be referenced in written publications.

While the nature of interviews involves locals as interviewees, the researcher will seek to collaborate with college-age youth (students, 18 years or older, from Samuel Hearne Secondary School, or Aurora College) to help record, transcribe, and analyze interviews. These students would gain valuable experiences in historical research techniques and the technologies used to record, transcribe, and analyze the material. In addition, with permission granted from interviewees, these interviews will be preserved at the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Center. They may also be edited into a radio broadcast or podcast for News North and a small film for circulation through the local communities.

Thus far, this history is preserved in the minds of living individuals who experienced the last few decades of interest in oil and sovereignty, as well as historical records buried in archives and libraries around Canada and the USA. But the history of resource extraction and scientific research stretches further back in time. It includes the episodes of bowhead whaling, the fur trade, the CANOL pipeline, and anthropological expeditions in the region. A study of this history may enrich current management decisions about the future Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

The researcher intends to find appropriate, creative, and compelling ways to communicate results of this research to residents of the NWT. The researcher is open to community input for communication strategies. Each community will be sent a copy of written publications as a result of this research for their local libraries. The researcher hopes to preserve the video and audio recordings of Inuvialuit residents at Inuvik's Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Center.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 1, 2011 to June 12, 2011.