Adaptation to Climate Change in Paulatuk - A Case Study on the Role of Multiple Stressors

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Adapting To Climate Change In Paulatuk A Case Study On The Role Of Multiple Stressors

“Everything has changed in the last 30 years - especially in the last 10 years. It is harder to predict the weather. We used to know what kind of a day it is going to be. Not anymore.� Millie Thrasher

THIS PAGE: Photo by Maya March COVER: Photo by Lanita Thrasher

Introduction Inuvialuit in Paulatuk have a long history of coping with, and adapting to, changing conditions in the Arctic. More recently, changes associated with global climate change, including rising temperatures, altered sea ice dynamics, and less predictable weather patterns have wide-ranging, complex, and mostly adverse consequences for Inuvialuit livelihoods. Inuvialuit are particularly sensitive to climate change due to their close relationship with the environment for their livelihoods. Climate change is being experienced together with other stressors, both climate and non-climate related, which influence adaptation. However, most research on climate change adaptation focuses on documenting and describing climate change impacts and responses, with less, if any attention given to the role that ‘multiple stressors’ play in adaptation. This research responds to this knowledge need and examines the role that multiple stressors play in adaptation to climate change in Paulatuk.

28 semi-structured interviews were conducted with Inuvialuit living in Paulatuk over 9 weeks from January-March 2016 to identify what stressors were affecting people, how they were dealing with them, and what made it easier or more difficult. AGE



























Interview participants by age and gender

This research was conducted by Eric Lede with the community of Paulatuk under the supervision of Dr. Tristan Pearce and Dr. Chris Furgal. Significant contributions were made by many community members including local research partners, Melanie Wolki and Lisa Illasiak.


Findings ECONOMY High cost of living Limited job opportunities

INSTITUTIONAL EDUCATION Low attendance rate Low graduation rate Difficult to further education

HOUSING Overcrowding Long waiting-list Condemned houses

TECHNOLOGY Encourages a sedentary lifestyle Increased access to gambling Enables online confrontation

ADDICTIONS High rate of cigarette consumption Alcohol and drug abuse





CHANGES IN WILDLIFE Changes in migration routes Changes in timing of migrations Changes in health and availability

ATMOSPHERE Unpredictable weather More rain Less severe blizzards

WATER Faster onset of waves Larger waves More whirlpools

LAND Melting permafrost Shoreline erosion Permafrost slumping

ICE Decreased ice thickness Later sea-ice freeze-ups Earlier sea-ice break-ups


“The ice has changed. Now it is unsafe to stay out any longer. We were lucky to get out last year, the ice was only 2 feet thick.” Lawrence Ruben 4

Findings FOOD SHARING NETWORKS ARE THREATENED Food sharing networks in Paulatuk aid adaptation and support marginalized groups such as Elders and single mothers during times of food stress. In recent years, however, less food is being shared among households. Wildlife tag and quota regimes affect food sharing by limiting the number of animals that can be harvested and restricting the timing of hunts. On the other hand, the community freezer plays a central role in supporting food sharing by providing safe and secure storage of country foods throughout the year.

RESPONSES ARE MOSTLY BEHAVIOURAL Behavioural changes are the most common responses to climate-related impacts in Paulatuk. For example, harvesters alter travel routes on the land and ice in response to unexpended changes. Behavioural changes are reactive and take place during or after experiencing a risk. In contrast, few pro-active or planned responses to expected climate risks were documented.

CHANGES IN TRANSMISSION OF TEK TEK plays an important role in facilitating adaptation to changes affecting the land, ice, sea, and wildlife. However, the generation and transmission of TEK is changing due to a range of compounding factors. These include, for example, limited access to financial capital needed to travel on the land, ice, and water to hunt, and the expectation of some knowledge holders to be paid for sharing their knowledge, even within the community.


“Having an education means you will have a job to get out on the land. However, you are spending the majority of the day away from your family and your values which is very strong to us - tradition, values - it all adds up.� Photo by Maya March


Jody Illasiak

ORGANIZED RECREATION IMPROVES YOUTH WELL-BEING Organized recreation in Paulatuk brings youth together, strengthens social networks, and alleviates some of the hardships of living in a small isolated community with family. Organized recreation provides alternatives to negative social influences such as drugs and alcohol, and instead provides opportunities to improve fitness, health, and well-being.

OUT-MIGRATION FROM PAULATUK IS CAUSING A BRAIN-DRAIN Inuvialuit need to leave Paulatuk to advance education beyond high-school. This is causing trained and qualified Inuvialuit to migrate out of Paulatuk. Several high-achieving youth have moved away from Paulatuk to further their education and have established themselves in regional and provincial centres. This is decreasing the human resource capacity in Paulatuk.

SCHOOL BOTH AIDS AND CONSTRAINS ADAPTATION School both helps and hinders adaptation to climate change impacts affecting subsistence. For example, school can hinder adaptation by reducing the amount of time younger people can spend on the land with knowledge holders. On the other hand, school can help adaptation by providing young people with the opportunity to learn skills important for wage employment, which provides the needed financial resources to access the land.


Policy Responses COMMUNITY FREEZER The community freezer needs a sustainable source of funding for ongoing operation and maintenance. Unpredictable funding from the Hamlet, HTC, and PCC puts the community freezer at constant risk of closure. Further, technical issues cause the freezer to intermittently shut-down, which can result in mass food-spoilage and put Inuvialuit at risk of Botulism poisoning. Therefore, maintenance costs need to be integrated into future funding for the community freezer. In the longer term, the community freezer should be upgraded or replaced with higher efficiency refrigeration technology.

TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE Initiatives need to support the generation and transmission of TEK. The ability to generate and transmit TEK is limited by access to vehicles and other harvesting equipment. Currently, the Inuvialuit Harvesters Assistance Program (IHAP) and the Community Harvesters Assistance Program (CHAP) help individuals purchase harvesting equipment; however, these programs do not have the capacity to support every applicant. An equipment sharing initiative could be established to increase access to the land, particularly for marginalized individuals. Further, TEK holders could reduce or remove their fees for sharing TEK with others in the community.


SCHOOL Angik School should continue to identify opportunities to improve school attendance and achievement. Inuvialuit in Paulatuk emphasized the need to reform the school system to make it more appropriate for Inuvialuit students. The current school is based on schools in southern Canada with little relevance to some students who elect to drop-out. There is a need for both a vocational and academic stream in the schooling system to provide students with opportunities for realistic wage employment both in and outside the community. Furthermore, high-achieving students are leaving Paulatuk to continue education beyond high-school, resulting in ‘brain-drain’. High-achieving students could be encouraged to stay and work in the community if advanced learning opportunities were made available through mechanisms such as distance learning.

ORGANIZED RECREATION Initiatives should continue to provide ongoing opportunities for youth to participate in organized recreation throughout the year. This could involve organizing numerous inter-community sporting competitions across a variety of sporting disciplines. Initiatives could also support youth attendance at regional sporting events. New sporting equipment could be funded to enable youth engagement in a wider variety of sporting disciplines throughout the year. Further, the recreation coordinator could be encouraged to introduce new sporting disciplines into Paulatuk to support long-term youth engagement.



(% of respondents)



Sample quote

Mixed Economy (93%)

…transitioning economy, limited job opportunities, high cost of living.

“Just like the weather, our economy is down, you know. Oil and gas is gone. Mining is gone. Everything kind of quietened down for a while” - Gilbert Thrasher Sr.

Environmental Conditions (82%)

…unpredictable weather, increased hazards, increased erosion.

“No matter how experienced you are, Mother Nature takes its course and there is nothing you can do about it while you are out there” – Jody Illasiak

Institutional Education (71%)

…residential school, low attendance, high drop-out rate.

“I kept dropping out in grade 10 because I was being a kid staying up late with friends and all what teenagers do” – Melanie Wolki

Changes in Wildlife (54%)

…changing migration routes, changing migration timing, population changes.

“There is less caribou now. They used to come right through town in the early 70s. Not anymore” – Millie Thrasher

Housing Shortage (36%)

…overcrowding, long waiting lists, decrepit houses.

“There’s housing issues for everybody that everybody faces. There’s not much houses here” – Frank Stacy Wolki

New Technologies (50%)

…reliance on technology while out on the land, increasing sedentary lifestyle.

“They’re not really going out on the land as much ‘cause they come up with the [television]. You know, different kind of games and they’re missing all this stuff here. All the contact, the hunting, fishing” – Andy Kudluk

Addictions (29%)

…alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

“It’s drugs and alcohol that’s really hurting the community” – Chris Ruben


Adaptive Strategies

(% of respondents)

Mixed Economy

• Get an education to get a job to make money • Hybrid traditional and market economy livelihood strategies • Rely on income support • Leave town for work • Buy food in bulk from out of town • Eco-tourism promotion • Pay hunters ahead in gas to hunt

• • • • • • • •

Buy country food Cope Reach out to mining for economy Hunt on weekends Commodification of knowledge Harvester support programs Rely on research funding Bootlegging

Environmental Conditions

• • • • • •

• • • • •

Holster knives while boating Alternative forms of transportation Only travel with experienced navigators Change travel routes Travel with less equipment to avoid breaking the ice

Institutional Education

• Alternative forms of transportation • Only travel with experienced navigators

• Change travel routes • Travel with less equipment to avoid breaking the ice

Changes in Wildlife

• Diet transition • Federal conservation negotiations (creation of a national park) • Wildlife management regimes • Community hunts

• • • • •

Housing Shortage

• Renting instead of buying • Change in building techniques

• Rebasing the house after permafrost melting

New Technologies

Do nothing


Using some addictive practices to avoid other practices

Stay in community Shortening trips Organised search and rescue GPS for navigation Utilising weather reports Cope

Flexibility Travel further ENR killing rabid species in community Species switching Buy fur from outside of the community


“We always seem to find a way.” Jonah Nakimayak

Photo by Herb Nakimayak


Acknowlegements The authors are grateful to the community members of Paulatuk who supported and participated in this research. We are appreciative of the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee, the Paulatuk Community Corporation, and the Hamlet of Paulatuk for your support and guidance throughout this research. We would also like to thank Melanie Wolki and Lisa Illasiak who helped to conduct the interviews for this research. We are extremely grateful to Maya March and Parks Canada for supporting this research. This research is part of the ArcticNet project ‘Community vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to climate change in the Canadian Arctic’ and was supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


For more information about this research, contact: Eric Lede

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