WWF-Canada Blog:

Clean Camps, Clean Coasts in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories

Erin Goose of WWF’s Inuvik office shares her stories from Clean Camps, Clean Coasts in Ulukhaktok, NWT this summer.

This summer, I had a great opportunity to experience what it is like to travel to a small community and bring forward something positive, and to make it more interesting, it was my very own home community – Ulukhaktok.

Ulukhaktok is located in the Northwest Territories on Victoria Island, a small community of 450 or so people. I hadn’t visited my home community in 12 years because of the cost, and I was a student who could not afford it. While working with WWF-Canada this summer, I had an awesome project: to coordinate a shoreline clean-up in the community and in the more remote part of the Island called Kuuk River!

Source: University of Guelph, Global Environmental Change Group

Source: University of Guelph, Global Environmental Change Group

The project is called “Clean Camps, Clean Coasts”, and aims to remove litter from hunting camps and coastal areas – a big issue in the north, where disposing of garbage is a real challenge.

Throughout my eight days in Ulukhaktok, I was preparing for a long boat trip to Kuuk River, which is located in the Prince Albert Sound. Along with seven other community members, the plan was to clean up an important hunting and fishing camp site and remove the waste, including over 120 old fuel barrels cached in the area. We planned our trip, went grocery shopping and paid for all of the gas needed to travel through the ocean. The local Hunters and Trappers committee was very helpful in making this trip happen.   I worked closely with the president, Joshua Oliktoak, and the very nice and kind-hearted resource person, Gilbert Olifie.

Unfortunately, I was unable to travel due to bad weather, which is common in the Arctic. So, while the cleanup was postponed a few days, I planned a small cleanup close to town in an area called Jacks Bay.  Everyone calls it “the beach”, however it is not exactly where you would want to be swimming, because of the cold Beaufort Sea temperatures even in late July. I put up some posters and asked the youth to volunteer, and they did. I had six volunteers in the beginning and three at the end. They collected over 11 bags of garbage in the bay, which was a lot of work and a big success. (The cleanup of Kuuk River should be complete soon.  Stayed tuned for another blog and photos from it shortly.)

During the trip, there were also a lot of beluga whales in the area. I had the chance to see people hunt whales, and witness how hunters distribute the food to the community, which was something like you have never seen if you live in the south. The people were so happy to have the traditional food, like muktuk,  a delicacy in the north that everyone loves it.

Muktuk being prepared to serve using ulus ©Dan Slavik/ WWF-Canada

Muktuk being prepared to serve using ulus © Dan Slavik/ WWF-Canada

I had a great visit to my home, and it was a great experience to go back and work with them. Especially with a project like this, a lot of my family and friends have told me that they were proud that I came back and did this. Thank you WWF-Canada for hiring me as a summer student once again. It was a great experience and I would definitely do it all over again. I love the north and people in it.