Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Northern Exposure

By Naomi Happychuk, 1st year MDP student

With my practicum coming to an end I have to say, that it has truly been an incredible summer. I learned so much, gaining practical experience, and building on my passion for northern development. Working with the Northern Sustainable Development Initiative in the city, I had the opportunity to attend various conferences and workshops and hear perspectives from a number of First Nations chiefs and Elders, government administrators, the Metis community, and private industries, particularly at the round table on “Models and Best Practices of Northern Development” we had organized in June.  I gained valuable skills in researching, writing, communication, and administration. I came to better understand the complexities of Indigenous Development in Canada.

Beluga Whale, Churchill, Manitoba

Travelling to Churchill, Manitoba and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, was an incredible way to end my practicum.  This was an opportunity to form my own perspective on development in the north and to experience first-hand, much of what I had been researching. Churchill was a great introduction to the north and I met with the Community Administrative and Economic Development Officer, the President of Churchill Chamber of Commerce, the Executive Director of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, and the Superintendent of Parks Canada in Manitoba’s north. I also toured the port, which is the primary source of economic revenue for the town, took in some history at Dene Village and the Prince of Wales Fort, and even saw some spectacular wildlife including tundra swans, beluga whales, and polar bears!  

Rankin inlet, Nunavut
In Rankin Inlet, I felt I truly got a taste of the north. This town on the west coast of Hudson Bay, with sparse vegetation over rocky outcrops and valleys of tundra is home to about 2500 people, most of who are Inuit and speak Inuktitut. In this community, which has long been sustained by mining, exploration and surveying is abundant. Sled dogs would howl loudly and I had just missed the passing of a large caribou herd, a staple traditional food for people of the area. I also had the opportunity to visit an old Thule site, with dozens of tent rings, meat caches, kayak racks, and fox traps all made of stone. Again I met with various community members and learned more of the challenges and opportunities of development in the north. 

Naomi on a tour of a grain elevator in Churchill with Randy Spence

From these trips I was reminded of the need for more action to be stimulated from all of the meaningful discourse and thorough studies, and of the need for development in the north to come from the north with the support of southern entities, and not the other way around. This has been an incredible summer of learning and insight, as a development practitioner and as a Canadian.

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