Clyde River, Nunavut

The Meaning of Ice: A special book project to report Inuit-led research on sea ice, sea ice use, and sea ice change in three Arctic communities

Project Summary: How we are Leading the Way

This project contributed to the preparation of a book stemming from the results of an existing project called the “Siku-Inuit-Hila (Sea Ice-People-Weather) Project”. Siku-Inuit-Hila was a unique project conducted during the International Polar Year (IPY) that brought Inuit from three Arctic countries together with scientists to study sea ice, sea ice use, and sea ice changes in three different Arctic communities. Inuit from Clyde River, Nunavut, Inughuit from Qaanaaq, Greenland, and Iñupiat from Barrow, Alaska, partnered with climatologists, geographers, and a sea ice physicist to conduct a research project that brought together the diverse knowledge and perspectives of all these experts on sea ice. 

The major outcome of this research is the creation of a book called The Meaning of Ice, to be published by the International Polar Institute Press in 2012. The Meaning of Ice was written together by hunters, Elders, whalers, and researchers, and weaves together the story of human-relationships with sea ice including sea ice use, impacts of environmental changes, personal stories, and emotional connections.

Capacity Building – Connecting the Guidance of the Past with the Needs of Today


Writing workshops

Writing workshops that complimented the main research were held in each participating community where local sea ice experts groups (sikulirijiit) met for several days of mapping and discussing sea ice. Many of the activities led to the documentation of sea ice use and changes related to health, such as changes in sea ice safety, changes in hunting areas and trails, and how to safely use sea ice or build proper sea ice tools. The meetings also included discussions about the emotional connections to sea ice and how it is important to Inuit mental health. Questions around Inuit identity were explored and commented on, as well as how Inuit emotionally and practically respond to sea ice changes.

Graphical Material

One of the greatest successes of this project was the development of the graphical material included in The Meaning of Ice. Local artists created artwork illustrating sea ice tools, clothing, activities, types of sea ice, and stories. Over the course of the research the project generated:

  1. Over 100 illustrations by local artists and illustrators
  2. Four illustrations by professional artist Dorothia Rohner
  3. Over 20 maps (created by local experts and formalized by professional cartographers).
  4. Over 50 pieces of artwork by local children

Skill(s) Building

Each participant had the opportunity to become comfortable with the use of maps and at creating map overlays to communicate information. Local artists gained capacity in illustration work and many expressed surprise and gratitude because they themselves learned knowledge about sea ice they had not known before. Indeed the process of working on the book was just as important as the material in it.

Next Steps – How We Are Adapting to Climate Change

Reaching Out – The Meaning of Ice

The Meaning of Ice will be published in 2012 and distributed to all major Inuit and Arctic Indigenous organizations, as well as Arctic College, the University of the Arctic, and other Arctic educational institutes and schools.  The book will be colour, large format, and available for purchase by the public. The book will gain significant exposure in the North through our existing partnerships with three countries and also in presentations at scientific conferences and northern meetings.  The first publication of The Meaning of Ice will be in English (with Inuktitut and Greenlandic throughout), with Inuktitut and Greenlandic versions to follow.


Community Profile

934 (2011 Census)
Land Area:
106.55 sq km

Project Information

Years Funded:
Topic Area:
Jacob Gearheard, Illisaqsivik Society, ([email protected])

Map Location