Community Profile: The History of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut
Rigolet (population 290, 95% identify as Aboriginal) is one of the Southern-most Inuit community in the world, and is situated within the Nunatsiavut region of northern Labrador, the newest Inuit region in Canada (est. 2005). Rich in land and sea life, Rigolet enjoys harvesting the abundance in the area: salmon, char, trout, seals, wild berries, and medicinal plants. Rigolet is also teeming with minke whales, diverse seabird colonies, migratory birds, black bears, polar bears, foxes, martins, wolves, lynx, beavers, and sometimes caribou. In the 18th Century, Hamilton Inlet became host to European explorers and traders, and in 1743 Louis Fornel landed near the present day Rigolet and established Rigolet’s first trading post. Many of the families in Rigolet are decedents of the European settlers and Nunatsiavut Inuit. Today, hunting and fishing are done mainly for food and not trade. However, seal hunting is still done commercially, and professional trapping has survived on a small level. Rigolet is an active community with a 4.4 km boardwalk along the shore, an annual three-day Salmon Festival, dog team races and carnivals, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and the Tikkiaksaugusik Cultural Festival (see www.rigolet.ca).
Project Summary: How we are Leading the Way
Believing in the importance of taking control of the research process and of ensuring that the community is prepared to meet the challenges of a changing climate and environment, Rigolet has been very proactive with research projects in recent years. In 2009, the Rigolet Inuit Community Government received funding through the Climate Change and Health Adaptation for Northern First Nations and Inuit Communities to study the impacts of climate change on physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being in the community—and the Changing Climate, Changing Health, Changing Stories project was created! This project was dedicated to piloting the use of digital storytelling as a health data-gathering strategy, a health communication platform, and a capacity-building approach, and combined this technology with qualitative methods (in-depth interviews, surveys, focus groups, PhotoVoice).
In addition, this project also established Canada’s first Inuit-run centre for research and multi-media methods: the ‘My Word:’ Storytelling and Digital Media Lab. This community-run lab has 10 Macbooks, eight digital cameras, a digital video camera, a Mac computer, 2 iPads, and all the required editing and media technology. This equipment is not only available to community members in Rigolet, the ‘My Word’ Lab is also able to travel to other communities to conduct digital storytelling workshops, train other communities in digital storytelling techniques, conduct research, and train others in research design and delivery. Finally, it is important to note that this project was conducted by a transdisciplinary team of Inuit and non-Inuit researchers from a variety of backgrounds and training, which further enhanced the effectiveness of the project and the overall results, and the relationship between the project and the community.
Highlight of Activities
Research & Output Activities
- 85 in-depth interviews
- 2 surveys (n=75 questionnaires; 112 questionnaires)
- 8 focus groups
- 3 PhotoVoice workshops
- 7 journal articles written (1 published, 2 forthcoming, 4 under review), 2 in preparation
- 40 conference presentations (8 under review)
Digital Storytelling and PhotoVoice Activities
- 35 digital stories created
- 7 community workshops and 1 youth workshop conducted
- 1 Youth and Elder Summer story-sharing summer camp
- 2 DVDs of stories created & disseminated to all community members
- 2 websites created to share the stories: Facebook and YouTube
- 10 story nights held in the community
- A photo book and a calendar created to highlight the photographs
- 6 community members trained in digital storytelling facilitation
Capacity Building – Connecting the Guidance of the Past with the Needs of Today
Community capacity building and training in research, technological, story creation, and facilitation skills have been the cornerstone of the Changing Climate project from its creation. Since the project started in 2009, it has provided training opportunities to community members in a number of areas:
- Training in computer technology, editing, and story design and creation through the digital storytelling workshops (open to all interested community members);
- Training in photography skills, digital camera usage, and photograph composition and style (open to all interested community members);
- Training in research assistantship (3 community members, hired through competitive process);
- In-depth training in facilitation, workshop planning, digital storytelling and PhotoVoice, counselling referrals and self-care, working with people, professional writing, presentation skills, and business skills (6 people through the ‘My Word’ Lab, hired through a competitive process).
In addition, community members from all ages and backgrounds had the opportunity to share stories and listen to the stories of others. This sharing of wisdom through stories and between generations was essential to providing the opportunity for land-based knowledge to be shared, celebrated, remembered, and mobilized in the current time.
Next Steps – How We Are Adapting to Climate Change
Continuing on with a proactive approach to research, the Rigolet Inuit Community Government and the ‘My Word’ Lab are continuing to actively host and direct research in the community. Currently, in partnership with the Indigenous Health and Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) project, a 5-year research project is being conducted to examine climate change impacts on food security and water quality and safety, as well as develop and implement community-based pilot adaptation strategies. Through funding from the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments, a project to further analyze gender-related climate-health themes emergent from the Changing Climate project is scheduled for 2012. Plans for a regional climate-related mental health and adaptation research project are also currently underway, with the Rigolet Inuit Community Government as the project leads.
Throughout all of these projects, community capacity building, meaningful inclusion of community members, and continual results-sharing and community feedback is integral to all stages of the research. This continued engagement with research and the findings from these projects will continue to support Rigolet in creating adaptation strategies and enhancing adaptive capacities in the community.
The Changing Climate, Changing Health, Changing Stories project, and the community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, stand at the forefront of community-directed and community-run research. Through this innovative project, Rigolet has become a leader in the climate-health research field, the ‘My Word’ Lab has become an exemplar for community-led research initiatives, and the research emergent from this project is breaking new ground and expanding and enhancing the climate-health field within Canada and internationally. Without the funding from the Climate Change and Health Adaptation in Northern First Nations and Inuit Communities, this project, the ‘My Word’ Lab, the ground-breaking research, the community capacity-building opportunities, the training and development received, and the relationships developed would not have been possible!