Improving Communication on Climate Change Terminology for Communities and Researchers in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region

With the recognition that climate change will have significant impacts on the environmental, social, and economic landscapes within the Arctic, and an increase in climate change research being conducted in Arctic communities, specifically within the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), the need to standardize and ensure comprehensibility of climate change wording and concepts in Inuvialuktun is imperative in supporting informed responses by Inuvialuit communities to climate change. As such, a workshop was held in partnership with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre and IRC’s Department of Innovation, Science, and Climate Change in 2019. Six translators, fluent in each of the three Inuvialuktun dialects (i.e. Kangiryuarmiutun/Inuinnaqtun, Sallirmiutun, and Uummarmiutun) attended the workshop. Translators were presented with 21 Climate Change and long-range contaminants related terms (see Table 1 in ‘Implementation’ section below) to translate and provide literal meaning associated with each translation. All 21 terms were translated, and literal meanings assigned to each term, in all three Inuvialuktun dialects. These terms will be compiled into a Terminology Glossary that will be accessible across the ISR. The success of this Project has encouraged IRC to apply for additional funding to continue developing a comprehensive and robust terminology glossary that can be used by across the ISR.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Climate change impacts to the Arctic environment has also sparked an unprecedented growth in climate change research being conducted in Arctic communities across the globe. This growth in research has resulted in increasingly more sophisticated and specialized terminology being used in climate change discourse. As a direct result of this advancement in scientific terminology, climate change information relayed to Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) communities has become increasingly difficult to comprehend, both conceptually and linguistically. Consequently, the gap between Traditional Knowledge (TK) and the scientific community has continued to increase over time, creating an unfortunate disconnect between researchers, politicians and ISR community members.

Sallirmiutun, Uummarmiutun, and Kangiryuarmiutun, collectively known as the Inuvialuktun language, are the three dialects spoken in the ISR (Figure 1). The Inuvialuktun language is spoken by fewer than 50 per cent of the population, many of whom are Elders. As the “true” holders of TK, Elders are often interviewed for numerous research and oral history initiatives/projects.

Figure 1: Inuvialuktun Dialects across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Figure 1: Inuvialuktun Dialects across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Map showing the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) across the Canadian Arctic - spanning the northern portions of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The map highlights the parts of the ISR in which each of the 3 dialects of Inuvialuktun are spoken (Kangiryuarmiutun, Sallirmiutun, Uummarmiutun).

Identifying Actions

Not surprisingly, language revitalization, TK sharing, and cultural heritage preservation is becoming increasingly important in Inuvialuit self-determination and identity. It has also become an effective vehicle through which Inuvialuit can navigate through the influx of academically driven information coming into ISR communities. Therefore, developing a standardized and comprehensible climate change terminology will help in overcoming the growing communication barrier between ISR communities and scientists. This will in turn help to reduce confusion, minimize inaccuracies in interpretation, and promote greater community involvement in climate change adaptation and resiliency planning, policy development and future research across the ISR. Moreover, developing climate change terminology that makes sense within the context of Inuvialuit daily lives, would help encourage Inuvialuit to evaluate and respond to climate change in ways that are understood and supported by the Inuvialuit as a whole.

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC)’s approach to maintaining consistent translation of climate change terminology and concepts, followed by continued open discussion, debate and usage of these terms will help to reduce not only the current knowledge gap, but will also seek to reduce and mitigate the negative relations that can be created between communities and researchers. To achieve this, IRC obtained funding from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) to host a three-day terminology workshop, the results of which will become part of a climate change and long-range contaminants glossary of terms booklet that will be made available to community members and researchers across the ISR.

The development and consistent use of accurate, standardized climate change terminology in all three languages spoken in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), is vital in ensuring meaningful involvement by all Inuvialuit.

Implementation

In partnership with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Center and IRC’s Department of Innovation, Science and Climate Change, a 3-day workshop was hosted in Inuvik from September 18th – 20th, 2019. Six translators, fluent in each of the three Inuvialuktun dialects (i.e. Kangiryuarmiutun/Inuinnaqtun, Sallirmiutun, and Uummarmiutun) attended the workshop. Translators were presented with 21 climate change and long-range contaminants related terms (Table 1) to translate and provide literal meaning associated with each translation. Once translated, the words and meanings were sent to each translator for verification within their respective communities. The terms are being used in a series of children’s book which also has an audio book component. The first book is nearing completion (created in 3 dialects of Inuvialuktun & English) and have begun the second book. They will also be included in a technical dictionary.

Table 1: Climate Terms for Translation

Climate Terms for Translation

Table 1 includes all the climate change terms to be translated and include: Adaptation, climate change, contaminant, drought, energy, energy saver, environment, extreme weather, mitigation, non-native species, renewable (alternate) energy, permafrost, pollution, precipitation, research, solar, stewardship, technology, temperature, water, weather.

Next Steps

All 21 terms were translated, and literal meanings assigned to each term, in all three Inuvialuktun dialects (Table 2). These terms will be compiled into a Terminology Glossary that will be accessible across the ISR. Due to the overwhelming success of the workshop, it will now be held as an annual event. The next terminology workshop is scheduled late in this fiscal year, and will include the translation for 20 additional terms related to science, energy, and climate change. The success of this Project has encouraged IRC to apply for additional funding to continue developing a comprehensive and robust terminology glossary that can be used by across the ISR.

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Table 2: Translated Words with Literal Meanings

Table 2 includes all the climate change terms translated into Kangiryuarmiutun/ Inuinnaqtun, Sallirmiutun, and Uummarmiutun and include: Adaptation, climate change, contaminant, drought, energy, energy saver, environment, extreme weather, mitigation, non-native species, renewable (alternate) energy, permafrost, pollution, precipitation, research, solar, stewardship, technology, temperature, water, weather.
Table 2: Translated Words with Literal Meanings

Table 2: Translated Words with Literal Meanings

Resources

Link to Full Case Study

Originally published by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices

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