Sea-Ice Safety in Mittimatalik

Banner Photo: Andrew Arreak

Mobilizing Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit for sea-ice safety in Mittimatalik, Nunavut: A case study with Sikumiut to support Inuit self-determination in research

2017 – 2022

Funded by: SmartICE, Public Safety Canada, ArcticNet, Polar Knowledge Canada, SSHRC Doctoral Scholarship

Photos by: Andrew Arreak, Gita Ljubicic, SmartICE

In 2015 SmartICE began working in Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), and at the community’s request established a management committee, self-titled Sikumiut, to govern the community-based sea-ice monitoring program. During a 2017 management meeting, Sikumiut highlighted the need to document their Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) of sea ice to support safe ice travel and share this knowledge with the community and future generations.

As part of her PhD with Memorial University of Newfoundland (co-supervised by Drs. Trevor Bell and Gita Ljubicic) Katherine Wilson co-developed with Sikumiut this sea-ice IQ project, with SmartICE support. This bottom-up approach emphasizes Inuit self-determination in research and emergency prevention, and represents Inuit perspectives and knowledge (IQ) on travel safety and hazards relevant to their own community (and could inform approaches in other Inuit Nunangat communities). 

Project Vision: By sharing their sea-ice IQ, Sikumiut aims to improve sea-ice travel safety (emergency prevention), and to enhance communication amongst local emergency management partners during potential search and rescue (SAR) events.

Who did what: Sikumiut governed the project; Andrew Arreak facilitated project workshops and created digital maps; Jamesie Itulu designed graphic illustrations; Katherine facilitated progress and trained and mentored Inuit youth to perform the research.

Process: Between 2018 and 2020 fourteen meetings and workshops were conducted with Sikumiut members, Elders, sea-ice users and youth in Mittimatalik to document their sea-ice IQ, discuss knowledge sharing and design community products.


  1. Seasonal inventory of 65 Inuktitut sea-ice terms for Mittimatalik; 
  2. Two sea-ice travel safety posters that educate young Mittimatalingmiut on how to prepare for travel on the ice and how to travel safely once on the ice;
  3. Three seasonal travel safety maps that highlight known areas of safe shelter and locations of dangerous sea ice conditions as the seasons change, with relevant geographic coordinates for input into personal GPS devices. In May of 2020, Sikumiut posters and maps were displayed in public spaces in the community and on the Mittimatalik SmartICE Facebook site.

Emergency Management: Sikumiut’s maps can also be relevant beyond the community of Mittimatalik for territorial and federal emergency management partners. For example:

  • The location-specific sea-ice IQ is expected to strengthen emergency prevention in the community, putting less demand on territorial and federal SAR resources.
  • During a SAR event, the appropriate Sikumiut maps could be utilized to focus search efforts to nearby known areas of dangerous sea-ice or shelter.
  • Sikumiut maps could help improve the decision-making and safety of SAR responders while deploying equipment and personnel on the sea ice.
  • Future map products could include digital versions for both emergency management platforms and navigational devices for Mittimatalingmiut.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You can freely download and share all documents posted for non-commercial uses, as long as the authors are credited. Photos cannot be used for any other purposes, without permission from the photographer.

Maps and Posters


Wilson, K. J., Arreak, A., Itulu, J., Sikumiut Community Management Committee, Ljubicic, G. J., and Bell, T. 2021b. “When We’re on the Ice, All We Have is Our Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit”: Mobilizing Inuit Knowledge as a Sea Ice Safety Adaptation Strategy in Mittimatalik, NunavutArctic, 74(4): 525-549. (

Wilson, K., Arreak, A., Sikumiut Committee, Bell, T., and Ljubicic, G. 2021a. The Mittimatalik Siku Asijjipallianinga (Sea Ice Climate Atlas): How Inuit Knowledge, Earth Observations, and Sea Ice Charts Can Fill IPCC Climate Knowledge GapsFrontiers in Climate, 3: 715105. (

Wilson, K., Bell, T., Arreak, A., Koonoo, B., Angnatsiak, D., and Ljubicic, G. 2020. The Sikumiut Model: Changing the role of non-Indigenous research partners in practice to support Inuit self-determination in researchArctic Science, 6(3), 127-153. (


Wilson, K. J. [PhD thesis, 2022] The Sikumiut Model: A cross-cultural decolonizing research approach for sea ice travel safety in Mittimatalik, Nunavut. (Memorial University of Newfoundland).

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