Wild Archaeology: Innuvialuit—A Race Against Climate Change

This week on Wild Archaeology, Jenifer and Jacob are off on their own to experience salvage archaeology, without the supervision of Dr. Rudy. On this adventure, we are travelling to the far north where climate change is creating a desperate situation for archaeologists. Shorelines are facing accelerated erosion due to rising seas and rising temperatures resulting in a loss of artifacts to the sea.

Our duo travels to the Kuukpak dig site on Richards Island, north of Inuvik, on the Beaufort Sea where the Innuvialuit people would traditionally summer while hunting for beluga whale and store the meat, returning throughout the year. We learn the island was at one time covered in a series of camps and was a thriving summer community centuries ago.

The Innuvialuit people had no written history, and this is truly an example of traditional knowledge being rooted to the land. The land, because of climate change, has been forced to reveal the knowledge it held for centuries. If archaeologists fail in their mission to gather all of the artifacts, that knowledge will be lost forever.

In the initial site tour by Dr. Max Friesen, archaeologist at the University of Toronto, Jenifer spotted an ancient snow knife exposed by erosion. Continuing along the shore, ancient beluga bones were seen exposed and came across an old dog sled runner fashioned from bone and a number of ulu blades. Dr. Friesen estimates many of these finds are up to 500 years old.

I spoke briefly with Jacob on Tuesday, and he had this to share about his experiences on the show:

“I really loved the opportunity to work on this show and I learned a great deal throughout our travels. I have a new understanding of our natural history and discovered how scientists are in fact starting to tell stories that are parallel to those First Nation and Inuit people have been telling for a long time. The show is educational, but it was also an amazing adventure that I hope we can continue in the future.”

Jacob, I really hope your adventure does continue. This show is an absolute delight and I am so happy I decided to cover it.

Artifact tally tonight? Jacob: a rare, intact Innuvialuit arrowhead and a dog sled runner made from bone. Jenifer: a bi-face end scraper. Seems like Jacob is now in the lead.

Wild Archaeology airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


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