A new bilingual English and Inuktitut book is offering first hand accounts from Inuit elders about how climate change has affected their environment, diet and traditional lifestyle in the Canadian Arctic.

The Caribou Taste Different Now edited by José Gérin-Lajoie, Alain Cuerrier, and Laura Siegwart Collier, with a foreword by Mary Simon, offers insights on how the people who live in the Arctic are coping with changes in ice conditions, wildlife and vegetation.

"They are living the change," says Gérin-Lajoie.

Book cover

The Caribou Taste Different Now edited by José Gérin-Lajoie, Alain Cuerrier, and Laura Siegwart Collier, offers insights on how the people who live in the Arctic are coping with changes in ice conditions, wildlife and vegetation. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

The book was inspired by the work of award-winning Inuit activist Sheila Watt Cloutier to "put a human face on climate change."

"The people were very generous of their knowledge and openly talking about what they knew and sharing their experience," says Gérin-Lajoie.

Enlivened with maps and photos, the book is designed as an educational tool for students in Nunavut and features 145 interviews conducted between 2007 and 2010 with people living in eight communities in three of the four Inuit regions in the Canadian Arctic.

Alain Cuerrier says while there are a lot of books on climate change from a scientific perspective, few include contributions from the people living in the Arctic.

"Now going back to people who have been living there for hundreds and hundreds of years, they know what's going on, they have a good clue and they are really keen observers of what are the changes around their communities and where they go for hunting and fishing."

'This is really having a toll on their lives'

The book includes accounts from communities in Nunavik, Nunavut and Nunatsiavut about experiences with the dangers of thinning ice that makes travelling and hunting more difficult and the disappearing caribou herds.

José Gérin-Lajoie

'The people were very generous of their knowledge,' says José Gérin-Lajoie. (Submitted by José Gérin-Lajoie)

"They suffered. This is really having a toll on their lives," said Cuerrier.

In one account from the book, Kugluktuk's Roy Inuktalik shares his observations on the changes to sea ice thickness.

"The ocean here, even the lakes, when they freeze up the ice is not as thick anymore. You have to be really careful to travel."

Many of the observations echo scientific insights but unlike clinical data of numbers and statistics they include a sense of the connection between the people and land.

Alain Cuerrier

'They suffered, this is really having a toll on their lives,' says Alain Cuerrier. (submitted by Alain Cuerrier)

"I have noticed the land is drier than before and the smaller lakes have less water. This I have noticed; the lakes are shrinking," states Pond Inlet's Joanasie Muckpa.

Elders also speak about the dwindling caribou herds.

"[The caribou] taste different," states Nain's Annie Lidd.

"Some of them are sick or something; there's not enough patik [marrow] in their bones."

The editors have plans to release additional versions of the book in the future featuring other Inuktitut dialects for use in schools in other Inuit regions.