Climate resiliency project in Tuk wins $500K

The Tuktoyaktuk Community Climate Resiliency Project is one of five groups to be awarded the $500,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize.

‘You can't stop climate change, but you can help try to fix it’

Eriel Lugt is a climate monitor for the Tuktoyaktuk Community Climate Resiliency Project. The project hopes to use its $500,000 prize to expand training and grow their team. (Submitted by Jewel Keevik)

Climate change is taking its toll on Tuktoyaktuk and the N.W.T. hamlet will have some serious decisions to make in the coming years.

Helping to inform those decisions is the Tuktoyaktuk Community Climate Resiliency Project. 

The project is one of eight organizations across the North to receive the Arctic Inspiration Prize this year and one of five to receive the $500,000 prize.

The prize gives out seed funding each year to projects that help improve the lives of Northerners.

Kendyce Cockney, the project's team lead, says the project is dedicated to preparing the community to make informed decisions based on climate challenges.

Among the decisions Cockney says the community will have to consider is relocation — in recent years, Tuk has been grappling with an eroding shoreline, and recently had to relocate four homes during the pandemic. It's also dealing with rising sea levels and ground thaw.

"No other community is faced with more challenges due to climate change than Tuk," Cockney told CBC Northwind host Wanda McLeod. "The project will ensure the empowerment of locals to build capacity and knowledge of climate driven changes to stimulate resilience of people in future generations."

Kendyce Cockney, the team lead for the Tuktoyaktuk Community Climate Resiliency Project, with Dustin Whalen who helped start the project. (Submitted by Jewel Keevik)

The resiliency project has already been operating for four years through funding from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. 

 Nunakput NLA Jackie Jacobson nominated the project. This is its second year being nominated. 

The project aims to empower residents to take ownership of how they respond to the climate crises with community based monitoring. 

Cockney said the team has already been able to train several youth as climate monitors. Many of them, she said, are hunters who see environmental change while on the land. 

"Given the high profile Tuk has had on issues of global warming and climate change, and there are real effects it has on the community, we're more than pleased to have this support to help us deal with the issue," Cockney said. 

"You can't stop climate change, but you can help try fix it." 

She said the prize money will help their team hire more people and expand their training.

Obie Anikina is a climate monitor with the Tuktoyaktuk Community Climate Resiliency Project. (Submitted by Jewel Keevik)

Cockney said she hopes the team will be able to hold a conference in the community to talk with residents about climate data. 

"it's going to be a big, I have a lot of work," Cockney said, adding that she's thankful for the support of her team and of the community. 

She said they have been receiving "a lot" of emails and text messages extending congratulations on the prize. 

Cockney encourages anyone with questions or who is interested in getting involved to contact her at the Tuktoyaktuk community corporation. 

Written by Natalie Pressman with files from Wanda McLeod