For the Inuit of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Labrador, ignoring global warming is not an option. As winters warm and ice melts, their traditional ways are threatened. The Inuit have become one of the canaries in the climate-change coal mine. In the memories of elders are stories of change and loss that can help the rest of the world understand how a shifting climate will affect our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.
So in 2009-2010 First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (Health Canada) funded “Changing Climate, Changing Health, Changing Stories”. This was a qualitative research project to examine “the impacts of climate change on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being” (from Ashlee Cunsolo Willox’s project Web site).
Health Canada has understood the power and importance of stories to community well-being for decades. They have been in the forefront of employing narrative evaluation and research to understand social phenomena. So it is not surprising they chose to support this digital storytelling project.
Beyond the immediate focus of looking at the impacts of a changing climate, the project has led to development of a digital storytelling center in Rigolet and the hope this remote community can become a leader in showing how community narratives can preserve the past and help create the future.
Perhaps the saddest reflection of all is this: “The stories we tell of today will one day be the stories of the past.”