Ruth Kaviok returned from the tropics of Peru in March following a trip of several weeks as a volunteer with Canada World Youth.
Her Arctic home is much colder, but warming trends are on her mind.
“The seasons are rapidly changing,” she says, adding hunting and ice conditions are affected by climate change.
Some conservation groups, however, seem to be fixated on aiding polar bears more so than Indigenous people, she says.
“It’s not about saving one species it’s about improving (the plight of) the overall people, the environment. It’s all in one,” says Kaviok.
Inuit knowledge should be incorporated in responses to tackle climate change, not strictly based on science, she advises.
Her travels as president of the National Inuit Youth Council – a position she assumed in June 2017 – have also taken her to other Inuit jurisdictions. In comparing, she says the Inuit language is stronger in Nunavut.
“We’re working together to improve the language barrier and basic rights,” she says, but cautions it will be a lengthy process. “It takes time to right the wrongs. It takes time to take back our identity, our language, but it’s possible since there’s a lot of resources.”
Besides climate change, improving educational standards and employment opportunities would be among the territory’s most urgent issues, she says.
She also takes time to laud Inuit excellence.
“There’s a lot of good Inuit role models that were pioneers like the first NHL player, heart surgeon, singers, award-winners, filmmakers, actors – anything you could think of, there’s a first Inuk that participated and is celebrated,” she says.
Her time as national youth council president ends in a few months and she’s considering running for another term.
“I can’t even explain properly how much of a life-changing experience this has been so far,” she says.
She’s also pondering enrolment in a political science program because involvement in politics may be in her future, she reveals.
Kaviok, 20, was not quite a year old when Nunavut came into existence on April 1, 1999.
Her schooling, particularly the Nunavut Sivuniksavut college program, and her own personal research into the “Fathers of Nunavut” – the territory’s negotiators – made her appreciate how hard they worked and how far the territory has come since then, she says.
Kaviok has also developed a deep respect for some of the luminaries from the Kivalliq, like Nunavut commissioner Nellie Kusugak, who she described as “inspirational,” and Nancy Karetak-Lindell, who has served as president of Inuit Circumpolar Council of Canada and Nunavut’s Member of Parliament.