With the help of the local communities they belong to, the three northernmost narwhalf societies are making sure they’re not just living off the land.
The Northern Sea Whale Society (NSWS), an initiative of the Northern Sea Wildlife Foundation, is helping to build a sustainable community in the north.
The NSWS is part of a group of groups that have built the NISWS to help support the northern population.
In the winter of 2019, the NSWS and the Alaska State Troopers team visited the Arctic region and began the process of rebuilding a community.
“We started in June and we’re doing things in that community, including building a water supply and creating a social centre,” said John Gillett, president of the NSWs northernmost community.
In early 2020, the team met with the local NISW members to discuss the community’s future.
“This is the first time we’ve had a chance to see how it was going to work, and what the challenges are,” said Gilleott.
The NSWS’s community centres are equipped with refrigerators, washing machines, and refrigerators are available for use at home.
“It’s really exciting to see a community that’s been built, that’s built from the ground up,” said Chris McLeod, the executive director of the northernmost group.
“In a lot of ways it’s kind of like being a family, you’ve got all the tools, but you’ve also got a big community that really understands the importance of the work that you do.”
“They’ve done it from the start.
They’ve got a lot on their plate.”
The NSWs community centre, built out of wood and a local birch, is a huge undertaking.
“Our goal is to build this community centre out of the wood that we have in our woodlands, the birch that we’ve got in our forests, and then we’ve built the water tank,” said McLeod.
The group has hired a local architect to design the water tanks and the community centre.
“There’s a lot to do here, we’ve been building it in a couple of weeks, and it’s taking quite a bit of time,” said David Rolfes, the Northern Sails’ executive director.
“But I’m optimistic that it’ll be done.”
Rolfes is a veteran of the Niswals and says there’s no question that the group has an enormous task ahead of them.
“I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I think it’s really important that we don’t get discouraged because we’ve done so much to build these communities,” said Rolfs.
“These communities are a big part of what we’re trying to build in this area and to be able to see the fruits of our labour here, I think is really important.”
Roland Gillethans, the founding director of NSWS, said the group is working with local businesses to build their community.
“It’s a very big, complicated undertaking, but we’ve worked really hard on it and we think we’re ready for this,” said Gilles.
Gillethts wife, Kristie, works as an apprentice chef in the NWS’s building.
He says it’s important to keep things in perspective.
“A lot of people are doing this as a hobby and they want to do it because they think it will be a big financial reward for them.
But it’s not that.
It’s a long term commitment that we’re all working towards together,” said Garry Gilleths wife.
The NWS is now in the process to begin construction on a new building, which will be larger than the old one and more connected to the Neswals community centre and the school.
The Arctic Ocean’s bounty is bountiful, and the NSws is fortunate to have such a large, sustainable community, but Gilleithans believes the NSW is also a shining example of community building in the Arctic.
“The NSws, I don’t want to say the Arctic Ocean, they’re a very unique community, there’s a community here that really works with the NSWC to help build this, and we need that here as well,” said Gary Gillethan.