Helping an Arctic village to cope
Starting this summer - 2018 - the High Arctic hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk (pop. 965) is about to be invaded by an armada of tourists and adventurers. While this may seem like great news, this invasion is not of their doing, it is the result of the construction of new section of gravel highway from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean. Tuk is a very remote and precariously fragile village; it needs additional resources to handle this influx. Our project will, to some humble measure, contribute to this Inuvialuit community's ability to greet and cope with the thousands who will be driving up the Dempster hoping to reach the Arctic Ocean.
On the shores of the Arctic Ocean, there is a tiny town that has been the dream of all adventurers for decades. Tuktoyaktuk, aka Tuktuyaaqtuuq, and aka Tuk, was, until recently, a destination reserved for ice-road truckers, the native Inuvialuit population and the usual suspects from the territorial and federal governments. I have been fortunate enough to visit Tuk several times, the first time in 1976 while working in Gjoa Haven with my dad, again in 1981 while serving with the Canadian Armed Forces and twice more as an adventurer. The reason so few people went up to Tuk is simple, there was no road. Yes, there was the winter ice road, made famous on television – Ice Road Truckers – and there was the airport, but that's it. Tuk was basically an isolated hamlet of 965 residents, at latitude 69 North, about 3000 miles due north of the US / Canada border.
Until recently, the nearest road was the gravel Dempster Highway that ended in Inuvik, over 100 miles south of Tuk.
All this changed in November 2017 when the Canadian and Northwest Territorial governments finally completed the construction of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk section of the Dempster. That's right, one can now drive all the way up to Tuk from Alaska, the Continental US or any of the Canadian provinces or territories - you can drive to Tuk 12 months a year!
That's great news, right?
It is and it isn't great news.
Tuk is about to be invaded by thousands of tourists and adventurers. They are going to go up there by motorcycle, 4x4, RV, some will even bicycle there. Our first reaction is to think that this is great for the community. Tourists are going to arrive and spend lots of dollars. Unfortunately, Tuk is under-equipped to handle this sudden avalanche of tourists. They don't have a hotel, the village is about to open its first eatery, there are no campgrounds, waste management is insufficient for all these visitors and RVs will have no dumping site... remember, this is a tiny tiny tiny native Inuvialuit community on the shores of the Arctic Ocean!
A few months ago, I was reading a thread on an adventure motorcycle forum I belong to. There was a thread asking the question: "What can we do for Tuk?" Many, rightly believed that we should arrive with respect and realistic expectations. Some forum members suggested bringing toys for the children. One suggested we actually help to build a hotel, Habitat for Humanity style.
It got me thinking. Being a photographer and designer, as well as an adventure motorcyclist and amateur radio operator, I was looking for a project that spoke to my own experience and could be a win-win for anyone who supported the project, for the community of Tuk and for its visitors.
Here it is... Travelers to distant lands want to buy a sticker or a badge. I always do. My stickers are proudly stuck on my motorcycle saddle bags. So I called the Tuktoyaktuk Economic Development office and spoke to Annie Steen, the Economic Development Officer. Apparently, they currently do not have any stickers they can sell, so I asked her how she would feel if I could get several thousand stickers printed, brought them up myself this coming spring, and gave them to the Tuktoyaktuk community for free. They in turn would sell them to visitors thus making a clean profit that they could use to reinvest in the community's tourism infrastructure. She loved it. In short, we have the support and blessing of Tuk's Council. They are looking forward to something they can sell to visitors.
Your donation will pay for the printing of the stickers that Tuktoyaktuk's Council will then sell. If I raise all the money I hope to raise, and print at least 10,000 high-quality, outdoor stickers. Tuk will then sell each sticker for $5 or more, In the end, they will have raised at least $50,000. For Tuktoyaktuk, that is a lot of money to reinvest in the community!
I said it was a win-win project. It is, because we - the visitors - will be able to buy these stickers and display them proudly. My only selfish act is to hope that I can be the first one to buy a sticker and stick it on to my motorcycle; I'll buy a second one for my accompanying Jeep (the Jeep will be carrying the stickers!).
Note that any money left beyond what is needed to print and ship the stickers, will go directly to Tuk in the form of a donation.
This is the design. I hope you like it. The sun represents Tuk's 24-hour summer sun - aka, the Midnight Sun. The thinning ice under the polar bear represents the melting of the ice cap due to climate change. The latitude is obviously the latitude of Tuktoyaktuk. Last but not least, in looking for a good phrase, I thought it would be nice for buyers to be able to brag that they had made it all the way up the Dempster, as far as Tuk, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Few people have that bragging right!
Beyond the sticker
Beyond this campaign, it is my intention to cede all rights for this design to the Tuktoyaktuk Council, thus allowing the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk to use it in coming years to print additional stickers, embroidered patches, t-shirts, etc. **Edit** We have decided to produce embroidered patches this year!! We're trying to get them done well but quickly. Details on our Thanks Tuk Facebook page.
If you'd like to know more about Tuktoyaktuk, visit their website here: http://www.tuktoyaktuk.ca or the Tuk wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuktoyaktuk.
This campaign is not about me, it is about the people of Tuk. But in case you would like to know about me, my little one-man company Excess Noise LLC is a documentary filmmaking and photography firm. See my portfolio here: Excess Noise Art
About the delivery
I was initially going to deliver the stickers in person. Instead, we have decided to ship the stickers up there as soon as each batch is printed to give Tuktoyaktuk more time to sell more stickers.
To all my motorcycle, 4x4, overland, RV and other adventurer friends...
You know the impact people have on native communities. I hope we can all come together and lend a helping hand.
To my Amateur Radio friends...
This will not be a formal DXpedition, but I will be transmitting on HF from Tuk. Before leaving, I will give you all the spotting details. 73s. K3MRI.
To my photographer and filmmaker community...
I hope you'll come up to Tuk someday, in summer or winter. You will be breathless, not just from the cold, but from the beauty that surrounds you.
To my military colleagues...
You've always been there for me. I thank you and hope that you will support me.
To my friends and family...
Please help me spread the word. Share away... This is not a grand, big-scheme project, it is simply a humble means of helping a fragile North American Native Community to remain sustainable.
Thanks to all...
Cemil (Jim) Alyanak
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