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2018 Arctic Internship Fellows

Justin Chen, BS Computer Science; BS Sociology; minor, Complex Systems ‘20
Torngat Wildlife, Plants, and Fisheries Secretariat, Labrador Institute
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada  

I’d like to first begin this report by expressing thanks to the University of Michigan programs that made my internship in Labrador possible. The internship was an incredible experience; it challenged me in more ways than one, I learned a lot, and it ultimately became something I’ll fondly remember for the rest of my life. I was a research intern for the Torngat Wildlife, Plants, and Fisheries Secretariat in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. I specifically conducted research on the history of fisheries in northern Labrador, with specific emphasis on why fisheries began, ended (if applicable), and what factors influenced the success or failure of these fisheries. The goal was for the research to be able to help lawmakers make the correct choices in the future with regards to local fisheries. I knew very little, actually nothing, about indigenous populations in Canada prior to this internship, so through researching the history of indigenous fisheries in northern Labrador, I was able to learn a great deal about a beautiful group of people and the beautiful land they live in (uncoincidentally named Nunatsiavut, Inuttut for “Our Beautiful Land”). Much of the history is typical of Native American history taught in the U.S. education system (in terms of exploitation, conversion, etc.), but I also learned a great deal about their culture and especially their stewardship of their land and environment. Along with how outside influence/colonization has managed to mess it all up, and, thankfully, how recent efforts to fight for indigenous rights in Canada have begun to turn the tide.

All in all, my internship experience affirmed my career plans of doing some sort of social science research. I enjoyed the process, I enjoyed learning new things, and I hope that the work I did will be able to help the area and the people even just a little bit. I thought the research process was very cool; there is still much to be learned, and seeing history and knowledge piece together like a puzzle during my internship was awesome. I know that, in the future, I would like to do social science research much like I did during this internship, with hopes that I can help answer important questions and help others. Again, many thanks to PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship for the funding that made this experience possible, as well as the Opportunity Hub for the support, and everyone in Labrador who I will remember forever. It was an honor, and I hope I was able to do the opportunity justice.

Kristin Cimmerer, BA Anthropology, BA Evolutionary Anthropology; Honors; minor, German Studies ‘19
Research Project at the Klein Site
Quartz Lake, Delta Junction, Alaska

This summer, I assisted with an archaeological excavation at the Klein Site located on Quartz Lake near Delta Junction, Alaska. Sitting atop a bluff overlooking the lake, this location would have been attractive to prehistoric hunter-gatherers for many reasons and, by extension, to the modern archaeologists chasing traces of their ancient lifeways. The site is largely flat and clear, and in the past, it was well-positioned near the lakeshore for foragers looking to exploit aquatic resources like fish. The stone tools uncovered in my units were primarily flakes that had been driven off a stone core during the tool production process. None had been retouched further into formal tools that could have been used for a specific task. Additionally, none appeared to have been used for even provisional purposes. The animal bone, though fragmentary, showed large mammals like moose (which have been recovered from the Upper Locus at the site in prior years) or caribou were likely eaten at the site. However, there was additional faunal evidence indicating these Quartz Lake hunter-gatherers had a rather broad diet which also included smaller mammals, birds, and fish. One of my goals for this field season was to apply my knowledge of lithic (stone tool) analysis, as well as to learn about the lithic traditions of Alaska. As I mentioned above, the large majority of flakes I found were not further curated, and many were not utilized at all despite appearing to be viable tools. Only one “true” stone scraper was collected, which had been formally retouched from a flake into a tool of a specific shape for the purpose of scraping objects. I learned that prehistoric Alaskan foragers preferred to create formalized suites of stone tools like this scraper, while smaller flakes produced in the process were discarded. This differs from what I have seen in my own research on lithics from Melikane rockshelter, located in the mountains of Lesotho. As a rising senior and future graduate, gaining this kind of practical field experience is absolutely critical to advance my career. More importantly, though, my time in Alaska gave me valuable anthropological perspectives that I will carry with me throughout my life. I learned a great deal about Alaska’s prehistoric history, and its descendant indigenous communities; I expanded my knowledge of stone tool assemblages and their cultural/ecological contexts; I exposed myself to archaeology at an open-air site, where depositional and taphonomic processes can be vastly different from those of a rockshelter; and I had the time of my life. Thanks to the support from the PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship, I am more excited than ever to pursue a future in archaeological research.

Madeleine Conrad, BS Sociology; BS Statistics ‘19
Labrador Women’s Centre, Labrador Institute
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada

I never imagined in all the years I have been studying that my travels and learning experiences would take me to northern Canada, of all places. In fact, my knowledge of Canada before this internship was limited to Toronto and food videos from new restaurants in Vancouver. So, when I first touched down in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, I came with a completely open mind and no expectations, primarily because I knew I did not really know what I was getting myself into. My internship was spent at the Labrador Women’s Centre, where I did a lot of work in community programming and mental health. I began the preparations for their “Take Back the Night” and “Women’s Day” events which would be held later in the year. I talked with the community members who came in for a friendly conversation. I worked on community events to bring people together so they did not feel quite so isolated, which was easy to feel here. Other interns had areas of work closer to the residence where we lived, but mine was about 1.5 miles of travel each day and lack of access to a vehicle and no public transportation really made me appreciate how hard it must be for those who were not privileged enough to have their own vehicles. Without this grant, I would not have been able to afford the cost of flights and the day-to-day living expenses. The isolated location meant most items, especially transportation, were more expensive, and those costs would have prohibited me from going on this experience. I learned a lot through this internship about living in an environment which was very foreign to me when I first arrived. I am grateful to the PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship for providing the funds so that I now have this internship with me to inform my future career choices and interests.

Sarah Jacob, BS International Studies; minor, Islamic Studies ‘20
Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)
Anchorage, Alaska   

My summer plans were completely altered with my discovery of the PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship. This fellowship was attractive for a number of reasons and would give me the chance to work professionally in a region of the world I originally did not consider in my career plan. With further interrogation of my options within the fellowship, I began to fall in love with the idea of going to Alaska to help the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) plan and execute their 13th General Assembly. After studying the indigenous communities of the Andean region, I felt prepared and excited to continue that part of my educational exploration into the native communities that inhabit different parts of the world. Educationally, I was also expanding my view on the prominence of the environment within policy. The Inuit people of the Arctic region are some of the first to experience the pains of climate change as well as the harsh reality of a deteriorating landscape due to the environmental policy of the United States and other governments. The Inuit people are calling out for greater recognition of their region as Arctic waters are incredibly central to discussions of international security, environmental protection, and military/commercial transportation. Seeing these issues firsthand, by not only talking with coworkers and community members but also visiting Utiqagvik, Alaska, I felt a heightened responsibility to further incorporate the environment into my studies at the University of Michigan.

Therefore, the Arctic Internship Fellowship grant advanced my educational/career goals by opening my eyes to a globally vital region that I should integrate into my further studies through a lens of international security and environment. The opportunities I took part in this summer, thanks to PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship, gave me not only countless professional skills, but also confidence in a field I see myself entering in the future. Overall, this growth I benefited from educationally and in my career was completely thanks to the PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship, and for that, I extremely grateful.

Michael Rader, BS Earth and Environmental Sciences; minor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology ‘20 
NunatuKavut, Labrador Institute
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada

I stayed five weeks in the heart of Labrador, in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, researching food security in the circumpolar North as well as identifying tree species from thousand-year-old charcoal remnants. For the first three weeks, I stayed at the local college’s dormitory and worked at NunatuKavut, a non-profit that aims to help people with funds, food, and other resources to give them security in their daily lives. My internship with them was used to research different food security programs around Canada (and other high-latitude regions) to see what other projects were being done to help people in these areas with fresh produce and healthy alternative foods. All of this was done in the office while researching on different websites. I also had the fortunate pleasure to go to the coast with the president of the company (also a former member of the Canadian Parliament!) to visit his family in these smaller villages, nearly 100-300 in population (if that). This was an outstanding experience, as it allowed me to really see what some of these places had, and more importantly, what they didn’t have. I saw a sled dog team, got to converse with a local fishery owner and went on his boat, ate local and traditional foods, and had the opportunity to watch a high school graduation that consisted of three graduates. Thank you so much to the PICS Arctic Internship Fellowship for this opportunity to explore a place I never thought I would visit in my life. It opened up doors to a new world and made me realize that even between two first world countries, there are many important things that I take for granted that others still don’t have: like food security. Even though my family is poor, we have always had the opportunity and support to have a healthy diet, and I realized that even in one of the biggest towns in Labrador, not everyone has even that opportunity.