illustrations by Heather McFarland
contributions from John Goodwin, Cyrus Harris, and Pearl Goodwin
“Indigenous people and scientists working together—and relying on different ways of knowing—has created opportunities to understand how ringed seals are responding to their changing environment.”
—Donna D.W. Hauser, scientist and lead author of Natchiq Grows Up
"An ideal title for the budding biologist"
This is the story of Natchiq, the ringed seal pup, growing up in her snow cave on the sea ice in northern Alaska with her mom Siku. Interwoven with Indigenous Knowledge from Qikiktagruk Elders from northwest Alaska, Iñupiaq terms, and scientific findings, readers follow Natchiq’s daring escapes from predators and seal dogs specially trained to help biologists find ringed seals.
Beginning in the 1980s, scientists started traveling to northwest Alaska to research the lives of ringed seals, bringing Labrador retrievers who could sniff out seals and their snow cave homes (called lairs) on the sea ice. Decades later, scientists partnered with the Iñupiaq people of Qikiktaġruk (Kotzebue) to learn more about ringed seals. They relied on a combination of Indigenous Knowledge and scientific techniques to capture and apply tags to understand the movements and behavior of ringed seals.
But the Arctic homes of ringed seals are changing, and the long history of ringed seal science in the Kotzebue Sound proved to be just the beginning of long and cooperative relationships melding science and Indigenous knowledge. During 2018 and 2019, with unprecedented sea ice conditions, Qikiktagrumiut Elders and scientists returned to the ice to measure changes in the habitat available for ringed seal pups in the region.