Photo by Daniel Romero/Unsplash

An app and web platform developed by and for the Inuit is allowing Indigenous communities from Alaska to Greenland to share traditional and scientific information, advancing their efforts for self-determination to track changes in the environment. 

In a new article in the online Hakai Magazine, Toronto-based journalist Hannah Hoag notes that the SIKU app – which takes its name from the Inuktitut word for “sea ice” – allows communities in the north country to pull together traditional knowledge and scientific data to track environmental changes, keep track of local wild foods, and make decisions on wildlife management while controlling how the information in shared. 

The idea for SIKU came from Inuit elders and hunters in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, over a decade ago as a way to document and understand the changes in sea ice they were witnessing in southeastern Hudson Bay. They worked with a local nonprofit, Arctic Eider Society, to develop a web-based platform where hunters in nearby coastal communities could upload photos and videos and share knowledge. Starting in 2015, the Inuit began logging water temperature and salinity data and observation notes on wildlife, including beluga and common eider ducks, and tracking the flow of contaminants through the food web. 

As SIKU has evolved, elders thought the app would work as a way to share knowledge with younger people. In 2019 SIKU was relaunched as a social network where members can post photos and notes about wildlife sightings, hunts, sea ice conditions, and more.  

SIKU works in several languages, including Inuktitut, Cree, Innu, and Greenlandic. The app also includes maps with traditional place names.  

Since early this year, some 25,000 people from at least 120 communities have posted over 75,000 times on SIKU, Hoag noted. 


Content includes photos of the nutritional bounty of the north, from bags of berries to clusters of sea urchins and boxes of fresh Arctic char lying in snow. Members share photos of harp seals, ringed seals, ptarmigan, beluga, common eider, and rows of colorful eggs laid out next to smiling youngsters. Members send stories of their hunts and other travels, observations on climate change and migrations, diets and illnesses of local animals.  

“SIKU in effect is documenting the daily lives of these indigenous people from Alaska to Greenland,” writes Hoag. 

Such knowledge has long been part of the oral history of Inuit communities. Having lived in these places for centuries “we know about the wildlife” Lucassie Arragutainaq, a manager at the Sanikiluaq Hunters and Trappers Association and cofounder of the Arctic Eider Society, told Hoag.  

“While industry representatives and government researchers have for years ignored such indigenous knowledge and made decisions based only on their own short-term studies, they are now learning much more from SIKU,” Arragutainaq said in the article. 

Hunters and harvesters are using GPS on their phones to track their travels and geolocate each post and photo. When traveling with family a long distance the SIKU app can show where they are, said Karen Nanook, of Taloyo, Nunavut. “It’s precise,” she said. 

“The data held in SIKU is robust and up to date, and communities are already using the app to inform important decisions,” Hoag writes. “In 2021, for example, elders in Sanikiluaq were worried the local reindeer population had thinned, so the Hunters and Trappers Association used SIKU to survey hunters and look at recent reported harvest rates.” That analysis prompted the association to close the hunt temporarily to relieve pressure on the herd and then reintroduce hunting slowly when the numbers of reindeer increased. 

SIKU is also being used for other research projects. 

Stephanie Carty, a wildlife management biologist at the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board in the traditional territory of the Crees of Eeyou Istchee, in James Bay, Quebec, said trappers and land users in the five coastal communities of Eeyou Istchee will be using SIKU to document regional climate change in their region.