ELOKA partners meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, August 21 to 24, 2023


The Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA) works to foster collaboration between Arctic residents and researchers. Part of this collaboration includes community building within our network by bringing partners together. In August 2023, ELOKA partners gathered at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF), and spent four days learning from one another, and shaping future goals and priorities for ELOKA. Partners traveled from different regions in Alaska, British Columbia and Labrador, Canada, and Finland. 

Participants gather for a group photo
Participants gather out front for a group photo. On the final day, several participants gifted the group with a homemade lunch of moose soup, salmon, fry bread, and blueberry cheesecake. Directly after this amazing lunch, the group took a photo in front of the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building where the meeting was held. Credit: M. Druckenmiller, ELOKA


During the four-day meeting, partners shared perspectives and experiences related to Arctic research, cultural place name documentation, observations, and data management. Many different types of projects and research priorities were represented, bringing unique perspectives and knowledge to group discussions. 

Elder Mark John speaks to group
Elder Mark John (center) sits on the panel for “Cultural Place Name Documentation” with Curtis Rattray (left) and Clint Carroll (right), sharing his perspective on the importance of documenting knowledge for future generations. Credit: M. Druckenmiller, ELOKA


Panel discussions on “Cultural Knowledge and Place Names Stewardship in a Time of Rapid Change” and “Observers Panel: Keeping Pace with Recent Events, and Communities and Policy Priorities” offered different projects and initiatives the opportunity to voice multiple perspectives. Smaller groups also met several times throughout the week to learn and share technical skills, such as which tools to use for  collecting observational data, how to create a StoryMap, storytelling through film, and how to integrate cultural place names and knowledge into school curriculum. These sessions were co-developed by the ELOKA team and partners.

There were also several input sessions to elicit guidance on topics including Indigenous Data Sovereignty practices at ELOKA and an Indigenous Evaluation session to provide guidance to evaluate ELOKA as a network and service provider. Findings from these input sessions will be published in the final meeting report. 

Hikers take a group photo
Part of the group spent Wednesday afternoon hiking along the Chena River, and finished the excursion with a soak in Chena Hot Springs. Credit: M. Druckenmiller, ELOKA


An important aspect of the meeting was to create time and space for community building and networking. We shared meals together, went on a hike, enjoyed a soak at Chena Hot Springs, and took breaks throughout the meeting for games, socializing, and coffee. 

Throughout the meeting, attendees reflected on ELOKA as a service provider and a network, and shared what ELOKA has been doing successfully, how ELOKA can improve, and priorities for the future. Some important priorities that emerged were equity in research, Indigenous data sovereignty, involving youth, and the urgency of responding to environmental crises. UAF filmmaker and professor Maya Salganek filmed a large part of the meeting, which will be developed into a short film about the ELOKA network. Overall, the meeting successfully brought partners together to learn from each other and build a sense of community.