The Last Ice

The Last Ice is a documentary about the Inuit people of the Pikialsasorsuaq region of the Arctic, a place that straddles Canada and Greenland. They fight to protect their communities and way of life against climate change and those who would profit from its effects.

The most important thing to take away from this film is that colonisation is not a process that happened hundreds of years ago, but an ongoing process that is happening today. Community activist Maatalii Okalik talks about how her grandparents were the first generation to have their way of life disrupted by white intrusion, and we speak to a woman my mother’s age who tells us her generation were the first generation to be removed from their land for forced schooling in abusive, deculturating institutions. This is a process that started within living memory.

And it is not over. As massive companies profit from the practices that cause climate change, they also then exploit its results. The ice is melting between Canada and Greenland. A once cohesive Inuit culture with shared language and interrelationships is being separated by a border not of their own making. And this border of melted sea water, which to them represents the loss of land, of ecosystems, of food, and of travel paths, represent to others an opportunity for quicker trade routes, for oil extraction, for industrial-scale environmentally-damaging fishing. As these tentative new rivulets appear in the ice, they send through icebreakers, to smash open the remaining ice, to cut time off their journeys, and increase their profit margins.

The destruction of the Inuit’s land is not a process that stopped. You see footage of mining companies dynamiting the snow in the 1950s, and you see mining companies doing the exact same thing today. There is an ongoing state of violence against Inuit culture and the systems necessary to sustain Inuit life.

The source of hope opposing this horror is the Inuit people themselves. Especially the young people, many of whom have grown up as Inuit minorities in European-Canadian communities, and are returning home to Inuit land and Inuit ways. While many countries are facing an aging population, Inuit population is predominantly young and booming. And they bring with them a fierce love for their culture, and determination to defend their land. They have first-hand experience of growing up without it, and are resolved to reverse that loss.

Easier said than done. Because even as important knowledge and hunting techniques are being passed down from the older to the younger generation, the landscape on which they were founded is changing. Timeless patterns of animal migration is altering as ice shelves simply disappear.

So this story becomes about the forces of international profit descending on the home of people whose survival is diametrically opposed to their aims. But this generation of Inuit people have years of practice of surviving attempts at their destruction, and they will use every means to protect what remains to them. And even if parliamentary resolutions fail, even if trade negotiations fail, they will still remain. Keeping their culture alive in their bodies, to be reborn again. Whatever happens, they will last.