Winner of Joan Mitchell Travel Award completes scholarly migration

The caribou of the Porcupine Herd can travel up to 2400 kilometres during their yearly trek between the mountains of the Yukon Territory-Alaska border and the Beaufort Sea – making theirs the longest terrestrial migration on earth.

Jonathan Luedee travelled three times that distance in order to learn more about them.

Luedee, a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of British Columbia, was able to visit the Laurier Archives in Waterloo after receiving the 2017 Joan Mitchell Travel Award. His goal: to further his study of this incredible natural wonder, and of how it impacts the sociological, political and environmental landscape of the Arctic and vice-versa.

“Writing about this incredible migration is complicated by the large number of geographically dispersed archival collections in which one can find information about the Porcupine Caribou Herd,” Luedee notes. “I’m grateful for the Archives’ generosity in supporting this important trip.”

The Laurier Archives, despite being thousands of kilometres from the Arctic, has a renowned environmental conservation research collection that attracts scholars from across the globe, including Luedee, who notes that it was one element of the collection that was of particular interest to him: The Canadian Arctic Resources Committee (CARC) fonds.

”The CARC fonds include a wealth of important materials regarding the debate about oil and gas extraction in the Canadian (and Alaskan) north,” Luedee notes. “They have contributed a great deal to research and appreciation of the caribou herd.”

He counts a nearly 40-year-old set of lecture notes as his favourite discovery. The notes are from Don Gamble’s 1981 lecture, “Canada’s Creative Muddle: Responding to Pressures on Arctic Lands and Wildlife.”

“The notes reveal much about contemporary discourse about development in the north, including CARC’s position in relation to the state and Indigenous communities,” he says.

Though he focused heavily on CARC materials, Luedee could not help but notice the variety of rich materials that make up the Laurier Archives’ trove of material related to the broader environmental movement in Canada. Acknowledging the wide variety of collections regarding environmental conservation, Luedee confirms that they are a worthy resource for scholars and students of environmental history, one that warrants repeat visits.

“I will undoubtedly make the trip back to Waterloo to consult the collections at the Laurier Archives in the years ahead,” he says.

Until the next migration, then.