SIKU – The social network for indigenous knowledge | Polarjournal
A hunter inspects the sea ice with his harpoon near a polynya, a task for which traditional tools are still needed. With the help of SIKU, he can share his observations with other hunters. Photo: Arctic Eider Society

From Inuit for Inuit: “SIKU – The Indigenous Social Network” is a unique, particularly versatile and powerful social network that has been enabling Inuit to share their knowledge, current observations and stories with other Inuit via an app or web platform for four years now.

From East Greenland to Alaska: on SIKU, indigenous people can exchange information with each other and share safety-relevant information such as current sea ice conditions with other users, especially in times of major environmental change. They can also post wildlife observations, hunting successes or information on research activities or simply stories that pass on traditional knowledge and contribute to the preservation of the language.

SIKU, which means sea ice in Inuktitut, also provides a comprehensive map tool that allows to switch between high-resolution images from various satellites, a topographical map, Google Maps and an ice map – important information especially for hunters.

Users can add GPS data to their posts and call up more detailed information about the various activities and observations on the map. Picture: Screenshot SIKU

In addition, SIKU offers descriptions of the various types of sea ice and Arctic animal and plant species, which can be tagged by users and thus serve as living Wikis of Indigenous knowledge. At the same time, the use of indigenous languages is promoted: in addition to English and French, the platform is also available in the various Inuktut dialects and Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) as well as in the Canadian syllabary.

The profiles of Arctic animal and plant species provide the most important information on the individual species, supplemented by an interactive food web. Picture: Screenshot SIKU

SIKU has also proven its worth in research projects by providing special project management tools for communities, regional indigenous organizations and researchers. For example, hunters can use the app to document the stomach contents of hunted seals – important information for monitoring changes in the ecosystem – which can be communicated to other users in near real time.

Last but not least, SIKU stands out from other social networks in terms of data protection and privacy. Indigenous rights are paramount, with users retaining all rights and control over their data and intellectual property. For each post, they can decide how they want to share their information.

Elder Jimmy Iqaluit and hunter Johnny Kurluarok review the posts on the SIKU online platform while the platform is still being developed. Photo: Arctic Eider Society

SIKU was initiated by the Arctic Eider Society, an Inuit-run charitable organization based in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, which brought together Inuit hunters, elders and young Inuit with software developers and sponsors. The network’s creation was inspired in part by elders wanting to document and share their oral histories with youth.

The realization of SIKU was made possible primarily by winning 750,000 dollars at the Impact Challenge 2017 in Canada.

Either way, SIKU is a perfect example of how modern technology can help to preserve thousands of years of indigenous knowledge and pass it on to the younger generation.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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