Exchange for Observations and Local Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA)
The Exchange for Observations and Local Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA) program at NSIDC works with Indigenous Peoples across the Arctic and beyond to collect, preserve, and exchange local observations and Indigenous Knowledge. ELOKA collaborates with Arctic communities and Indigenous organizations, schools, and researchers to create customized data management products. ELOKA provides open and tailored data access, data stewardship for Indigenous communities, and services ranging from advising on data sharing ethics and protocols to handling different data types.
Examples of data types and products
- Interactive digital atlases showcasing community-based observations of social and environmental change and related geospatial data, such as trail locations, place names, land-use demarcations, or local climate information
- Customized websites containing cultural, historical, and/or environmental information significant to partner communities, often in the form of written interview transcripts, audio or video files, photographs, artwork, illustrations, and maps
- Data sets of environmental and wildlife observations collected by Indigenous experts
- Access to local weather station data, including temperature, snow thickness, and wind data
Data set examples
This interface allows access to observations of sea ice, weather, and wildlife collected since 2006 by Iñupiat and Yup'ik sea ice experts in several communities along the northern and western coasts of Alaska.
Since 2000, Calista Education and Culture (CEC) has worked with Elders from communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim regions of Alaska to document Yup'ik place names. This atlas supports Elders in their goal of teaching young people the rich history and named places of their homeland, including camp and settlement sites, rivers, sloughs, rocks, ponds, even sandbars and underwater channels. Community members shared more than 3,000 names as part of three ongoing CEC projects and two previous regional place name projects.
Starting in 2009, Inuit hunters and Elders partnered with researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University to initiate the Silalirijiit (see-lah-LEE-ree-yeet—"those who work with weather") Project. The project facilitates collaboration and knowledge exchange between Inuit experts, visiting scientists, hunters, Elders, and youth to understand local and regional weather patterns and changes, identifying the most important and useful information to people in the Clyde River area. ELOKA developed a website that provides access to near-real-time data from four mobile weather stations associated with the project.
ELOKA at NSIDC
The Arctic region is and has been home to Indigenous Peoples and their ancestors for millennia. As the Arctic warms at twice the rate as the rest of the planet, Indigenous Peoples and residents of the North play an important role in understanding the changes taking place. They are adapting in real time to a changing climate and environment, while maintaining their traditional ties to the land, waters, and animals. As such, Indigenous Knowledge and local observations are an integral part of Arctic research and observing efforts. Indigenous-led research, in particular, best exemplifies how Indigenous Peoples are advancing knowledge about the Arctic, while putting Indigenous Knowledge and sovereignty principles into action.
In the early 2000s, NSIDC researcher Shari Fox, whose research facilitated documentation of Indigenous Knowledge and observations alongside quantitative data, recognized the need for improved management of Indigenous Knowledge. In 2007, ELOKA was launched during the fourth International Polar Year (IPY), a coordinated scientific initiative that organized 228 projects from more than 60 countries to advance knowledge of the polar regions. After the IPY, ELOKA continued to build its mission of fostering collaboration between resident Arctic experts and visiting researchers to highlight the value of local observations and Indigenous Knowledge and develop tools for Indigenous data stewardship.
The ELOKA program continues to operate out of NSIDC and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Working with key partners, ELOKA explores new possibilities for advancing collaborative data stewardship and community-driven Arctic research. ELOKA operates on the principle that all knowledge must be treated ethically, which includes upholding intellectual property rights and respecting Indigenous Knowledge and data sovereignty. By adopting ethical data standards and pursuing collaborative approaches to data management, ELOKA helps preserve and steward Indigenous Knowledge, supports its transmission to younger generations, and makes it available to Arctic residents, researchers, and decision-makers working to address current and emerging societal needs.
NSIDC recognizes Indigenous Knowledge holders as invaluable frontline observers of social and environmental change in the Arctic. Their knowledge and observations, based on engagement with their traditional territories across generations, create a basis for local and regional decision-making and contribute to science alongside satellite and instrumental data. Indigenous Knowledge, therefore, paints a comprehensive picture of how dynamic Arctic systems intersect with and support human and community well-being.