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Inuit council exchanges ideas from polar regions

August 23rd, 2013 | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

Kotzebue hosted members from around the world last week as the Inuit Circumpolar Council met to discuss a wide range of topics impacting Inuit people's worldwide.

The Council, which dates back to the mid-'70s, was created to represent the people of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka (Russia) of Inuit descent, estimated to be some 150,000 people. While other councils focus on Arctic issues in general, the circumpolar council has a more specific focus, said Duane Smith, vice chair of ICC Canada. For example, the council is closely watching issues pertaining to species that are the backbone of subsistence harvesting for Arctic people, he said. Inuit human rights issues are also at the forefront of the agenda for the organization.

Among the other topics covered by the council at its Kotzebue meeting were issues of indigenous global sovereignty, said Aqqaluk Lynge of Greenland, the council's chair. With an upcoming United Nations meeting on the horizon, the council met to formulate its stance on issues that were likely to come before the UN. Arctic Council issues were at the forefront of the conversation, too, with shipping safety and environmental issues raised by increased vessel traffic through the Arctic of particular importance to the group. The group supported a recent disaster declaration for the St. Lawrence walrus harvest, which was the lowest in memory.

Lynge said last Wednesday that Kotzebue's hospitality was generous and the meetings productive. He was looking forward to a tour of the Red Dog Mine last week, saying it would be particularly interesting given the interest in development that is presenting itself in Greenland.

"I would like to know much more about how Alaska mining benefits the area, how many jobs it creates, what the impacts are to the environment," he said. "So I am very much looking forward to that visit."

Lynge said in Greenland, large scale mining and oil development are being pursued, and given the country's small population base, the importance of developing those resources in a safe and beneficial way is critical. Similar to Alaska, Greenland has long been dependent on fishing, he said.

"We have to prepare ourselves," he said. "We have to learn much more about this kind of development."


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