Inuit Circumpolar Council Meets In Kotzebue

ICC Executive Council on Shore Ave. Duane Smith, ICC Canada President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairJim Stotts, ICC Alaska President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairVera Metcalf, ICC Alaska Executive Council MemberAqqaluk Lynge, ICC Greenland President and ICC Executive Council ChairTatiana Achirgina, ICC Chokotka President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairCarl Christian Olsen, ICC Greenland President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairHjalmar Dahl, ICC Greenland Executive Council MemberKirt Ejesiak, ICC Canada Executive Council Member Photo was by Kristi Nelson-NANA.
ICC Executive Council on Shore Ave. Duane Smith, ICC Canada President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairJim Stotts, ICC Alaska President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairVera Metcalf, ICC Alaska Executive Council MemberAqqaluk Lynge, ICC Greenland President and ICC Executive Council ChairTatiana Achirgina, ICC Chokotka President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairCarl Christian Olsen, ICC Greenland President and ICC Executive Council Vice ChairHjalmar Dahl, ICC Greenland Executive Council MemberKirt Ejesiak, ICC Canada Executive Council Member. Photo by Kristi Nelson-NANA.

The Inuit Circumpolar Council met in Kotzebue last week. It was the first meeting there since a general assembly in 1986. Members from Russia, Greenland and Canada joined their Alaskan counterparts to discuss ongoing concerns for indigenous people in the north. ICC formed in 1977. Jim Stotts is the ICC Alaska President. He says the regional groups have grown and are much more capable of addressing the concerns of the indigenous people they represent. ICC is also part of the eight nation Arctic Council. He says increasingly, they are being listened to on perennial issues such as climate change, subsistence and oil and gas development. Stotts says the federal government worked with them while developing the new national arctic policy.

“We feel like they are listening to us. At the Arctic Council level, where we have a right to participate in all levels of meetings including the ministerial meeting where you have folks such as Hillary Clinton or Secretary John Kerry at the meetings, very high level meetings. So I feel that we are being listened to and that we’re having an impact.”

Stotts says the rush to develop oil and gas resources in the arctic coupled with the prospect of increased vessel traffic means indigenous people need to be at the table for discussions about how to proceed as well as how to garner economic development for arctic communities. He says ICC contributed to an Arctic Council document called the Polar Code that was given to the International Maritime Organization.

“To address the special, unique nature of the arctic ocean, particularly ice and ship building codes and how to handle waste fuel and so forth. So, the arctic council is together with us and the observers which would include countries like China and the UK to come up with a plan and a way to do things safely that will benefit no only those countries but also the people that live in the north. So it’s important that this work is done before the mad rush for development.”

There is growing pressure from non arctic nations such as China to have a seat on the arctic council. ICC Greenland President Aqqaluk Lynge says there are important rules for how participants can operate within the arctic council, but he says there has to be acceptance of the interest from outside nations.

“Here the observers have a seat and if they also understand the situation of indigenous peoples of the arctic, then it’s good for us and it would help us to have more friends outside that would support indigenous peoples right to land, resources and our future culture.”

Lynge says the rapid growth of mining in Greenland is raising concerns over the community impacts from a large influx of outside workers. Concerns that both men say, will become a growing reality in Alaska and the other member countries as arctic resource development ramps up.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori