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Inuit Circumpolar Council executives to meet in Kotzebue

Carey RestinoThe Arctic Sounder
The Inuit Circumpolar Council focuses on increasing unity among the Arctic's Native peoples and promoting Inuit rights and interests. Members of its executive council are meeting in Kotzebue this week. Pictured is a view down Kotzebue's Third Street. State of Alaska photo

Members of the Executive Council of the Inuit Circumpolar Council are meeting this week in Kotzebue to discuss the many issues pertaining to the approximately 150,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka, Russia.

Sitting on the Alaska council as president is Jim Stotts, originally from Barrow. His involvement with the council goes back to 1980, and in June of 2009, Stotts was appointed acting chair until the general assembly the following year.

Among the issues addressed in the council’s recent newsletter is its relationship with organizations such as Greenpeace, which Stotts noted in his president’s message sometimes say they are acting on behalf of Arctic indigenous people but may have their own agenda.

“Greenpeace hosted the Kiruna Indigenous Peoples Conference just days before the start of the recent Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Sweden,” Stotts wrote. “With Arctic indigenous people, including Inuit, they called for a moratorium on Arctic resource development to protect the environment. Their declaration does not represent the views of prominent Inuit organizations. Inuit have legitimate concerns about Arctic resource development; but we need to approach these concerns from our own perspective, not someone else’s.”

The Alaska board of directors also includes Vera Metcalf, Charlotte Brower, George Olemaun, Richard Glenn, Marie Greene, Percy Ballot, Hendy Ballot, Willie Goodwin Jr., Denise Michels, Roy Ashenfelter, Kelsi Ivanoff and Vivian Korthuis.

The principal goals of the council are to strengthen unity among Inuit of the circumpolar region, promote Inuit rights and interests on an international level, develop and encourage long-term policies that safeguard the Arctic environment; and seek full and active partnership in the political, economic, and social development of circumpolar regions.

According to information on the council’s website, much of its efforts focus on the Arctic Council, which has gained more and more press as activities and development in the Arctic have sped up.

Unlike the Arctic Council, however, the Inuit Circumpolar Council focuses the majority of its efforts specific to the Native peoples of the region, including Inuit language promotion, human rights, resource use, hunting and whaling matters, and youth and elder meetings. It is also active within the United Nations.

The council is chaired by Aqqaluk Lynge of Greenland, whose term is up in 2014. Lynge was the president of the council from 1997 to 2006 and is a former minister of the Greenland Parliament. An author and poet, he has been a member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council since 1980, focusing much of his effort on promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Carey Restino is the editor of The Arctic Sounder, where this report first appeared. It is republished here with permission.