Matthew Pike (2017)
This was my first time in any Scandinavian country, but the second time I’ve taken on an internship. (The first one was in my home province.) The IPS internship came to me at a point in my life and career where I was looking to focus more on Indigenous and Arctic matters. I was looking for a career change, and this opportunity seemed like a good fit. The opportunity to live in Norway was also exciting.
It’s extremely important for an IPS intern to have an open mind. The word “Indigenous” may mean one thing to one person, and something else entirely to another. The IPS serves six international Indigenous groups with six different cultures, backgrounds, priorities, and so on. So an open mind and the willingness to learn are specific skills that any IPS intern should have.
As for experiences, an IPS intern should come with at least university degree and some international travel experience. It would also be beneficial for an IPS intern to have experience at international or Indigenous organizations.
After my internship was finished, I expected to have a better understanding of how the Arctic Council worked and to get a lesson in how international relations works. After three months, those expectations were met. I’ve gained a good understanding of the inner workings of the Arctic Council and who the key players are.
The work and tasks I was assigned were good to work on, but I also had a lot of research I undertook independently as I wanted to learn as much as possible. For future interns, I would assign monthly tasks for them to undertake as they may not have independent research to undertake.
Overall, the IPS and the Arctic Council Secretariat both provided me with the opportunities, training, and mentorship to move forward in my career, and channeled my intellectual interests in new and creative directions.
My experience in Tromsø has led to me being awarded a CAD 120,000 scholarship from the University of Guelph to complete my PhD in public health. It will focus on many areas of public health policy, but it will look in particular at Norway’s policies and how they could be implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador to help improve the quality of life in my home province. I will also look at companies developing resources on Indigenous lands, focusing on the importance of ensuring community health and wellness. This is a top priority, and I will show the negative impacts on communities when health and wellness is ignored. The Alta River Hydro Project will be used a case study.
Jennelle Doyle (2018)
I am an Inuk of NunatuKavut - I come from Churchill Falls, a small town in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, situated in Canada’s North-East.
This internship was my first! It was offered through the Labrador Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland for Indigenous students who had completed a degree. The abroad portion of the internship is four months in total with an additional one month of community engagement back in Labrador. My first two months were spent in Rovaniemi, Finland at the UArctic International Secretariat.
The opportunity came to me at a time where I wasn’t sure exactly what I would do next. I had just finished a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from Memorial University of Newfoundland and was working full-time. I had been accepted into the faculty of education at MUN for September of 2017, which seemed like a safe bet, but I knew it wasn’t for me - I felt that I had to do something more! Upon learning about the internship program, I saw it as an opportunity to expand my knowledge and gain meaningful work experience before doing what I really wanted to do – pursue a graduate (masters) degree.
My advice to any future interns at the IPS is that you should be self-motivated and able to adapt quickly. It’s also important to have an open mind going into an internship, because you never know what opportunities or situations may arise. International travel experience and, of course, awareness of Indigenous people and Indigenous issues is something an intern at the IPS should have as well. If your internship is not a part of a pre-existing agreement, as mine was, it is also essential to have support from the Permanent Participants when you are seeking an Internship at the IPS.
As far as practical and logistical issues go, housing in Tromsø is tricky. I would suggest that future interns connect with somebody who speaks good Norwegian in order to find the best lodging possible. I had a bad experience as I was renting a private room in an AirBnb and my living situation was quite turbulent.
My expectations for skill-development during this internship were to improve my critical thinking and communications skills. I also had two personal goals as well; first, to acquire knowledge on global indigenous issues and how they relate to those that exist at home. Second, to see how reindeer husbandry works and how state regulations affect traditional livelihoods and traditional knowledge. With unwavering support from IPS staff, my goals were met and my internship at the IPS went beyond all expectations. It has been a very busy two-month period, but the amount of experiences I have had during this time are comparable to none.
I was pleased with the work I was assigned. My largest task was to assist in the creation of a course for Russian speaking Indigenous people that focuses on the Arctic Council and the Role of Permanent Participants. This task allowed me to familiarize myself with the work of the Arctic Council and Permanent Participants while making an active contribution to the work of the Arctic Council. It also allowed me to see how Indigenous people and traditional knowledge are included in decision and policy-making processes.
Some other tasks included compiling a document for the Saami Council on how traditional knowledge is used in different Arctic Policies and documents from subsidiary bodies as well as observers. I also developed a communication and outreach strategy for the IPS.
In 60 days, the IPS has given me the opportunity to visit many places. Near the end of March, I attended the SAO and SDWG meetings in Levi, Finland. This afforded me the opportunity to see the inner-workings of the Arctic Council and Permanent Participants.
During Easter, I went to Kautokeino in Finnmark, where I was lucky enough to go to the tundra and see reindeer herding first-hand. While in Kautokeino, I also met the mayor, who spoke on the importance of municipalities in Indigenous language retention. In Tromsø, I have visited the Saami Centre at the University and attended a dinner with students visiting Tromsø from the GENI program offered jointly through USask and UiT.
Overall, my experience with the IPS has been overwhelmingly positive and I look forward to informing youth across Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut about how pursuing a higher education can provide you with similar international opportunities. Thanks to this experience, I have decided on a Master’s program, which I will begin next fall here in Tromsø. Nakummek!
Michelle Saunders (2019)
My experience working at the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat was nothing short of life-changing. Coming from a small town in Labrador, I never would have dreamed of travelling to Norway and working for the IPS. My time at the IPS allowed me to meet and work with Indigenous groups from around the circumpolar North. I worked with fellow Inuit and other Indigenous people alike, a truly unique experience that taught me that even though we have grown up so far apart, we are all so similar.
My time at the IPS allowed me to gain an understanding of international Indigenous issues from language and culture to environment and governance. I was able to meaningfully participate in Arctic Council projects and meetings, assist with the Permanent Participant’s work within the Arctic Council and so much more. The things I learned and experienced during my time at the IPS was invaluable and a huge stepping stone in my career.
If I was to give advice to any incoming interns to the IPS, I would say stay open-minded and always be willing to learn. There is always something new or different and sometimes challenging happening at the IPS and being ready to adapt and adjust to a new task is a huge asset. Not only is it exciting to have such a dynamic work environment, this allowed me to learn more in my short time at the IPS than I believe in my whole life!
My time and experience during my internship has allowed me to further my career and I now have a job as a Research Associate working with Indigenous Knowledge in my home communities in Nunatsiavut. I not only learned about the Arctic Council, the IPS, and the Permanent Participants but I have also learned so much about myself over the past 2 months and am now ready to pursue graduate studies and take myself even further. All I can say is Nakummek, IPS!