Since the formation of the Arctic Council in 1996, the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have played an important and vital role in shaping Arctic global policy for the past 20 years. With Permanent Participant status on the Arctic Council, the six Arctic Indigenous organizations sit alongside the eight member states to ensure the views of the approximate 500,000 Indigenous peoples of the Arctic are always considered and respected equally when decisions are being made.
To celebrate this significant milestone, the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat has launched a story map series focusing and reflecting on the Indigenous peoples, environment and politics of the Arctic.
Traditional Knowledge is a systematic way of thinking and knowing that is elaborated and applied to phenomena across biological, physical, cultural and linguistic systems. Traditional Knowledge is owned by the holders of that knowledge, often collectively, and is uniquely expressed and transmitted through Indigenous languages. It is a body of knowledge generated through cultural practices, lived experiences including extensive and multi-generational observations, lessons and skills. It has been developed and veriﬁed over millennia and is still developing in a living process, including knowledge acquired today and in the future, and it is passed on from generation to generation.
These fundamental principles on Traditional Knowledge will strengthen the Arctic Council and advance its objectives by supporting the active participation of Permanent Participants. Traditional Knowledge has been formally recognized by the Arctic Council as important to understanding the Arctic in numerous Ministerial Declarations, including the 1996 Ottawa Declaration on the establishment of the Arctic Council. The “…role of Arctic indigenous peoples and their Traditional Knowledge in the conservation and sustainable use of Arctic biological resources” was also emphasized in the 2009 Tromsø Declaration. Furthermore, in 2013 the Kiruna Declaration called for the Arctic Council to “recognize that the use of traditional and local knowledge is essential to a sustainable future in the Arctic, and decide to develop recommendations to integrate traditional and local knowledge in the work of Arctic Council.” Permanent Participants represent Traditional Knowledge holders and are integral to the inclusion and use of Traditional Knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council. These fundamental principles represent the foundation for the long term vision and framework for incorporating Traditional Knowledge in Arctic Council activities.
The inclusion, promotion and use of Traditional Knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council is a collective expression of Arctic Council States in supporting the domestic and international rights, roles, and place of Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar Arctic; and will address a collective need to produce information that are of use to Arctic Indigenous peoples, decision makers and scientists of all cultures from a community level to international governments.
The use of Traditional Knowledge is an overarching mandate of the Arctic Council and is a central commitment for implementation by the Senior Arctic Ofﬁcials, Permanent Participants, and all Arctic Council Working Groups.
Traditional Knowledge enhances and illuminates the holistic and shared understanding of the Arctic environment which promotes and provides a more complete knowledge base for the work of the Arctic Council.
Recognition, respect, trust, and increased under-standing between Traditional Knowledge holders, scientists, and representatives of the Arctic States are essential elements in the meaningful and effective inclusion of Traditional Knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council.
The inclusion, use, review, and veriﬁcation of Traditional Knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council will occur at all stages of every agreed-to initiative and will be led and facilitated by the Permanent Participants. Recognizing that Permanent Participants will determine the appropriate use of Traditional Knowledge in work of Arctic Council.
Traditional Knowledge is the intellectual property of the indigenous knowledge holders, therefore policies and procedures for accessing data and in-formation gathered from Traditional Knowledge holders should be developed at the appropriate ownership level, recognizing and adhering to each Permanent Participants’ protocols.
In order to maintain the integrity of specialized information and avoid misinterpretation of Traditional Knowledge, it is crucial that evaluation, veriﬁcation and communication of analyzed information be conducted by Traditional Knowledge holders with appropriate expertise, to be identiﬁed by Permanent Participants.
Each of the Permanent Participants represent their respective cultures, communities, peoples and Traditional Knowledge systems and holders; processes of including Traditional Knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council will respect and reflect this diversity.
The inclusion of Traditional Knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council requires adequate capacity and resources to address the unique needs and circumstances of the cultures, languages, communities, governance processes, and knowledge systems of Arctic indigenous peoples represented by the Permanent Participants.
Traditional Knowledge and science are different yet complementary systems and sources of knowledge, and when appropriately used together may generate new knowledge and may inform decision making, policy development and the work of the Arctic Council.
The use of Traditional Knowledge within the Arctic Council must beneﬁt the knowledge providers and appropriately credit indigenous contributions.
The co-production of knowledge requires creative and culturally appropriate methodologies and technologies that use both Traditional Knowledge and science applied across all processes of knowledge creation.
Communication, transmission and mutual ex-change of knowledge using appropriate language conveying common understanding, including strategies to communicate through indigenous languages, is critical to work of Arctic Council.
Recognize the need to bridge knowledge systems, including leveraging existing indigenous knowledge networks, institutions and organizations, as well as developing education strategies to broaden mutual understanding.
At the 2015 Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Canada, the following recommendations for the Integration of Traditional and Local Knowledge into the Work of the Arctic Council were approved and adopted:
(i) Continue development on consensus-based guidelines and processes for the more systematic inclusion of traditional and local knowledge in the work of the Arctic Council.
(ii) Support the use of consistent terminology regarding traditional and local knowledge throughout the work of the Arctic Council.
(iii) a) At the outset of a project, incorporate traditional and local knowledge considerations into Working Group proposal templates and/or work plans so that every project proposal or outline describes how it will use traditional and local knowledge in the project, if applicable. If traditional and local knowledge is not applicable, a section of the project proposal or outline must explain why. In doing so, efforts should be made to communicate project goals, objectives, and methods in terminology accessible to non-technical audiences in order to facilitate early identification of potential traditional and local knowledge components. b) At the conclusion of a project, in the final report to Senior Arctic Officials, there will be a requirement to describe how traditional and local knowledge was used in the project and any lessons learned as to how traditional and local knowledge may be better incorporated in the future.
(iv) Include a traditional and local knowledge column in the Arctic Council Secretariat project tracking tool.
(v) Develop within Working Group processes an inventory of lessons learned and best practices for Arctic Council projects which integrate traditional and local knowledge components.
(vi) Recognize/credit traditional and local knowledge holders’ and community contributions to Arctic Council projects and reports, including co-authorship where appropriate.
(vii) Establish best practices for communicating the results and findings back to traditional and local knowledge holders, communities, and those that have contributed.
The Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat joined Instagram in 2016 and held a photo contest to highlight Indigenous communities and life in the Arctic. The contest hashtag was #MyIndigenousArctic and we wanted to see glimpses of everyday life in the North. We asked questions such as: What makes life special in your corner of the world? Are there some particular moments which you cherish? Are you seeing changes in your environment which surprise you? Maybe you want to show off some handicrafts which you have made yourself, or document traditions which are important to you personally or your community as a whole?
We received over 100 entries and the top 10 photos, based on votes, are below. To view all entries please click on the Instagram logo at the bottom of this page.
The Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat (IPS) hosts interns whenever possible. The internship program is an opportunity for Arctic youth to gain a sound understanding of the Arctic Council and the Permanent Participants. This knowledge has made it possible for former interns to take on leadership roles in the North in politics, government, health, academics, and law. At the same time, IPS and the Permanent Participants benefit from extra assistance.
In 2017, IPS joined the “Labrador Institute International Indigenous Intern” program. The internship is funded by the Labrador Institute (a division of Memorial University of Newfoundland), International Grenfell Association, NunatuKavut Community Council and Nunatsiavut Government. Its main objective is to increase awareness of Indigenous and northern cultures and the prevalent issues within northern societies in Canada by sending Indigenous university graduates from Canada abroad. Matthew Pike (2017) and Jennelle Doyle (2018) are alumni of this program.
From 2004-2009, IPS collaborated with the Canadian Circumpolar Young Leaders Program (CYL) to host Indigenous interns from Arctic Canada. Each intern was tasked to research an issue related to Arctic sustainable development and Indigenous peoples. The program aimed to give young northern Canadians the leadership skills and experience necessary to become effective agents of change in their home communities. Alumni from this internship program include Paula Anderson (2004), Bobbie Jo Greenland (2005), Colleen Henry (2006), and Jesse Tungilik (2009).
IPS is also open to hosting interns funded by other programs. To apply, interns must receive a letter of support from one of the Permanent Participants. Michaela Stith (2018) received funding from the Hart Fellowship Program at Duke University and applied with a letter of support from the Arctic Athabaskan Council.
Keep reading to hear how previous interns have benefitted from their time with the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat.