Inuit people from four different nations focused on food security, wildlife management, and overall unity during a Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) summit in Ottawa last week.
Vernae Angnaboogok is the cultural sustainability advisor for ICC Alaska. She explains one of the main results of the ICC Wildlife Management summit was a unified Pan-Arctic Inuit voice:
“To look at the management across our traditional resources and how the effects of multiple, different drivers are affecting our food security and food sovereignty, including climate change and public perceptions, specifically that of outside perceptions, outside of Inuit.”
Representing Alaska at the summit was a 15-member delegation made up of ICC staff and members from four regions: the North Slope, Yukon-Kuskokwim, Kawerak with the Bering Straits region, and Maniilaq with the Northwest Arctic. The other three countries, Canada, Greenland, and Russia, had varying numbers of delegates present with Chukotka, Russia, having only one representative.
All four nations weighed in on Inuit food security, which Angnaboogok says you can’t have without food sovereignty:
“Food sovereignty is the right for Alaska Inuit to define our own hunting, gathering, fishing, land, and water policies. It’s the right to define what is sustainably, socially, economically, and culturally appropriate for the distribution of food and also to maintain ecological health. And this is deeper than that; it speaks directly to our cultural identity and our relationship that we have with the land, the water, to our whole environment.”
The president of ICC Alaska, Jim Stotts, could not be reached for comment. However, in a press release from last week, Stotts said, “it is time we move the discussion from food security to food sovereignty. What we need to achieve is international collaboration on wildlife management in the Arctic.”
Coinciding with the summit was the 2017 Inuit Day, which falls annually on November 7th. ICC delegates joined Inuit from Ottawa to celebrate Inuit Day, which Angnaboogok says involved Inuit games and other things:
“We had an Inuit Day celebration with the Tungasuvvingat Inuit, who put on the celebration in collaboration with the ICC. There we had a feast; there was singing and dancing and throat singing.”
During the Inuit Day celebration, Angnaboogok says that the ICC also remembered their origins, reflecting on where their past leaders and the last four decades have taken them.
Forty years ago, Eben Hopson, the Inupiat leader from Utqiagvik (Barrow), helped unify Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka so they could work together to defend Inuit rights.
Currently, Angnaboogok says the ICC is working on an implementation plan or holistic strategy along with a committee as a direct result of the summit. It is unclear how long it will take to form the wildlife management committee and plan, but perhaps things will be more clear by the next ICC gathering in the summer of 2018.
The ICC’s 2018 General Assembly is scheduled for July 16th-19th in Utqiagvik.
Image at top: Salmon drying on a fish rack in Teller. Photo: Jenn Ruckel, KNOM.