Inuit want seat at Arctic discussions, NTI president says

Arctic policy-makers must know who Inuit are, Kotierk says as Arctic Circle Assembly wraps up

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk, left, along with other panelists including member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Tove Søvndahl Gant, political adviser on Indigenous peoples Aili Keskitalo and professor emerita at University of Iceland Birna Arnbjörnsdóttir, at the 2022 Arctic Circle Assembly on Indigenous languages in the Arctic (Photo courtesy of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.)

By Meral Jamal

Inuit must be involved whenever the world discusses Arctic issues, says the head of the organization that represents Nunavut’s Inuit.

“I get the sense from fellow Inuit that what we want is a seat at these discussions,” Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., president Aluki Kotierk said in an interview at the end of this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland.

“I think each time an Inuk speaks, there’s an assertion of ‘I am here, we are here, we will continue to be here and you have to involve us.’”

Kotierk was one of more than 100 Canadian representatives who attended the 2022 Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland from Oct. 13 to 16. Among them were Inuit representatives such as Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada president Lisa Koperqualuk.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon was one of the Inuit representatives from Canada at the 2022 Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland last week. She gave one of the opening speeches on Thursday and participated in a panel about gender equality in Arctic leadership. (Photo courtesy of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.)

Kotierk and Simon said the Arctic Circle Assembly is a platform for dialogue but partnering with Inuit on issues affecting the region must continue beyond it. 

Having participated in two panels about engaging youth in Arctic policy and Indigenous languages, Kotierk also said it’s important for all Arctic and non-Arctic nations who are interested in the region to recognize that it is first and foremost the Inuit homeland. 

“I often get the sense that there are many people who feel entitled to be able to influence or even develop Arctic policy,” Kotierk said. “It’s really important for those who feel entitled to do that, whether they’re member states or not, that they are aware of Inuit who are actually living in in the Arctic.” 

“So much of the discussion might seem like it’s gearing towards militarization or Arctic security but what is key is that Inuit need to be healthy and well, and living a good life in their homelands as a way to assert their own sovereignty.” 

Simon, who gave one of the opening speeches and participated in a panel about gender equality in Arctic leadership, said the assembly “shows more and more that Arctic issues will have implications for larger policy issues such as international security and cooperation and climate change just to name a few.” 

Emphasizing the need for better international diplomacy, especially in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Simon added the presence of Inuit at the assembly “is sending a strong message that, first of all, we need to look at the Arctic in a way that that will allow us to protect our communities and allow us to grow in our communities and become more vibrant.”

“Canada as a country continues to work closely with its NATO allies. But in terms of the Canadian Arctic, Inuit have lived in the Arctic region for millennia and people have firsthand experience and lived experiences in relation to what’s going on,” she added. “Inuit want to have a peaceful circumpolar region and Inuit are still advocating for that.”

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(25) Comments:

  1. Posted by Confused & Amused on

    Should someone tell Aluki the ‘Arctic’ is considerably larger than Inuit Nunangat? I feel like she brought her talking points from her last meeting with the feds. You know this is the Arctic Council?

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    • Posted by Non Arctic Council States on

      Confused and Amused- Arctic Circle typically has states and others who do not have a seat at the Arctic Council. So not quite right with your comment- which is okay and I’m humble enough to say I didn’t know what these meetings were all about. This is worth Inuit’s time and we must play a leading role. I agree with Aluki- we Inuit must remind everyone else that we have an important role to play.

      Non Inuit and others (there are many) understand this- however, many do not. Folks who do not respect the rights of Indigenous people, who take our lands and destroy our way of life, those are the ones we must consistently remind that we wish to continue our ways of living, and peacefully.

      We hope states who feel they are entitled to trample on others are humble to take a step back and see our way of doing things, sharing, caring and helping one another. Life is shitty enough and seems headed off to even worst times. Let’s help each other bring peace and harmony- we do not want a nuclear war. We want to live in peace and harmony with other Inuit and northern peoples.

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      • Posted by Confused & Amused on

        If you read them carefully, you should notice Aluki’s comments are mostly vapid and devoid of content.

        Do you envision the world bedazzled by the epiphany that we should all live in peace? Do you think Russia will end their attack on Ukraine because you asked them to stand back and think it over?

        Do you work closely with Aluki? Her speech writer, maybe?

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        • Posted by oh ima on

          Why don’t provide briefing notes for Aluki next time and also run for VP in the upcoming election? I am pretty sure you have lots of ideas on how you can improve lives for the Inuit in Nunavut.

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          • Posted by Confused & Amused on

            I like the way you are thinking today, oh ima.

            How’s this: I’d start by suggesting that instead of telling everyone they should listen to you, say something worth listening to.

            Do you like?

      • Posted by G-man Choi on

        I know what you are saying about Inuit should have a say and all the peace and love stuff BUT in the end there are only 30,000 Inuit living in all of Nunavut, which is a huge land and part of Canada, but should they have full say of what goes on up North? I think not, sure they can give input, but in the end its up to all the people of Canada.

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        • Posted by Zoom Out on

          This isn’t about Canada, this is the Arctic Council, a forum for cooperation among the States and peoples of the circumpolar world.

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  2. Posted by Stephen on

    Local and regional including our own arctic based direction is a good thing. With the international foreign affairs administrations pitting peoples against each other there is much work to do, much more than the council itself could achieve. The collective benefit that would come from arctic-wide solidarity would be a step toward a better international relations, something that is much needed at this time. As for NATO it should be held away at a distance. It is a child of the US Pentagon, It is being used to promote and justify unjustifiable international turmoil.

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  3. Posted by Huh? on

    Not merely the Inuit homeland, it is simultaneously the homeland of many other ethnic groups.

    Better get over the navel-gazing if you want to play in the big leagues.

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  4. Posted by Binky the Doormat on

    What does it mean to complain about states feeling “entitled to influence or… develop Arctic policy”? Does Aluki expect Arctic States like Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland, to run their (clearly entitled) policy plans past her first?

    Poor skills at geography and diplomacy aside, her political intuitions appear grandiose and delusional.

    What am I missing here?

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  5. Posted by Observer on

    Didn’t NTI just finish jousting at windmills in France?

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    • Posted by Per Diems, Please on

      Nunatsiaq was flooded with articles about NTI trying to get France to extradite Rivoire… Wonder where the latest update is?

  6. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Ms. Kotierk doesn’t seem to realize that there are 40 circumploar indigenous groups. So if the Inuit from Inuit Nunangat get a seat at the table how about the Saami, the Lapps, the Greenlanders or the multitude of Indigenous groups in Circumpolar Russia? Alll of a sudden we are talking about a very big, very unsustainable table. Or does Ms. Kotierk feel that Inuit are so special that they deserve unique consideration?

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    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      All those Indigenous groups have ‘Permanent Participant’ status in the Arctic Council, including the Aleut, Athabaskan, Gwich’in, Inuit, Russian Indigenous Peoples and the Saami.

      Simply put, they have, since the founding of the organization in 1996, had the “seat at the table” Aluki seems to be talking about.

      Given that, I have no idea what she is actually asking for. Perhaps we can take her statements to be an unintentional admission of ignorance? Who knows…

      https://www.arctic-council.org/about/

      • Posted by Pork Pie the screw up on

        Sorry, I’ve been screwing this discussion up, this isn’t the Arctic Council. My mistake

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  7. Posted by Perspective on

    Honestly, I’m just glad Aluki let us comment on this story.

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    • Posted by Silence, Peasants on

      I’m glad you pointed this out. I found it really interesting that comments were turned off for Aluki’s recent Letter to the Editor. I checked previous Letters to the Editor wondering if that was a precedent, but they all had the comment section available, I’m not sure why comments weren’t allowed on Aluki’s.

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      • Posted by No Moniker on

        Given the lack of explanation on the part of the editor, unflattering explanations will undoubtedly be hatched in the realm of myth, where they will live in perpetuity. An unfortunate price to pay, Corey.

  8. Posted by Taxpayer on

    It is with great interest I see that the head of our own NTI talk about Inuit asserting sovereignty. The sole purpose of NTI is to implement the Nunavut Agreement to the benefit of Inuit. The Nunavut Agreement is a modern treaty that cedes any Inuit claims to 82% of the land base of Nunavut to the Government of Canada in exchange for the other 18% of land, and specific rights under Confederation. This agreement is often cited as a basis for Canadian – not Inuit – sovereignty in the Arctic. She is the head of an organization that gave up Inuit sovereignty, if such a thing ever existed. If we now, with Kotierk in the lead, are to assert our sovereignty, either she does not know what that word means, she does not know her job is as President of NTI, or she has taken on a secret mandate without any discussion among Inuit to repudiate the Nunavut Agreement. If this is the case, NTI should be disbanded in favour of the Inuit Separatist Party or some other thing that can stand on the popularity of these views amongst Inuit.

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    • Posted by Taxslayer on

      NTIs position now is that they did not cede and surrender rights they did not know existed before the NLCA was signed. The Liberals have willingly told all first nations metisnand Inuit that they are willing to revisit cede and surrender clauses in their agreements so this game isn’t over yet unless the self flaggelation of Canadians comes to an end. It might be one of the more important things needing to happen, a 201st action item for reconciliation.

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      • Posted by Let’s do this on

        I’m all for a separatist movement by Nunavut. I will support it 100%

        I think we would all be happier and more prosperous in the end.

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        • Posted by Northern Guy on

          Let’s Do This: no, you won’t. The only thing that keeps Nunavut afloat is the $2 billion in transfer payments that the federal government pours into Nunavut annually under the TFF. Once that is gone, you are in real trouble.

          • Posted by Let’s do this on

            Let me clarify, I am saying this as a southerner.

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  9. Posted by Janet on

    This has been a ongoing problem with NTI, the leadership at NTI has been combative and difficult to work with, the Feds have a difficult time trying to work with NTI, same goes with the GN, any communication between the governments and NTI falls on Denmark ears, no reply whatsoever.
    Now they want a seat at this Arctic circle assembly even though Inuit from Canada are represented. Why? So NTI can be difficult and not open to working together? Not reply to letters and emails?
    This is getting embarrassing!

  10. Posted by Janet on

    This has been a ongoing problem with NTI, the leadership at NTI has been combative and difficult to work with, the Feds have a difficult time trying to work with NTI, same goes with the GN, any communication between the governments and NTI falls on deaf ears, no reply whatsoever.
    Now they want a seat at this Arctic circle assembly even though Inuit from Canada are represented. Why? So NTI can be difficult and not open to working together? Not reply to letters and emails?
    This is getting embarrassing!

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