|photograph of young Inuit women and children is from here|
Wikileaks: The Arctic belongs to the Inuit
Inuit brought their own message to
'The Race for the Arctic'
By Brenda Norrell
Map below: Inuit dialects .
While diplomats debated who owns the Arctic and what to do about melting ice, climate change, shipping and the impending spread of oil and gas development, Inuit brought their own message to the Arctic Ocean Conference in 2008.
"Much of the Arctic belongs to the Inuit," Aqqaluk Lynge, vice president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) and now chair of the ICC, told the diplomats from five countries in 2008.
Wikileaks now provides a new look at the closed door discussions at the inaugural Arctic Ocean Conference, held in Ilulissat, Greenland May 27 — May 29, 2008. At the conference, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States, discussed environmental regulation, maritime security, mineral exploration, polar oil oversight, and transportation.
The Ilulissat Declaration was the result.
The Wikileaks cable provides the United States' perspective on the closed door talks. The cable includes Inuit statements on sovereignty and the necessity for Inuit consultation in decision making. The cable also includes Russia's statement on Russia's priority to Indigenous Peoples in policy making.
The cable was written by US Ambassador James Cain in Copenhagen.
(Full names are added in parenthesis by Censored News.)
US Ambassador Cain states, "(Inuit Aqqaluk) Lynge emphasized colonial errors of the past (including relocation of indigenous people from a community near Thule AFB) and asserted that 'all Inuit own the Arctic.'
"Asked by (Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig) Moeller whether he was afraid of new opportunities in the Arctic, Lynge replied 'we are not afraid of anything when we are included in the response.' He cited increased cooperation with U.S. researchers as positive and concluded that 'we need your assistance and you need our (traditional) knowledge,'" the cable states.
"Canadian minister (of natural resources Gary) Lunn lauded Inuit cultural respect for the environment and said that while continental shelf territorial claims could only be handled by sovereign states, local and indigenous residents of the Arctic should be involved in decision-making.
"(Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov asked Lynge whether existing Arctic institutions needed to be modified. Lynge urged greater indigenous participation in all Arctic institutions," the cable states.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov led the Russian delegation.
Lavrov is quoted in the US cable. "On indigenous participation, Lavrov claimed Russia listened 'attentively' to concerns of indigenous residents of the Russian Arctic, saying that protection of indigenous rights is 'integral' to Russian Arctic policy."
The cable says the conference was a Danish initiative, in response to the "Race for the Arctic."
Inuit on Sovereignty
Later, in November of 2008, Lynge, president of the Greenland chapter of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) in 2008, stressed the importance of including Inuit in any negotiations among governments regarding sovereignty of the Arctic Ocean, according to an ICC press statement.
Lynge, said that the new question of who owns the Arctic is an old one for Inuit. “We debated this with our former colonizers and polar explorers who drew the maps and named places," Lynge said.
"The debate is reignited because of the anticipated acceleration of resource development in the Arctic as a result of the global warming."
The issue of geographic names and sovereignty was mentioned as an issue for Lynge when he told the ministers that place names now known as Hans Island (Tartupaluk) and Ellesmere Island (Umimmaat Nunaat) continue to have Inuit names and, in fact in the past the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, explorers, and others could not travel in the Arctic without the assistance of Inuit.
“The debate became most intense over the past few decades when we negotiated various self government arrangements” with the respective countries now claiming the Arctic. Lynge called upon the foreign ministers to respect the land claims and self-government arrangements they have negotiated with Inuit.
ICC announced that a pan-Inuit meeting would be held in Kuujjuaq, Canada in November, 2008, in which Inuit leaders would determine how they should collectively respond to the increasing debate about who owns the Arctic, whose ships will be allowed to traverse and benefit from it, and how to collectively protect its environment from potential disaster.
ICC is the organization that represents the 160,000 Inuit living in Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland on matters of international concern.
After the Arctic Ocean Conference, in November of 2008, Inuit leaders from Greenland, Alaska, and Canada met in Kuujjuaq and developed an "Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic."
Inuit: Sovereignty and Climate Change
There was a two-day Inuit Leader’s Summit on Arctic Sovereignty in Kuujjuaq. Patricia Cochran, Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) said, "Sovereignty is a complex issue. It has a variety of overlapping elements, anchored in international law. But fundamentally it begins with the history and reality of Inuit use and occupation of Arctic lands and waters; that use and occupation is at the heart of any informed discussion of sovereignty in the Arctic. Arctic nation states must respect the rights and roles of Inuit in all international discussions and commitments dealing with the Arctic," according to ICC's Nov. 10th press statement from this gathering.
"Climate change has moved Arctic sovereignty to the front of the international agenda. We have all seen the escalating speculation about how drastic reduction of ice coverage will open the Arctic waterways to increased shipping traffic and expedited oil and gas development.
"Leaders agreed that the pursuit of resources through an agenda of Arctic sovereignty must involve coordinated strategies to ensure the Arctic has viable and healthy communities, sound civil administration, and responsible environmental management, not just ports, training facilities, and military exercises.
“One clear message from the convening of our meeting is that for all sorts of reasons - law, politics, and the very practical reason that the world stands to learn the most about the Arctic from the people who know the Arctic best - Inuit have an essential role in international discussions about arctic waters, marine transportation plans, environmental initiatives and mechanisms, and the future of international Arctic institutions and relations generally,” added Ms. Cochran.
US Conclusion: Hyperbole 'Race for the Arctic' is over
Meanwhile, Cain's diplomatic cable ends with the usual hyperbole, in a reference to the press conference, and claims the 'Race to the Arctic' was over.
The cable states, "Asked if the 'race for the Arctic' had ended in Ilulissat, (Denmark's Foreign Minister) Moeller gave an emphatic 'Yes,' and (Canadian) minister Lunn called out 'it never started!,' concluding the exchange with the press."
In his final comments, US Ambassador Cain admits that the conclusion of the conference was never in doubt, since the final agreement was made in advance. He also adds a comment about Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
"Conference outcomes were never in doubt, with the Ilulissat Declaration negotiated beforehand between all participants. FM Lavrov seemed keen to downplay Russian flag-planting and earn Russia credit for its search and rescue proposal."
References: ICC press statement Nov. 29, 2008
ICC press statement Nov. 10, 2008