For years, indigenous peoples of the Arctic lived under the shadow of the Cold War. We are greatly encouraged by the recent "normalization" of relations among Arctic states and the growing cooperation among them on environmental, economic, and other issues. A University of the Arctic that brings together indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, stressing interdisciplinary studies and our traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), could add an important dimension to Arctic cooperation. In particular, we hope the proposed University will enable indigenous peoples to learn from one another and will foster communications with the wider world.
Arctic indigenous peoples view the proposed University with great interest. In the past we have often been marginalized in institutions established in our homelands by outsiders. To avoid repeating this experience, we expect the University to be structured to meet our goals and objectives, as well as those of others, and to reflect our age-old experiences.
It is important that indigenous peoples be a visible and acknowledged part of the contours, structure and texture of the proposed university. We will have many students at this university, but we should also be members of the faculty, administration, and governing institutions that set research and teaching priorities. We look for certain guarantees to this effect in the charter setting up the University.
We are convinced that indigenous peoples across the Arctic have much to contribute to the proposed University. Our songs, stories, values, arts, crafts, and ecological knowledge - indeed our very cultures and economies - can underpin the proposed University. Its character and image should incorporate and build upon our experience. We are mindful, as well, that indigenous peoples can add political legitimacy to the proposed University, enhancing its ability to raise funds, particularly from the
private sector. We are keen to play an important and constructive role in the unique endeavour to establish an international University of the Arctic.
The Arctic - In Dignity
Our region is too often portrayed as a cold or forbidding place with poor living conditions and a fragile environment and in which we have been largely assimilated by other cultures. These negative images of the Arctic and of indigenous peoples as "victims" are inaccurate. The Arctic has undergone extraordinary change in recent years, and it is important that a balanced image of our homelands be communicated to the world. After all, the Arctic is a psychologically warm and spectacularly beautiful
place and our cultures and economies remain vibrant even as they undergo rapid change.
The Arctic is not solely a place for implementing policies and goals defined elsewhere by people with little direct interest in the region. It is our home. The University of the Arctic should help correct inaccurate and partial images of our region and help communicate new and positive Arctic images to the world. This can be achieved through creative study, international co-operative research programmes, comparative social and policy science research, symposia, conferences, vibrant publishing projects, and a clear commitment by all involved to creative undergraduate and graduate teaching sensitive to different cultures and values. We hope an early research project will be undertaken through the University to document living standards and quality of life of residents, particularly indigenous peoples, throughout the circumpolar Arctic. Such research may aid the Arctic Council implement its still-to-be-defined sustainable development programme.
The Arctic - In Harmony
Natural resources in the circumpolar Arctic are widely exploited. Liberalization of international trade and democratization in the Federation of Russia are likely to promote further development of the Arctic's oil, gas, minerals and other resources. To accomodate these likely developments but simultaneously to protect our environment and economies we must do a much better job of conserving biological and cultural diversity, cleaning-up already polluted sites, and promoting sustainable development policies and programmes that help northerners become more self-reliant.
The University must recognize and accept that the Arctic is a fragile and vulnerable region. Indigenous peoples have lived in the Arctic for many years guided by its rhythms and seasons. Our generally harmonious relationship with the environment, our uses of natural resources and the ways in which we regulate and manage our relationship with our surroundings are topics the University might usefully stress, giving attention to our values and philosophies. In particular, we hope the University will assist us to restore linguistic diversity in the circumpolar Arctic for we are convinced that this is a key to cultural diversity and harmonious relations with nature.
The Arctic - In Modernity
We are fully aware of far-reaching processes of change in the Arctic. It is not our intent to slow this transition to "modernity"; rather, we wish the proposed University to help craft this transition, assisting in preserving the best of the old and promoting the best of the new. How can this be achieved? First, the University can promote excellence in education, teaching, and learning. It should be charged with generating, communicating, and disseminating traditional and scientific knowledge in ways that allow students to integrate what they learn and grow personally in terms of their ethics and morals. After all, universities should enable students and faculty to acquire wisdom as well as data. Second, the University can model itself as a meeting place, not just of people but of ideas, cultures, and ways of life. Shared voices and shared understandings - as the title of this report suggests - are possible only if the University is one of life's major intersections. Certainly we hope the University of the Arctic will be a key meeting place for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Third, we hope the university will promote research in which indigenous knowledge or "traditional science" as it is sometimes called, has a valued place in broader inquiry.
At the most basic of levels how should indigenous peoples participate in this potentially exciting and innovative new institution? Of the many answers to this question we concentrate on three:
- As educated consumers of information generated by research
- As educated participants in international debates about science and research
- As contributors to the world wide process of scientific inquiry
To approach modernity with confidence, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific method as applied in basic research and to learn how best it should be applied in the Arctic. Historically, researchers from the outside world have visited to study the Arctic and its peoples. No longer do we wish to be objects of research frequently misinterpreted to others.
Nevertheless, we understand that to participate effectively in basic research we need better formal education and to be able to make an original contribution to the process of inquiry. To understand research we need to recruit young indigenous people to the world of science, integrate traditional ecological knowledge with science, and encourage innovative research for and by indigenous peoples. The proposed university can help us achieve our goals and objectives, and at the same time we can help it to flourish and serve the broader public.
The University of the Arctic must involve indigenous peoples. It must not be like other educational institutions experienced by some of us as systems of pain that ignore or even repress our cultures and economies. Considerable energy and time must be devoted to recruiting indigenous people, who will retain respect for and commitment to their indigenous societies and roots, to join the University. We offer to the university community our experiences and approaches to the world and to life; for example, consensual as opposed to litigative methods of resolving conflicts, and core values including respect for, rather than exploitation of, animals and nature. We hope these and other values of importance to us may be expressed in the charter that will breathe life into the University of the Arctic.