June 27, 2003
Nome, Alaska – The Executive Council of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), an organization representing 155,000 Inuit in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Chukotka, Russia, continues to be diligent in addressing its concerns about the ability of future generations to maintain the Inuit culture in the face of the many globalized pressures that are impacting on the circumpolar regions.
“We have been fighting to keep pollutants out of the Arctic and out of our food,” stated Sheila Watt-Cloutier who is chair of ICC, “but we are now confronting an equally dangerous assault to our way-of-life. The release of greenhouse gases and the rapid climate changes that result from it are already making it very difficult for Inuit to travel and hunt as we have for millennia. For us, this is a question of basic human rights, of survival as a people. We must do all that we can to turn back this trend. If it takes bringing a complaint to an international human rights body to get the attention of the nations of the world, then we will do so,” acknowledged Ms. Watt-Cloutier.
The 1CC Executive Council, chaired by Ms. Watt-Cloutier and made up of two representatives from each of the four countries, met June 26 and 27 in Nome in Alaska to discuss issues of concern to the Inuit of the circumpolar region. In addition to global warming and climate change, the Executive Council is troubled by the devastating impact on Inuit by the pilfering of Inuit intellectual and cultural property. We see cheaply made imitations of our carvings in shops. We know that, in Alaska alone, 75-80% of the $40 million native art trade is imported, imitation native art, often with labels approaching misrepresentation and consumer fraud,” confirmed Ms. Violet Ford, an Executive Council member from Canada who is currently completing doctoral studies on the question. “This practice must be ended. We call on all companies and individuals who are profiting from this trade at the expense of Inuit to stop.”
In addition, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference is calling on the Government of Denmark, to redress a long-standing wrong, perpetrated against the lnughuit of the Thule region in Greenland. “In 1953, in order to make room for the Americans’ Thule air base, the Inughuit living in the area were forcibly relocated,” said Aqqaluk Lynge, President of ICC-Greenland, The lnughuit lost their hunting grounds and their homes, and the Danish Government has not recognized the rights of the Inughuit to return to their traditional lands. It is time for the the Danish Government to face up to the wrongs it carried out at the expense of the Inughuit” affirmed Mr. Lynge.
The ICC Executive Council also discussed matters relating to economic development and trade barriers, as well as language and communication. The Executive Council agreed that ICC Greenland should continue to take the lead and support the Commissions appointed to study each question. “For Inuit, a these concerns are critical and pressing. We have no time to lose to become better equipped to manage the global pressures or we will lose our ability remain as Inuit,” concluded Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier