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Former Inuit Circumpolar Leader Sheila Watt-Cloutier Just Misses Nobel Peace Award for her Work on Climate Change

Anchorage, October 12, 2007

The former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Sheila Watt-Cloutier, jointly nominated for her work on climate change with Al Gore just missed winning the award earlier today. Although it was widely speculated that Ms. Watt-Cloutier might share the award with Mr. Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, gave the award instead to both Mr. Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Ms. Watt-Cloutier, from Canada, held the position of ICC Chair from 2002 until 2006 when Patricia Cochran, an Alaskan Inupiaq, took over the ICC leadership. Ms. Cochran, who was reached in her Anchorage, Alaska home after the award was announced, congratulated Ms. Watt-Cloutier for having been nominated, but also voiced her disappointment that Ms. Watt-Cloutier did not win.  Sheila has given so much to the world and to Inuit across the circumpolar Arctic, said the ICC Chair. I am proud of her and her commitment to bringing human issues to the climate change discussion.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier, a tireless advocate of the human rights of Inuit for many years, served as ICC Canada president for 4 years (1998-2002) before taking over the leadership of ICC as a whole. Current ICC Canada President, Duane Smith noted that the nomination of  a Canadian Inuk to this prestigious award is reflective of the efforts of all Inuit and the plight we face with a rapidly changing Arctic, as well as the need to reduce the emissions causing these drastic changes”

The Nobel Prize nominee said, I thank all those in the ICC family who have supported my leadership and vision. It is our connection to one another in our Inuit world in Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Chukotka that keeps us strong and focused on the wisdom required to protect the Arctics environment as it relates to the rest of the planet. I remain committed to work with the Chair of ICC, Patricia Cochran, on these important issues that affect our Arctic homeland.

Ms. Cochran added that the nomination was important for all indigenous peoples and demonstrates that the world is finally seeing the crucial importance of the matter of global emissions and their negative impacts on the earth and its sustainability. The ICC Chair congratulated Mr. Gore and noted that the IPCC has indeed done a lot to raise the climate change issue globally. IPCC data show that since 1978, the annual average Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk substantially and that the average Arctic temperatures have increased at twice the rate of the global average over the past 100 years.

Greenlander Aqqaluk Lynge, who chaired ICC for 6 years prior to Ms. Watt-Cloutier, also praised the former ICC Chair. This is still an incredible day for all Inuit from Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Russia, and one that none of the 155,000 Inuit will ever forget, said Mr. Lynge from Nuuk. Today we celebrate in spite of the fact she did not win, and tomorrow ICC gets back to work, along with global partners, to face this planet-wide challenge that today impacts Inuit the most.

The Inuit Circumpolar Council represents the worlds 155,000 Inuit from Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. ICC promotes Inuit unity and Inuit direct involvement in international policy and international development decisions that have local implications. Climate change challenges are at the forefront of the organizations past and current international work.

For more information, contact:

ICC Chairs Office:              ICC Greenland                      ICC Canada
Patricia A.L. Cochran         Aqqaluk Lynge                      Duane Smith
+1 907 350 7906               +299 32 36 32                     +1 613 563 2642      

The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization (IPO), founded in 1977 to promote and celebrate the unity of 180,000 Inuit from Alaska (USA), Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). ICC works to promote Inuit rights, safeguard the Arctic environment, and protect and promote the Inuit way of life. In regard to climate change, we believe that it is crucial for world leaders and governments to recognize, respect and fully implement the human rights of Inuit and all other Indigenous peoples across the globe.