November 29, 2008, Ilulissat, Greenland – Aqqaluk Lynge, President of the Greenland chapter of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) as well as ICC Vice Chair, told foreign ministers gathered here yesterday from Norway, Denmark, USA, and Canada that much of the Arctic belongs to Inuit. He stressed the importance of including Inuit in any negotiations among governments regarding sovereignty of the Arctic Ocean.
Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr. 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. Mr. Lynge called upon the foreign ministers to respect the land claims and self-government arrangements they have negotiated with Inuit.
Mr. Lynge addressed the ministers by also saying, “while Inuit do not formally recognize the borders that have been created among us, we are nevertheless practical and believe in compromise.”
ICC will be hosting a pan-Inuit meeting in Kuujjuaq, Canada in November of this year in which Inuit leaders will 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.
For more information, contact:
Aqqaluk Lynge, ICC Greenland President tel: +299 32 36 36; aqqaluk @ inuit.org