The Arctic covers over one sixth of the earths' landmass; more than 30 million km2 and twenty-four time zones. It has a population of about four million, including over thirty different indigenous peoples and dozens of languages.
There are 8 Arctic States, and people live in remote Arctic regions of each of them. But for many of these states those living in the Arctic are a minority, with most of the population living outside of the Arctic. There are a range of political structures to govern the relationship between the nation states and their northern regions.
The indigenous people who have lived there for centuries had a nomadic lifestyle following their oral laws. Leaders got their authority by being great hunters or a combination of ability and birth-right.
Aaju talks about how the Inuit think differently
Aaju talks about how the Inuit understanding of the land, and ownership, differs from that of the western legal system.
Various laws were passed in some of the countries during the 19th century to try to make the indigenous Arctic people conform to the lifestyle of the rest of the country. For example, the Indian Act of 1876 in Canada extended power to the Canadian government to regulate and control the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, including the people of the Arctic. The act was administered directly in indigenous communities by the Indian agent. These new white chiefs were to displace traditional indigenous leaders in order to bring in a new way of living. They had extraordinary administrative and discretionary power including guardianship over Indian lands, in effect, they took the ownership away from the people who lived there.
Harold Cardinal was a Cree writer, political leader, teacher, negotiator and lawyer who died in 2005. He asserted “Instead of offering much-needed protection to Indian rights the Indian Act subjugated to colonial rule the very people whose rights it was supposed to protect”
There are now three territories in Northern Canada: Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (the Inuktitut word for ‘our land’) which was created in 1999. Nunavut is above the tree line with a population of about 30,000. Inuktitut was recognised as an official language of Nunavut alongside English and French in June 2009. The Arctic is now seen as an important region in world affairs for many reasons. Climate change has meant that shipping routes are becoming more accessible, mineral resources are easier to extract and tourism is flourishing. However, the indigenous people of the region wish to preserve their ancient culture.
Why the need for change?
The Arctic is now seen as an important region in world affairs for many reasons. Climate change has meant that shipping routes are becoming more accessible, mineral resources are easier to extract and tourism is flourishing. However the indigenous people of the region wish to preserve their ancient culture.
What do you imagine the Arctic to be like?
- Choose one image from the photo gallery, and write a description of it
Design a postage stamp
The countries of the Arctic sometimes use images of the Arctic on their postage stamps.