Circumpolar Inuit leader reaches out to scientists
“We as Inuit fully welcome the opportunity of working with scientists”
MONTREAL — Aqqaluk Lynge of Greenland, the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, reached out to international scientists in his April 24 keynote speech at the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal, saying Inuit are not “isolationists.”
“We as Inuit fully welcome the opportunity, indeed, the necessity, of working with scientists from around the world,” he said. “We welcome and we need the IPY research and data generated so that our decisions may be made with sound and cutting-edge knowledge. We Inuit want to co-operatively move from knowledge to action.”
The IPY conference podium proved a perfect place for Lynge to deliver his message.
Lynge told conference delegates, few of whom are indigenous Arctic residents, that Inuit traditional economies, technologies, cultural expressions and languages reveal knowledge that the sciences can use to better understand the Arctic.
Lynge said he would also like to see the knowledge of science used for northern people, “to protect our homes and our culture.”
ICC has already shown its willingness to cooperate with scientists and played an important role in several major research projects combining traditional Inuit knowledge with modern science, he said.
But Lynge urged more understanding on the part of scientists who are not from the Arctic region.
“You have to understand that to us the Arctic is our home. It is not a mining company or a scientific laboratory. It is our home,” he said.
Lynge singled out climate change as a major threat to Inuit, which requires knowledge, and action.
“I have seen the sadness of my people as they do not know how to cope with these changes that often robs them of their traditional livelihood and their culture,” he said. “Inuit keep asking ICC and him personally to help address their concerns regarding climate change. They ask me increasingly to take their local concerns to the international community, as ICC is mandated to do.”
Lynge said he works with his fellow Inuit on sea ice loss, the disappearance of certain fish species, as well as the arrival of new species of fish, and the “dramatic influx” of ships coming to the Arctic.
“I try to convince them that there is hope,” Lynge said. “Inuit have faced daunting challenges before and have adapted.”
But Lynge noted a “most chilling impact.”
And that is “the fear that our knowledge system will be so severely jolted by such a radical shift in the climate that the very foundation of who we are as a people may be at risk.”
To cap off his talk, Lynge shared a poem he had written as a student in Denmark, called “Arctic Riches,” in which he writes that “centuries of the white man’s colonization and power are nothing compared to ten thousand years of our own wisdom.”
“But what you believe
we do not believe
What you don’t know we do know
what you know we know as well
for these are our Arctic riches.”