Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 23, 2013 - 10:03 am

UN forum: Inuit and Saami vow to “fight the tendencies of linguicide”

Inuit Circumpolar Council and Saami Council deliver statement during indigenous forum

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Aqqaluk Lynge, Leanna Ellsworth, Rena Skifte and Hjalmar Dahl from the Inuit Circumpolar Council at the 12th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN headquarters in New York City. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ICC)
Aqqaluk Lynge, Leanna Ellsworth, Rena Skifte and Hjalmar Dahl from the Inuit Circumpolar Council at the 12th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN headquarters in New York City. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ICC)

Inuit and Saami are feeling the joint pressure of development and cultural and linguistic appropriation.

That’s at the heart of a message delivered this week by Inuit Circumpolar Council chair Aqqaluk Lynge in New York City on behalf of the Saami Council and the ICC at the 12th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The two organizations, which form the Arctic Caucus at the Forum, say they want to “promote linguistic diversity, fight the tendencies of linguicide and promote youth initiatives to keep our languages strong.”

“The Arctic cultures must be made an essential focal point when development decisions are taken concerning Arctic regions, in order to avoid undesirable assimilation or destruction,” Lynge said at the Forum now underway at the United Nations headquarters.

In order for Inuit and Saami to continue to develop as distinct peoples, conditions for the continued growth and enrichment of their cultures must be assured, Lynge said.

And, with cultural development and the protection of the Arctic environment “inseparably linked,” he said “we do not want to dance to the tunes of the resource extraction companies.”

“It is therefore of utmost importance that the principle of free, prior and informed consent is respected in those cases and appropriate democratic infrastructure is in place to protect our culture and identity,” Lynge said.

As well, the collective rights of Inuit and Saami to their traditional knowledge must to be respected, with Inuit and Saami credited with the full benefits, including both cultural and financial benefits, such as royalties, he said.

Intellectual property and copyright regulations must also be respected in regard to Inuit and Saami knowledge, he said.

The ICC and the Saami Council will continue represent Inuit and Saami by promoting their rights to culture, both intellectual and international, in the World Intellectual Property Organization, he said.

The Saami in Scandinavia and Inuit in Greenland are part of the Nordic Council Language Convention, “with the right to use our own language in education and receive support to print books in Saami and Inuit languages,” Lynge said.

“The same cannot unfortunately be said about Inuit in North America, where the Inuit language is rapidly disappearing. Only in the self governing territories, such as Nunavik and Nunavut in Canada, steps are taken to protect the language,” he said.

ICC now heading the “Arctic Indigenous Language project” under the Arctic Council which will look at ways to stop the disappearance of languages, he said. The project will also start an coordinated effort to establish communication across borders, such as the Saami in Scandinavia and Inuit in Greenland have done for many years.

Also at the Forum: Rita Petrussen, from Greenland’s association for the deaf, used sign language when she gave a speech May 22, describing how deaf people who live in Greenland endure hard living conditions. These have become even worse, she said, following the closure of Greenland’s only school for the deaf.

The Forum session continues until May 30.

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