Human Journey

Indigenous Voices of the Arctic

Hear the views of three young people with the perspective of indigenous nations — their hopes and aspirations to make a contribution to a world changing by a warming climate and the consequent economic development of the northernmost part of the planet.

They were interviewed at the Seventh International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS VII), held recently in Iceland.

Organized by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA), ICASS VII was attended by more than 400 delegates, who between them presented some 300 papers and joined discussions in dozens of workshops. Watch our video interview with IASSA President Joan Nymand Larsen, discussing the highlights of ICASS VII. Read our entire coverage of ICASS VII.



Jennifer Kadjak. Image credit: Blue Lagoon Productions


Jennifer Kadjak, Inuit student at the Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit, Canada

I’ve learned that we have so much things in common … [but] we need to work harder; countries need to come together to negotiate a peaceful solution for climate change. If the ice melts there will be more transportation [across the Arctic Ocean]. There’s oil up there. Countries need to talk together about matters concerning the North Pole.

One of [our] issues is why recent high school graduates don’t go to college. Some Inuit struggle to go out from their community, to go to college and have that higher education. I decided to go to college to become a teacher. I want to teach young people about who they are and their own identity, and to give them pride of who they are.

I believe that education is a must for everyone. I want to teach my students who they are. I want to prepare them academically…I want to teach them that the North is not being left out. It’s being talked about. I want to teach them to become scientists. I want them to have a good future.



Aviaq Jorgensen. Image credit: Blue Lagoon Productions


Aviaq Jorgensen, Inuk Kalaaleq, University of Greenland, Nuuk. Studying language, literature, and media

Changes in the climate, the lack of sea ice and snow. Very warm summers. [These issues are] very important because the hunters rely on sea ice to go hunting in winter, to be able to go farther than the area surrounding their village or town. I think that the Greenlandic people are adapting to it, finding new ways of living.

There are some positive and negative effects of climate change. For example, in south Greenland they want the earth to be warmer, so that they may grow other things than they grow today. In north Greeland it is a problem, because they are dependent on being on the sea ice.



Julie Potter. Image credit: Blue Lagoon Productions


Julie Potter, Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band. Berea College, Kentucky. NSF summer intern

It’s extremely important for natives to have input into the scientific process, particularly if you’re looking at sustainability and climate change. If you’re looking at the northern region, they’re the main audience, the main people who will be affected. They are the ones who experience it first-hand, more quickly than everybody else.

If you don’t include them in the science, you also lose a large amount of valuable knowledge they have to share. They’re the ones intimately connected to the environment around them, and they’re the ones connected to the changing political scene even. And if you want to be able to take that science from a text book to something that’s actually usable and influential for the community, you have to develop an effective communication network to be able to take it from knowledge to action.

Where I come from it is rural Appalachia, and it shares a lot of similarity to the Alaskan situations where we’re isolated, impoverished. We have sub-standard housing beyond which you can imagine. We are primarily natural resource-based. We don’t have significant amounts of industry. Everything comes from coal. Oil is Alaska’s issue. They go hand-and-foot with each other.

Understanding how to work with that type of isolation and that type of restriction, and communicating with government, is something I’m very familiar with.

The project I’m working on is developing outreach and a communication conduit between the NSF [National Science Foundation], particularly the Office of Polar Programs, and Alaskan native communities, and making it more possible for native communities to bring forth issues that are facing them, so that the research comes from the bottom up rather than just the top down.

What I’m learning [in Iceland] is what kinds of research have already been done in developing this, so that I can take the knowledge that’s gained in other areas such as Canada or Greenland, and see how we can apply it to Alaskan indigenous communities.

Coverage of the Seventh International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences was sponsored by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) and The Christensen Fund. The video was made by Blue Lagoon Productions for National Geographic News.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • […] Indigenous Voices of the Arctic National Geographic News Watch, 26 August 2011 […]

  • Marilynn Rice

    Amazing and giving me so much hope that young people are actively involved in preserving culture and searching for ways to improve with the changes in this world.

  • Xia

    How sad and realistic. At first gcnlae I thought that bucket was gas, which made more sense to me. The laundry detergent box is empty, so there goes our solution in the upcoming conference. All talk and no action. Zzzzz.

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