Inuit Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance — A Healthy Arctic

Provided by: Carolina Behe on behalf of a nine-member Advisory Committee and over 90 Inuit authors who contributed to the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska facilitated Report: Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance: Inuit Role in Managing Marine Resources.

Inuit are at the forefront of the drastic changes taking place in the Arctic. As the world community increasingly turns its focus to the Arctic, it is important to ensure that Inuit Food Sovereignty is a priority in every context.

Figure 1. Front cover image of the 2020 Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska facilitated report: Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance: Inuit Role in Managing Marine Resources. Image courtesy of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska.Figure 1. Front cover image of the 2020 Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska facilitated report: Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance: Inuit Role in Managing Marine Resources. Image courtesy of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska.

The Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska (ICC AK), in collaboration with partners, is pleased to release this important report about Inuit Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance. This Inuit-led research and report, resulting from a three-year co-production of knowledge project, illuminates the unique and rich Inuit values and management practices that have successfully safeguarded the Arctic for thousands of years. The report further links Inuit Food Sovereignty to holistic and adaptive management strategies that can ensure the food security and well-being of Inuit throughout the Arctic for generations to come, along with the health of the entire ecosystem.

Figure 2. Map of Inuit homelands. The Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska is part of the international non-governmental organization, Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). ICC represents approximately 180,000 Inuit from across Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia).  The organization holds Economic and Social Council NGO Consultative Status II at the United Nations and is a Permanent Participant at the Arctic Council. Image courtesy of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska. Figure 2. Map of Inuit homelands. The Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska is part of the international non-governmental organization, Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). ICC represents approximately 180,000 Inuit from across Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). The organization holds Economic and Social Council NGO Consultative Status II at the United Nations and is a Permanent Participant at the Arctic Council. Image courtesy of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska.

Inuit food security is founded upon a holistic understanding of the Arctic, one in which Inuit are a part of the ecosystem and their physical, cultural, mental, and spiritual health are profoundly related to the environment. There is an undeniable connection between food sovereignty and food security. Food sovereignty is the right of Inuit to define their own hunting, gathering, fishing, land, and water policies; the right to define what is sustainably, socially, economically, and culturally appropriate for the distribution of food and to maintain ecological health. Without food sovereignty we cannot realize food security.

To further understand what supports and impedes Inuit food sovereignty, this report explores the management and co-management systems through the lens of four case studies (walrus, char, beluga, and salmon) in Alaska and Inuvialuit Settlement Region of Canada. Legal systems summarized in the report were formed at a time when Indigenous Knowledge and Inuit management approaches were not given the respect and recognition they deserve by western cultures.

For thousands of years, Inuit have thrived in the Arctic. Inuit values—including respect, collaboration, and sharing—all aid in supporting healthy and harmonious relationships and communities. These values are the core of Inuit traditional management practices. Western management systems overlaid on top of traditional Inuit practices often take a different approach, sometimes grounded in historical discrimination. This report elevates our values, knowledge, and practices to bring forward the roles and perspectives of Inuit to support equity and food sovereignty.

Throughout this work, the authors emphasized the importance of law and policy reforms needed to capture the perspectives of Inuit. In addition, the interpretation and implementation of such law and policy must be understood in relation to how they support or impede our food sovereignty in a rapidly changing Arctic.

All of the dimensions of self-determination related to management and co-management are reflected in the transformative recommendations offered by the contributing authors. These recommendations span across national and international realms. If implemented, the recommendations will support Inuit food sovereignty, holistic and adaptive decision-making, and the well-being of the entire Arctic.

This project was conducted in partnership with the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Association of Village Council Presidents, Environmental Law Institute, and advised by ICC Canada.

This report will be of use to a broad spectrum of people. Inuit communities and co-management groups may use the reports to aid in communicating with those from outside their communities. Decision-makers, federal/state/territorial governments, academics, environmentalists, researchers, policy-makers, and industry will find the Final Report a useful tool to enhance their understanding of the Arctic. This includes an understanding between inter-connecting components, such as the connections between food sovereignty and climate change, monitoring, language, ecosystem-based approach, the impacts of imposed borders, and the strength and resilience of Inuit culture. Overall, the transformative recommendations put forward by the Inuit contributing authors support Inuit food sovereignty, food security, self-determination, and overall holistic adaptive decision-making for the well-being of the entire Arctic.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1732373. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Access to this report can be found on the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska website. For further information, see: the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) and Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council.

About the Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska

Founded in 1977 by the late Eben Hopson of Barrow, Alaska, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) has flourished and grown into a major international non-government organization representing approximately 180,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). The organization holds Consultative Status II at the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is a Permanent Participant at the Arctic Council. To thrive in our circumpolar homeland of Inuit Nunaat, we had the vision to realize that we must speak with a united voice on issues of common concern and combine our energies and talents towards protecting and promoting our way of life. ICC represents the interests of Inuit and we have offices in four Arctic regions – Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka. Though each of our communities are unique, we are one people, in a single homeland, across four countries.

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30 September 2020 Issue

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