Inuit as Circumpolar People
Founded in 1977 by the late Eben Hopson of Barrow, Alaska, the Inuit Circumpolar Council — an organization dedicated to representing approximately 160,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka (Russia) — celebrated 40 years of service in advancing Arctic and Inuit issues globally in 2017. Since its founding, ICC has become one of the most respected international Indigenous organizations, and a trusted and compelling voice for Inuit in Arctic global issues. The organization holds Consultative Status II at the United Nations, meaning the UN looks to it for knowledge and expertise about the Arctic, and is also a permanent participant within the Arctic Council. ICC is represented at many international meetings on issues such as climate change, wildlife, contaminants, language, housing, circumpolar health, food security, shipping, economic development, infrastructure and Arctic research.
Founder Eben Hopson believed that in order for Inuit to thrive in their circumpolar homelands, they had to speak with a united voice on issues of common concern and combine their energy and talents toward protecting and promoting their way of life.
The principal goals of ICC are:
- to strengthen unity among Inuit of the circumpolar region;
- to promote Inuit rights and interests on an international level;
- to develop and encourage long-term policies that safeguard the Arctic environment; and
- to seek full and active partnership in the political, economic and social development of circumpolar regions.
Since its founding, ICC has become one of the most respected international Indigenous organizations, and a trusted and compelling voice for Inuit in Arctic global issues.
The mandate for ICC comes from the declarations negotiated by Inuit every four years at the general assemblies. The general assembly is a time for Inuit to come together from all four countries across the circumpolar region, elect a new chair and an executive council, develop policies and commit to action that will guide the activities of the organization for the coming term. The general assembly is the heart of the organization, providing an opportunity for sharing information, discussing common concerns, debating issues and strengthening the bonds between all Inuit.
With offices in the United States, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka (Russia), ICC welcomes partnerships and relationships that support Inuit rights. For ICC Canada, rights in the Canadian Constitution and land claims agreements take primacy, as well as the rights that are entrenched in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — rights to pursue our cultural heritage, sustain our livelihoods to achieve a standard of education, housing, food security and health that most Canadians enjoy.
The Arctic is our home, but Inuit recognize that the Arctic is also a globally significant region. Advocacy and research provide opportunities to address community priorities and facilitate international cooperation, but it’s also a chance to build capacity and to diversify Arctic economies and build social enterprises to improve the living conditions of Inuit communities. Within Inuit Nunaat, the circumpolar Inuit homeland, these efforts must centre on Inuit self-determination.
ICC has led on issues of climate change, environmental contaminants, wildlife management, economic development and education in past years. Inuit have occupied the circumpolar Arctic for millennia, carving a strong and adaptable culture from the snow and ice. We have survived famines, the little ice age, Vikings, whalers, missionaries and residential schools. And we intend to survive a changing Arctic by elevating and promoting all communities together. This was the vision of Eben Hopson, the father of ICC whose dream was that no Inuit community would be left behind.
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