When decision makers, researchers and those interested in the Arctic discuss what is important for the future of the Arctic, it is essential that the dialogue and terminology is not solely research focused. We have spent decades collecting, reporting and publishing climate data. While it is still vital to a healthy future, I and many other circumpolar indigenous people believe that you cannot talk about environmental changes and impacts without realizing what it means to people’s health, cultural survival and identity. It should be and is indeed the same conversation to me and others who call the Arctic home.
Environmental research alone will not be enough to influence the changes needed to sustain the Arctic. The Arctic needs more research focused on the impacts of major climatic changes to its people, in collaboration with its people. At my university, Memorial University of Newfoundland, I have been a part of collaborative research projects focused on the subarctic environment and how to mitigate health impacts brought on by inadequate infrastructure. This collaborative research alone has had positive results, because it incorporated data and the perspectives, needs and concerns of the people it was impacting.
The same can be said about other tables. Until you incorporate indigenous and Arctic perspectives to any discussion about our Arctic, you will not be honoring the voices that matter the most in the Arctic. To achieve success in the Arctic today and in the future, collaboration and opportunities provided to youth such as this one – to write, to share and to hopefully impact how the Arctic is viewed on the global scale – will contribute positively to Arctic futures.