The Borealis concept originated in Yakutsk in 2002. Kathleen Osgood, the Center of Circumpolar Studies, together with Claudia Fedorova and Liudmila Zamorshchikova , NEFU, collaborated on several iterations of Borealis courses in literature, storytelling, and cinema over the years, but they all  kept saying that what was really needed was a course in shamanism.   

Together with Eleanor Ott, who is also from the CCS, Kathleen Osgood designed Anima Borealis, a full 3-credit course and did a pilot run with great success in the fall of 2013. The lectures and guest performances of that course are available on YouTube (search Anima Borealis).

Another important role played Antioch University New England, which became a new member of the University of the Arctic in 2014, and wanted to find a way to participate meaningfully in the mission of UArctic. Working with Antioch's Environmental Studies Program, the team devised a way to offer the course at both the graduate level through Antioch and at the undergraduate level at NEFU in the Sakha Republic. 

The course opened successfully on Fenruary 8, 2016 on Arctic's Virtual Learning Tool platform, thanks to the work of Aevar Karlsson at the University of Akureryri in Iceland.