Inuit Circumpolar Council to hold 2018 general assembly in Utqiagvik

By Nunatsiaq News - April 7, 2017
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People walk on Stevenson Street in Utqiagvik on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. Voters approved changing the name of the city of Barrow to Utqiagvik in October, a change which went into effect on December 1. In Alaska’s northernmost city, however, residents remain divided about whether they name should’ve changed at all, whether the process was hurried, and whether the Utqiagvik is even the proper Inupiaq place name. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)
People walk on Stevenson Street in Utqiagvik on Tuesday, December 13, 2016.  (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Scores of Inuit delegates from Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Chukotka, Russia will gather next year in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, the community formerly known as Barrow, for the organization’s 13th general assembly, following a decision April 3 by the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s executive council.

The mayor of Utqiaġvik, Harry Brower Jr., has already committed his community to the hosting of the event, an ICC news release said.

“As Inuit, we are the people of the land in the Arctic who will continue to advance the livelihoods of our people through the unification of our innovative ideas within our circumpolar region,” Brower Jr. is quoted as saying in the news release.

[Inuit group plans collaborative economic development across national boundaries]

The ICC organizes its big general assemblies every four years, and held its last one in Inuvik in 2014, a meeting that produced the Kitigaaryuit Declaration.

At next year’s general assembly in Alaska, the current ICC international chair, Okalik Eegeesiak, will likely step down with the expiration of her term of office.

Following a longstanding precedent that sees the international chairmanship of the organization rotate among Greenland, Canada and Alaska, it’s also likely that the ICC will choose an Alaska leader to succeed Okalik.

“It is especially significant that the next assembly will be in Utqiaġvik, as this June we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the meeting convened here by Eben Hopson that led to the very establishment of ICC,” Okalik said in the ICC release.

The iconic whale bone arch is photographed on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, in Barrow, which will officially be renamed Utqiaġvik on Dec. 1, 2016. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)
The iconic whale bone arch is photographed on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, in the city which was then known Barrow, and which was officially renamed Utqiaġvik on Dec. 1, 2016. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)

At the organization’s executive council meeting in Utqiaġvik this week, members talked about the Arctic Council ministerial meeting to be held this May in Fairbanks, where the chairmanship of the Arctic Council will pass from the United States to Finland.

The ICC will issue a policy statement at the Fairbanks meeting, and in April, will send a delegation to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and “will continue to press for the enhanced participation of Indigenous Peoples in UN bodies,” the release said.

The organization also held an economic summit at the end of March in Anchorage and agreed to create a new body that will be called the International Inuit Business Council.

They plan two more summits: a wildlife management summit to be held in Iqaluit in the fall of 2017 and an education summit to be held in Greenland next winter.

Voters in the town of Barrow decided last year, by a narrow margin of only six votes, to change the name of their community to Utqiaġvik, or “place to gather wild roots.”

Barrow was named after Sir John Barrow, an early 19th century civil servant in the British admiralty who visited the Arctic only once, on a trip to Greenland when he was a teenager.

The change took effect this past Dec. 1, though the local native corporation, the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corp., has gone to court to oppose the name-change, on the grounds that the correct Iñupiat name is Ukpeaġvik: “place to hunt snowy owls.”