Greenland’s Arctic Riches
April 28, 2012 by Alexandra Giese
Mr. Aqqaluk Lynge, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), visited campus in February through the Dickey Center and spoke to the Dartmouth community about indigenous Northerners’ rights as well as the tension between the economic and environmental impacts of Arctic development.
IGERT students attending IPY had an opportunity to see him speak again at Tuesday’s Keynote address. He spoke passionately about the necessity of collaboration between and, indeed, mutual reliance of Inuit communities and scientists, offering that the Inuit “welcome the opportunity…of working with scientists from around the world.” He believes that traditional knowledge and science must work in concert: with indigenous knowledge furthering scientists’ understanding of the Arctic regions and science serving to protect the Inuits’ “homes and culture.” He implored scientists to view scientific and indigenous knowledge as “two ways of knowing,” neither of which merits more weight than the other. After all, indigenous knowledge is rooted in experience and observation, much like scientific knowledge.
Mr. Lynge spoke, too, of the rights of his people with respect to culture, language, health, and employment. Greenland is a land of resources—renewable and nonrenewable, living and nonliving—but development must proceed with investment in and awareness of the social dimension. Climate change’s impact on Inuit culture and livelihoods has prompted particularly great concern, and Lynge spends much of his time sharing local grievances over fish supply, shipping traffic, and ice melt with the international community. He regularly reminds his people that just as they have adapted in the past, they will adapt also in the future. He reminded the IPY audience of scientists and policymakers that “[the Arctic] is not a place with minerals or a science lab. It is our home.”
In a particularly direct and poignant conclusion, Mr. Lynge shared a poem he wrote as a student reflecting on colonialism:
“But what you believe we do not believe.
What you don’t know we do know.
What you know we know as well,
for these are our Arctic riches.”
IGERT students in Nuuk, Greenland with Mr. Lynge in 2010