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Age of the Arctic – Age of Indigenous People?

“The return of the Sun to Tromsö” was the motto of Sunday night’s get-together ahead of the official conference opening on Monday. After two months of darkness, the sun officially comes back on Jan. 21st. We sampled the traditional sun-cakes and cocoa, which go down a treat in the cold, dark weather. Actually, I haven’t found it too cold so far. Tromsö benefits from the Gulf stream, and after the very cold weather we had in Germany at the turn of the year with temperatures down to -15 at times, today’s weather here didn’t feel too cold, thanks to a lack of wind and the dryness of the air.

There were two excellent traditional musicians performing tonight, Sara Marielle, a Sami musician from Norway, and Sylvia Cloutier, an Inuit musician from Canada.

They are two very impressive ladies with very different voices, but in harmony with each other, they would say because they share the same environment. Sylvia sings “throat music”, quite amazing, and also dances with a traditional Inuit drum.

Paul Dahlö, Chairman of Troms County government, gave the welcome speech at the start of this 3rd Arctic Frontiers conference. He noted the increased interest in the Arctic because of the milder climate rousing high hopes with a lot of people of tapping into previously inaccessible natural resources. He referred to the current gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, though, to illustrate how crucial stability is with regard to securing energy supplies. And that means governance of the Arctic region, a main theme over the next few days here.
There’s a considerable EU presence at the conference. The Troms chairman welcomed everybody, but I got the feeling it’s very important for people here to retain a strong influence in what happens in the region that is their home.
The other speaker was Steinar Pedersen, Principal of the Sami University College.

He is a charismatic story-teller, one of the people you could listen to all night. He told a traditional Sami tale which was all about not being arrogant but respectful towards nature. I interviewed him later and am looking forward to meeting him again tomorrow. If I had to sum up his message, I’d say it’s learn about sustainable use of our natural resources from indigenous people. And he calls for rules and regulations to be changed to allow them to have more say in what happens – and to share in any benefits gained from using resources of any kind up here.


January 18, 2009 | 9:39 pm



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