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Out of sight

Policy of the most Arctic-rim states towards indigenous peoples needed to be revised

Out of sight

The key problems of indigenous peoples which are largely socio-economic in nature still remain out of sight of polar states. The 13th Arctic Parliamentary Conference unfortunately, is no exception.

The Conference was held in mid-September, delegations from all members of Arctic Council took place in this global event. Today this largest international organization designed to solve the problems of the Arctic includes 8 countries - Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden. The conference was also attended by representatives of the observer countries of the Council - China and Singapore, as well as a number of international organizations - in particular members of the European Parliament.

One of the key topic of the Conference was availability of education for residents of the northern regions of the planet. There were a lot of stormy discussions around this issue but the others equally important problems were not addressed.

We list only some of them. First, there is still no documentary evidence that people living in the territory of the Arctic states belongs to the indigenous peoples. This is necessary for them to obtain guaranteed rights. Second, the circumpolar countries should think about creating a mechanism that would allow to take into account the opinion of northerners - when we talk about t industrial development of the Arctic. This can seriously strike on the ecology of the region and disrupt the lifestyle of those who inhabit it. It would be nice to work out the question of compensation for losses caused as a result of this «development».

Finally, it is necessary to significantly increase the amount of financial support for the indigenous peoples of the subarctic countries, as well as to work out the mechanisms of the system of public control over the funds that are planned to be allocated for those needs. And this is only a small part of the problems.

Social issues require special attention. High mortality due to alcoholism, suicide and violence, low levels of medicine and crime lead to a sharp reduction in the number of the indigenous peoples within the borders of the Arctic region. And with this, of course, need to do something.

At present, the indigenous population of Alaska are about 105 thousand people while in 2000 about 115 thousand lived in the region. Moreover - despite the special health programs today the residents of the North have a higher suicide rate - 50.9% of cases per 100 000 population. This is four (!) times the national average. The «backbone» of this risk group is predominantly female.

According to the Association for the Prevention of Torture (ATP) today murder  is one of the main causes of death among American Indians and Alaskan natives aged 10 to 24 years.

According to Rewire.News, almost every family has it’s own story about a missing or dead relative. At the same time, the authorities absolutely ignore requests to help in searching for the missing and continue to hush up the existing problem.  Indigenous women are not perceived as significant victims. First, we need to prove our innocence: that no one drank and did not come off at a party, Carmen O’Leary, coordinator of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains said.

At the same time, the authorities keep statistics of missing persons including all groups of the population, but for some reason they do not include there women of the indigenous peoples of the United States. There is still no database with reliable information about the number of missing women. At the same time communities and reservations continue to claim that the number of those who left and never returned continues to grow each year.

The last shocking story took place last August. The body of 22-year-old Savanna Lafontaine-Graywind was discovered near Red River in North Dakota. She was pregnant. In early October U.S. representatives Norma J. Torres and Thomas J.Cole
presented the “Savanna’s Act” - a bill named in honour of victims. In this document they called on the American political community to reconside its position on indigenous peoples. We are talking about improving the quality of data collection on federal crimes of this kind and creating a protocol that will allow to react on messages about killings and disappearances of the native Americans. The act could be the first step towards reforming the system, but the document is still ignored by the authorities.

The situation in Denmark is no better. It’ s citizens for a long time treated their closest neighbors, the Greenlanders, as a second-rate people. First of all Danish deprived Greenlanders of the right to their own cultural identity. Now the official language of the island is considered to be Greenland, and the first foreign language is Danish. However, in the near future the situation may change. In May the local newspaper Sermitsiak reported that the leaders of the Danish coalition parties presented a special agreement. According to the document, in the near future the Danish language, which is currently used as the first and only foreign language, will be replaced by English. Besides, the Danish will be replaced by Еnglish in local schools too. Thus Denmark tries to impose Western values and priorities to Greenland.

It becomes obvious: the policy of the Arctic states in relation to the indigenous peoples living in the Arctic Circle is formal and contributes to their extinction. The circumpolar countries create only an illusion of support but this is not a matter of further discussion and concept development. While for Russia, improving the quality of life of small peoples of the North is becoming a priority of the Arctic policy. The originality, unique knowledge and practical experience of northerners can help in developing the Arctic.

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