On November 22-25,1973, representatives of the Arctic Peoples of Canada (Inuit, Indians, Métis, and NonStatus Indians), Greenland (Greenlandic Inuit), and Europe (the Saami) met at an international conference. This was the first time Arctic indigenous peoples organized a conference by themselves and for themselves.
The initiative was taken by James Wah-Shee, the president of the Federation of Natives North of 60° and the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories, together with Joe Jacqueot, vice-president of the Federation of Natives North of 60°, who represented Métis and NonStatus Indians in Northern Canada. Jacqueot and Wah-Shee traveled to Denmark to discuss the idea of an Arctic Peoples' Conference with the Greenlanders living in Copenhagen. Next, Robert Petersen, assistant professor of the Department of Eskimology at the University of Copenhagen, together with Angmalortoq Olsen, president of the Greenlanders' Association in Denmark, sent out the invitations to Arctic Peoples in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
The conference was organized by Petersen and his colleague Helge Kleivan at the University of Copenhagen. To express its understanding of the importance of the conference, the Danish Government provided Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament building, as a venue.
The Canadian delegation included representatives from the Federation of Natives North of 60°, the Inuit
Tapirisat of Canada (ITC, now Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami), the Committee of Original Peoples Entitlement, the Indian Brotherhood of Northwest Territories, the Yukon Native Brotherhood, the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians, and the Métis and Non-Status Association of the Northwest Territories.
The Saami people were represented by the Nordic Saami Council, the Nordic Saami Institute, as well as by organizations from each of the Scandinavian countries: the Saami Association of Norway, the Reindeer Breeders' Association of Norway, the Saami Association of Sweden, and the Saami Parliament of Finland.
Greenlandic Inuit were represented by the Provincial Council of Greenland as well as three trade organizations: the Workers' Union, the Fishermens and Hunters' Association, and the Sheep Farmers Association. The organization for women in Greenland, Arnat Peqatigiit, was also invited. The Greenlanders living in Denmark were represented by two organizations: the Greenlanders' Association (Peqatigiit Kalaallit) and the Young Greenlanders' Association.
Two resolutions concluded the conference. The first described the need to support and nurture indigenous cultures and their unique features, through recognition of collective ownership of land and waters traditionally used and occupied and through recognition of indigenous rights by the respective governments. A second resolution proposed to form a circumpolar body of indigenous peoples to pursue collective interests. A working committee was established to pursue this second resolution. The committee did not succeed in organizing a new conference. The initiative was not, however, lost. In October 1975, the First World Council of Indigenous Peoples was held in Port Alberta, Canada, and in June 1977 the First Inuit Circumpolar Conference was held at Barrow, Alaska. This second conference followed up the Arctic Peoples' Conference focus on the culture shared by Inuit and other Arctic peoples.
Elis, Wendy (editor), Minutes of the First International Arctic Peoples' Conference, Christiansborg, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 22-25, 1973, Ottawa: Inuit Tapirisat of Canada
Kleivan, Inge, "The Arctic Peoples' Conference in Copenhagen, November 22-25, 1973." Etudes/Inuit/Studies, 16(1-2) (1992): 227-236
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