The Circumpolar Dimension

Canada's Aboriginal people, nations within a nation, have defined the position of the country in the circumpolar world. This contribution has been instrumental in identifying the country as a true northern circumpolar nation.

The cultural history of indigenous people tends to a ready identification with their cousins in other circumpolar nations. Geographical boundaries have never been considered to be of much importance to indigenous people. Relationships with other people are more often considered in terms of common cultural ideals, and in terms of common interests in land and water and other renewable resources. Consequently, the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are often found contributing to international fora, which contribute to world peace, sustainable development, racial harmony, and common understanding.

Canada's role in the circumpolar world is defined by its participation in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum established in September 1996 in Ottawa, Canada, with Canada being the founding Chair (see Arctic Council). Canada's Aboriginal people are involved in three of the six Permanent Participants, namely the Arctic Athabascan Council, Gwich'in Council International, and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC). The other three Permanent Participants are the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), the Aleut International Association, and the Saami Council. Canada's indigenous people are also involved in many of the more than 20 Observer countries and organizations.

It is curious as to why Canada's indigenous people tend to be so greatly involved with international relations. It stems from their strong cultural beliefs and ideals, and especially from their mutual respect for all races. They strongly believe in their place as one of the four basic groups of people in the world: red, black, yellow, and white. They often speak of their place on the "Red Road."

It is not only the Arctic peoples who contribute to Canada's place in the circumpolar world. The Mid-Canada Corridor, defined by the vast area of boreal forest, includes many First Nations who consider themselves part of the circumpolar world. All across the Mid-Canada Corridor, as mentioned earlier, indigenous people in remote communities tend to ignore provincial boundaries, and look to their place relative to land and water, in terms of their location in different river basins for example.

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