Inuit conference 'a matter of survival'
WebPosted Aug 12 2002 09:02 AM CDT
Kuujjuaq, P.Q. - Climate change, language, and cultural survival are among the topics Inuit from around the world are gathering to discuss in a northern Quebec community. Close to 800 people have gathered in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik this week for the meeting of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.
The international organization has represented Inuit from Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada for 25 years. It now meets every four years to discuss issues that concern Inuit.
Politicians, dignitaries, musicians, elders and youth began arriving over the weekend for the four-day event.
In Kuujjuaq, workers raced to complete last-minute preparations to the community's new $9 million cultural centre. In the auditorium, throatsingers, drum dancers and dignitaries prepared for Monday's opening of the conference.
While the delegates come from different countries across the Arctic, they'll discuss concerns they have in common. Among the top concerns are preserving Inuit language and culture, trade and development between the regions, and the impact of climate change on the Inuit way of life.
"We all have to talk about climate change," says Holman resident Joseph Haluksit. "We've been seeing changes for a long time now, earlier break up, it gets warm earlier and you know, different atmosphere."
George Berthe is with Makivik Corporation in Nunavik. He's been to meetings of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference before. Berthe says the importance of the meetings go beyond the items on the agenda.
"We've dealt a lot of issues, passed a lot of resolutions," he says. "But the most memorable events and things that happened to me at I.C.C. are making friends, creating dialogue with other regions and also after the meeting keeping those connections."
Makka Kleist, an I.C.C. delegate from Greenland, says bringing Inuit together from around the circumpolar world is a key to survival.
"It's our existence, it's a question about whether we want to exist for another 1,000 years or a couple of years," he says. "It's a question of far beyond what we can imagine right now."
Meetings of youth and elders from around the Arctic are also being held this week, as is a music festival each evening.
Preparing for the conference has been a huge job for the town of 2,000. With space at a premium, the mayor of Kuujjuaq says people have moved out of their own homes to make everyone feel welcome.
"People were very kind," says Michael Gordon. "Some families left their homes to live in either their cabin, their shack or their tent in order for I.C.C. to take the house for its use."
The event wraps up on Thursday.
Website: ICC 2002 Conference Home Page
Website: Inuit Circumpolar Conference Organization
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