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Arctic minor participates in UArctic course

September 18, 2020

The University of Washington is an institutional member of the University of the Arctic, a cooperative network of universities, colleges, research institutes and other organizations concerned with education and research in and about the North. As an institutional member, UW students can take UArctic courses at no cost and apply those credits to their transcript. This summer, Stephanie Masterman, a major in American Indian Studies and minor in Arctic Studies, enrolled in Circumpolar Studies 100 through UArctic. She shares her experience here:

This summer I had the unique opportunity to participate in a UArctic course hosted by the member institution Trent University. The course, Introduction to the Circumpolar World, was held online with students participating from around the world. Many of the students were from Canadian provinces and others were from Russia and, like myself, the United States. As an Arctic Studies student at the University of Washington, I was eager to engage with other students studying Arctic environments, peoples, and policies from not only different countries, but from different places within the Arctic circle too. We learned about the diverse geography and Indigenous cultures of the Arctic circle, as well as the complex history of colonization in different communities.

The primary focus of the course was to introduce students to the Arctic’s diverse and therefore complex leadership by simulating an Arctic Council meeting. The Arctic Council’s role in shaping international policy is critical for addressing Arctic Indigenous peoples’ concerns and so I was excited for the chance to represent an Indigenous community in our model Arctic Council simulation. The Arctic Council includes eight-member states such as Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, the United States and six Indigenous peoples organizations, called Permanent Participants, which include the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami Council.

My partner, who was based out of Ontario, and I worked together researching for a couple of weeks to be able to adequately represent Gwich’in Council International in the effort to shape policy around micro plastic pollution in Arctic waters. As an Indigenous person, I appreciate the Arctic Council’s inclusion of Indigenous leadership but I know there is need for even stronger Indigenous leadership and community engagement. The course inspired me to work toward advancing Indigenous leadership in international policy, specifically by fortifying the use of Indigenous ecological knowledge in shaping such policy. The model Arctic Council simulation was a lot of fun and I hope that there will be an opportunity to participate in person in the future.

The Arctic Studies minor is an interdisciplinary offering from the Canadian Studies Center and the School of Oceanography, in collaboration with the University of the Arctic. Students in this minor gain skills relevant to addressing major science and policy issues in the Arctic, and are trained to work with international organizations, national governments, and sub-national organizations towards that end.

For more information about the Arctic Studies minor, please contact