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Arctic 200: Arctic Indigenous Internationalism

June 24, 2019


Jason Young

This course introduced an interdisciplinary group of students, from majors all around University of Washington, to international relations in the Arctic. The Arctic provides an important case study for understanding international relations more broadly, both because of the complexity of geopolitical issues and because of the strong international presence of Indigenous peoples.

First, the Arctic is undergoing dramatic environmental, economic, and social transformation, with global implications. These transformations are giving rise to new forms of geopolitics between a wide range of actors, including international organizations, nation-state, and subnational groups. The course introduced students to these issues, including an overview of key international actors, governing bodies, and contemporary issues.

Second, the Arctic is unique in that Indigenous peoples are strong international actors in the region. The course took advantage of these dynamics by exploring Indigenous perspective on international relations in the Arctic. Indigenous knowledge systems not only serve as the basis for Indigenous diplomacies, but can offer a powerful counternarrative to the logics that are driving many of the harmful environmental and social changes in the region.

Students were introduced to Indigenous peoples, languages, and ways of thinking, and were challenged to understand international frameworks through the lens of Indigenous knowledge systems. At the end of the course, students applied their learning by writing a policy paper. Their task was to propose a policy that is supportive of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic, either by addressing a pressing challenge that they face or by addressing barriers that prevent Indigenous groups from solving their own problems. Students offered a broad range of innovative solutions to Arctic problems, targeting policies at actors ranging from the Arctic Council down to local government. Below, we invite you to explore some of the best policy papers that emerged from this great student work.