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Inuit in the Arctic: Confronting Western Worldviews

January 31, 2016


Our Arctic Task Force team sat down for a lunchtime session with Pitseolak Pfiefer, currently in his third year of undergraduate studies at Carleton University studying Political Science, to discuss Inuit communities of Canada and their fight to improve government policies concerning Arctic land claim agreements and socioeconomic situations. Mr. Pfiefer is involved in the discussion of indigenous rights throughout Canada and in his hometown of Iqaluit, Nunavut. After many years of political activism in the Arctic, he moved to Ottawa to pursue an academic degree. He offered to speak to our class about his personal experience as a person of indigenous descent in Canada and give intimate insight into the lives of Inuit and their struggle to reclaim their identity and spiritual connection to Arctic land. Our discussion shed light on the colonial language surrounding Inuit and the territory of Nunavut. Detrimental words are used to describe Inuit as ‘cooperative’ and Nunavut as a ‘young territory,’ making it difficult for the indigenous people of the Arctic to define their place within modern society. Nunavut is still in the process of being recognized as a part of Canada and the Arctic Council has had difficulty implementing Inuit ideologies into its framework. Mr. Pfiefer shared various realizations about Canadian society and government in dealing with the Arctic and the various social upheavals that have resulted from poor decision-making. By the end of our meeting together, our class was still bursting with questions and hopefully we will continue to keep in contact with him in order to incorporate his valuable input into our final report. The University of Washington’s Arctic and Canadian Studies programs will continue to forge a relationship with Mr. Pfiefer, an advocate for Inuit rights and an invaluable asset to future research on the indigenous people of the Arctic.

By: Kelsey Brewster

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.