Welcome to Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle is commonly associated with the 66th parallel - a geographic ring crowning the globe. A broader definition includes the Arctic and Subarctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Siberia and the Russian Far East. A territory of immense beauty far removed from the industrial heartland of North America, Western Europe, and East Asia, it is also rich in mineral and other natural resources. As such, it has long been a prime target for economic development by multinational corporations and government policy-makers - as well as a prime focus for protection by environmentalists and wildlife conservationists.

From the vantage point of Native northerners, the Arctic Circle and adjacent region is viewed differently. As expressed by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, an international non-governmental organization, the Arctic is not simply an exploitable frontier for economic growth or a wildlife preserve for southern visitors. Its indigenous inhabitants " ... must allow for and facilitate spiritual, social, and cultural development." Of special significance is the linking of nature with 'stewardship' in which the people are active articipants within their historically-based lands, rather than rulers over them. Valuing these lands for their source of livelihood as well as spiritual and cultural meaning, northern peoples regularly find themselves the target of industrial capital's thrust to acquire resources worldwide. As a result, control over and distribution of lands and resources have become a crucial focus of struggle for circumpolar peoples everywhere - as well as a challenge to the sensibilities of many far to the south.

Thus, an Arctic Circle can also be thought of as groups of people with vested interests - indigenous northerners and 'newcomers,' scientists, policy-makers, corporate leaders, environmentalists, students, and others - sometimes in conflict and sometimes joining together around common concerns. Given the breadth of possibilities, some narrowing down is essential. For the purposes of this electronic circle, I have selected three themes that I feel are crucial to the future of the people, land, and waters of the Arctic and Subarctic region: natural resources, history and culture; social equity and environmental justice. In the following presentations you will find a broad range of textual materials, art, photographic exhibits, and occasional sound and short video recordings. All demonstrate the interconnectedness of these three themes; including how they have been shaped by diverse histories, political economies, and cultural perspectives.

Finally, with the assistance of additional contributors, I have initiated a series of studies comparing the environmental, social, and cultural impact of large scale natural resource development in various regions of the North. These case studies, together with the materials referred to above, are also being used in the virtual classroom linked to several colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. If you wish to learn more about any of these, or related issues pertaining to the Circumpolar North, you are most welcome to particiapte in this Arctic Circle.

Norman Chance

Convener: Norman Chance