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Researchers sign letter requesting Indigenous input on new Arctic initiative

File Photo: Researchers look out from the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as the sun sets over...
File Photo: Researchers look out from the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as the sun sets over sea ice in the Victoria Strait(WILX)
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 4:17 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Over 200 researchers nationwide have signed an open letter to the National Science Foundation requesting more indigenous input on the new arctic research initiative “Navigating the New Arctic (NNA).”

The letter seeks to dismantle the barriers that prevent Indigenous participation within arctic research. The letter went on to say, “We believe that NNA falls short of its potential because opportunities for full and equitable participation by Indigenous communities remain inadequate. We are unwilling to be silently complicit in an inequitable system. We support the call for greater Indigenous community leadership expressed in the March 19, 2020 letter to NNA from Melanie Bahnke, President, Kawerak Inc.; Vivian Korthuis, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Village Council Presidents; Amos Philemonoff, President, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island; and Mellisa Johnson, Executive Director, Bering Sea Elders Group.”

The letter was signed by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers with the goal of fulfilling several obligations: Enhance scientific merit, achieve broader impact, and work to achieve racial justice and broaden participation.

The letter discusses how impactful Indigenous participation has been to arctic research and how those who have helped were not recognized adequately for their contribution. “They have shared their knowledge, engaged intellectually, and provided logistical support for countless projects. They have often not been recognized adequately for these and more contributions to research,” the letter describes.

The letter also condemns systematic barriers that stem from colonization, racism, and cross-cultural conflicts; perpetuate such inequality and cause lasting harm. “Recognizing and overcoming these barriers is necessary to improve Indigenous peoples’ access to all aspects of the research enterprise - as scholars, partners, and beneficiaries of scientific advances. Building capacity for successful integration and engagement also includes educating and supporting outside researchers so that they are better prepared to understand the community and historical context of their work. Removing barriers to participation and increasing capacity for knowledge co-production will increase the benefits of the national investment in arctic research.”

The letter ends with a call for partnership with Arctic Indigenous Peoples to co-produce a more fair system for funding, disseminating results of arctic research, and emphasizing Indigenous leadership and involvement throughout.

The letter can be read in it’s entirety here.

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