Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 70

70 Arctic Yearbook 2014 the attitude of Arctic indigenous peoples themselves. The present paper reports on how Arctic indigenous communities are working collaboratively and across national boundaries to change the course of indigenous language shift through the Arctic Indigenous Language Vitality Initiative: Assessing, Monitoring, and Promoting. We focus on the three themes around which the project is organized: the assessment of language vitality, language policy, and language acquisition. The circumpolar Arctic is undergoing radical climate change and equally radical cultural disruption. To name just a few examples, some communities are relocated due to coastal erosion, while others are displaced due to an influx of foreign development, and changes in the plant and animal ecologies alter their traditional food sources. Language shift is an integral part of cultural disruption in this region: of the 50 or so indigenous languages spoken in the circumpolar Arctic, all but Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) are endangered. An indigenous-driven project, the Arctic Indigenous Language Initiative (or simply referred to as the “project” here) is working to reverse language shift through active engagement and collaboration throughout the circumpolar region. The project is defined and determined by the Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council, who aim to collaborate with researchers, representatives from Arctic Indigenous organizations and Arctic governments, language activists, and policy makers, to assess and promote Arctic indigenous languages. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum made up of the eight Arctic nation states: Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States. The Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council comprise the six transnational indigenous Arctic groups: Aleut International Association; the Arctic Athabaskan Council; Gwich’in Council International; the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC); the Saami Council; and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON). In this paper we present the views of our collaborators on the project, but our interpretation is in part determined by our own attitudes, experiences and roles. Grenoble is an external linguist who specializes in language shift, revitalization and vitality, with many years of experience working with indigenous peoples in the Arctic, and serves as project coordinator. Olsen is a linguist specializing in the Inuit language, with expertise in Yup’ik and Inuit regional dialects as a whole. An Inuit political leader, he has many decades of service to the Inuit Circumpolar Council from its establishment until the present day. He is Chair of the Greenland Government’s Language Committee and the Place Names Authority, and has served on the Personal Names Committee. He has also been working with language issues in the Nordic context and took part in revision of the Nordic Language Convention and Nordic Language Policy Declaration of 2006. Within the context of Arctic Indigenous Language Vitality project that is the focus of the present article, he serves as the Chair of the Steering Committee under the Sustainable Development Working Group. Throughout the present paper, we strive to present the views of the many different representatives of the Permanent Participants working on this project and so the authorial “we” here represents our collective voice. Grenoble & Olsen (Puju)