Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 17

17 Arctic Yearbook 2015        The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, which transferred approximately 99 million acres (40 million hectares) of public land to native Alaskans, along with a US$962.5 million settlement; The attainment of Home Rule in 1979 and then Self-Rule in 2009 in Greenland, which transferred control over a wide variety of governance functions from the Kingdom of Denmark to Greenland, including the right to revenues from non-renewable resource development; The establishment of Sami Parliaments in Norway (1989), Sweden (1993), and Finland (1996) and a Kola Sami Assembly in Russia (2010); Cultural self-determination in Finland (1996), and the Finnmark Act in Norway in 2005; The establishment of the territory of Nunavut in 1999 and the settlement of land claims in the four Canadian Inuit regions of Nunavik (1975), Inuvialuit (1984), Nunavut (1993), and Nunatsiavut (2005); The negotiation of the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act in 1994; and The devolution of additional governance functions to Yukon in 1993 and 2003, and Northwest Territories in 2013. These are among the most progressive arrangements for devolving governance and governing powers and responsibilities to geographically and ethnically marginalized populations in the world, and in particular are a model for promoting the self-determination of indigenous peoples. Why did these innovative, even revolutionary, agreements cluster in the Arctic? Part of the answer is that many of these agreements occurred in underpopulated areas, particularly in North America and the Nordic region, where European migrants had settled only marginally and indigenous inhabitants still made up the majority, and where administrative structures were still relatively flexible. This made the political and economic costs associated with devolution bearable to Southern voters/taxpayers. Another factor was the introduction of devolution processes, much based on the Nordic model, after World War II, when the northernmost regions started to adopt/accept modernization. Devolution assisted northern regions to become more resilient, and prepared them for self-determination and self-governing functions, as the Home Rule Government of Greenland shows. And while it’s a stretch to think of indigenous policies of the Arctic states as having been benign, the fact that they are almost all liberal democracies gave the shared values of self-determination and pluralism an ability to translate into concrete policy. The comparatively limited governing powers granted to Russian indigenous and northern peoples is much more similar to the abrogation of agency endured by ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples around the globe. That said, most if not all northern indigenous and sub-national governments remain dependent on national governments for large public transfers and subsidies for the services expected in the modern welfare state for the past several decades. However it is also true that in the early 21st century the situation changed due to massscale fisheries and exploitation of hydrocarbons and other minerals, and the gross production of the Arctic region as a whole exceeded transfers by southern capitals (AHDR 2004), although with significant regional variation. De jure autonomy is not the same as de facto autonomy, and it remains to be seen if or how northern polities, with their huge geographical areas and small, often economically depressed, populations can Introduction