Inuit Students Dive into Diplomacy

Inuit students share a special performance at the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) for the Norwegian MP Margunn Ebbesen

Ambassador Artur Wilczynski and Inuit students discuss Norwegian culture.

Traditional throat singing and drumming echoes around the room as 18 Inuit students share a special performance with Ambassador Andree Cooligan. These students flew across the Atlantic to learn more about the Sámi people, indigenous populations living in the north of Europe.

They are part of Nunavut Sivuniksavut, an Ottawa college-level program, that provides Inuit youth with unique cultural and academic learning experiences that will allow them to develop the knowledge, skills and positive attitudes needed to contribute to the building of Nunavut.

Students have the opportunity to travel abroad and explore the experiences of other indigenous communities in the world. This year, students selected the Sámi populations of both Finland and Norway.

Revitalizing Culture

Inuit students with Ambassador Artur Wilczynski at the Canadian Embassy.

According to the United Nations Regional Information Centre on Europe, there are roughly 9,000 Sámi people living in Finland. The United Nations reports that land rights and language issues are top concerns for Sámi people in Finland and Norway.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons” – Article 13, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Nunavut Sivuniksavut students split up into two groups with 18 students going to Finland and 14 students headed to Norway to better understand the challenges of both communities.

The Canadian Embassy of Finland organized a reception for the visiting delegation. The students were welcomed by Ambassador Cooligan at the residence along with local guests from the indigenous Sámi community.

The Embassy also helped in organizing a performance for the delegation at a northern Sámi language nest in Helsinki, which was followed visits at the University of Helsinki where students met with an Indigenous Studies professor as well as a professor of Sámi languages and with Finnish political stakeholders.

Language Building

In Oslo, the second group of Nunavut Sivuniksavut students met with Ambassador Artur Wilczynski. The Ambassador asked the students what they would like to share with Norwegians about Canada, so that he can better represent them.

“He asked us all kinds of questions about what we learned from the Sami in Norway. We ended up talking a lot about the parallels between Sami language and Inuktitut, and how keeping our language is so important to our cultures…what a cool ambassador!” – Surya Angatajuak, Student from Nunavut Sivuniksavut

The Inuit students visit of Norway and Finland represents further cooperation between the indigenous peoples of the Arctic from Canada and the Nordic countries. This was an opportunity to share Canadian heritage and indigenous culture with local stakeholders and show support for future manifestations of indigenous peoples’ international cooperation.

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