Renewed spirit of hope, energy, and resilience among Inuit in Chukotka

Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Canada
Media release, Ottawa, 3 July 2003

Returning on June 24, 2003 from Provideniya and New Chaplino in Chukotka in the Russian Far East, Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the Iqaluit-based Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, reported a renewed sense of hope and optimism among the region's 1,500 Inuit, and an eagerness to work closely with Inuit organizations in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to promote sustainability and protect and celebrate Inuit culture.

"Four years ago ICC delivered humanitarian aid—boxes of food andmedicines—to Inuit in Chukotka. Times are changing. With the welcome assistance of Mr. Roman Abramovich, Governor of Chukotka and his administration, the situation of Inuit in Chukotka is visibly improving. People have a renewed sense of hope, purpose and direction, and are committed to standing on their own two feet," said Ms. Watt-Cloutier.

Social problems remain and the standard of living remains well below that in Arctic North America. Nevertheless, Ms. Watt-Cloutier applauded new investment in the region including construction by Ferguson, Simekand Clark (FSC), a Canadian company operating out of Yellowknife, of houses in New Chaplino, an Inuit community on the Bering Sea opposite western Alaska. She was told how impressed local people are with the after sales service provided by FSC.

Ms. Ludmilla Ainana, Chair of the Yupik Society of Chukotka, and Ms. Nataliya Rodionova, President of ICC Chukotka confirmed the ongoing economic recovery of the region following the collapse of the rouble in the Summer of 1998, and renewed investment in local infrastructure and housing. Ms. Ainana said "Inuit in Chukotka are no longer isolated and alone. We work with our friends in Canada, Alaska and Greenland. We are learning from them about self-government in Nunavut, Nunavik andGreenland."

Ms. Irina Appa, an Inuk from Provideniya, currently employed in the ICC office in Ottawa, accompanied Ms. Watt-Cloutier. Meeting her family for the first time in eight years, she helped Ms. Watt-Cloutier launch a Canadian sponsored community economic development pilot project to promote the marketing of aboriginal arts and crafts.

This pilot project was developed under ICC Canada's ongoing Institution Building for Northern Russia Indigenous Peoples Project, with the objectives of establishing a network of aboriginal arts and crafts suppliers in Chukotka, a centralized marketing centre, and a quality control system including product labeling. Co-funded by ICC Canada, ICC Chukotka, the Government of Chukotka and Cherny International Inc., a Swiss-based art dealer specializing in Inuit art, this pilot project shows the value of international partnerships in promoting economic development in the Russian Far East.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier praised the efforts of Governor Abramovich, supported by Irina Degtyar, and senior officials of the Chukotka administration in Moscow to work with Inuit organizations in Chukotka. She vowed to return.

For additional information contact:

Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, phone (+1) 867-979-4661
Mr. Oleg Shakov, phone (+1) 613-831-0979, or
Ms. Corinne Gray, phone (+1) 613-563-2642