MAYOR EBEN HOPSON’S
INUIT CIRCUMPOLAR CONFERENCE
JUNE 13, 1977
The hopes with which I have looked forward to this day are difficult for me to properly express. My being here to welcome you today means that I have survived a personal ordeal for which I praise God.
Serious illness causes a man to examine himself closely. Now that I am well, I know in my heart that we will do important work here this week. I believe that we are blessed here this week.
We Inupiat live under four of the five flags of the Arctic coast. One of those four flags is badly missed here today. But at least in Denmark, Canada and the United States, it is generally agreed that we enjoy certain aboriginal legal rights as indigenous people of the Arctic. It is important that our governments agree about the status of these rights if they are to be uniformly respected.
To secure this agreement, we must organize to negotiate for it. This will take circumpolar community organization, for the status of our rights as Inupiat is necessarily the core of any successful protection of our mutual Arctic environmental security.
Our language contains the memory of four thousand years of human survival through the conservation and good managing of our Arctic wealth.
Ours is the language of the very environment that challenges the environmental safety of existing offshore technology.
Our language contains the intricate knowledge of the ice that we have seen no others demonstrate. Without our central involvement, there can be no safe and responsible Arctic resource development.
We have the right and duty to negotiate with our governments the terms under which we can safely share our sub-surface wealth with others more in need of it. My hope for this conference is that we fan organize to begin these negotiations. Arctic resource development has placed special pressures upon us to organize now to meet our responsibilities to the land.
I am pleased that we have the Saami delegation with us today. The Saami have developed the kind of relationship with their governments that we week with ours for the North American Inupiat community.
Working with our people in Greenland and Canada, the Saami have been active in the organization of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples through which the settlement of land claims has become a world-wide movement.
We must elevate our Input Arctic claims to the status of an international effort to secure equal justice all across the North American Arctic.
Little known in America is the status of Greenland’s home rule negotiations. Greenland’s future is important to all of us here. Home rule in Greenland must uphold North American standards for home rule and democratic self-determination. Our people in Greenland are forty percent of our entire Inupiat community.
Greenland’s home rule negotiations are an important part of our land claims movement. Through these negotiations, Denmark can become both an old and a new-world nation. And Greenland can become our link with the European Economic Community. We are only 100,000 but, working together, we can be strong far beyond our numbers.
Our strength must lie in home rule government. The ultimate result of our land claims movement will be the development of strong local government all across the North American Arctic. The defense of the world’s Arctic environmental security must rest upon the strength of local, home rule government.
The motivation behind the North Slope Borough’s work in the planning and conduct of this conference should be clear to all. The environmental security of our long municipal coastline depends upon the strength of home rule government in Canada and Greenland.
Only when there is effective home rule government for our people in Canada and Greenland will we be able to really trust any offshore operations in the Beau fort Sea, or in the Davis Strait.
I am confident that this conference will lay the foundation upon which we will be able to build this trust in the methods through which we are to share our oil and gas reserves with others.
Barrow is the seat of home rule in the North American Arctic. We are under constant attack by the oil corporations at Prudhoe Bay. I’m hoping we can place peace with the oil industry at this conference.
The oil industry should regard strong local government in the Arctic to be a good business investment, and a necessary result of all Arctic resource development. We badly need to be able to cooperate and plan with the industry. But there is no communication between us except as it takes place between our lawyers engaged in litigation between us. I’m hoping that we can turn this around this week.
You are here in Barrow during our Nalukataq, our whaling festival. You will be entertained by dancers from across the Arctic. You will taking part in a great celebration. We are glad you came.
Welcome home to Barrow.