In December 1997 we successfully changed our name from Foundation Innu Support Group to Arctic Peoples Alert. Arctic Peoples Alert will use the acquired experiences of the last years of the Innu Support Group.
During the debate in the Senate about Dutch ratification of ILO-Treaty 169 in the autumn of 1997, the name Arctic Peoples Alert was mentioned for the first time in Dutch politics.
On 16 May 1998, Arctic Peoples Alert and other organizations organized a first Arctic Forum Day on the issue of 'Arctic Peoples and Self-determination/Homerule'. The other co-organizers were: the National Museum for Ethnography in Leiden (west NL), Friends of the National Ethnographic Museum and the Research Group Circumpolar Cultures. About one hundred visitors participated in this day.
Arctic Peoples Alert participated in the following 1998 Dutch festivals: Festival Mundial in Tilburg (south NL), Full Colour Festival in Emmen ( northeast NL), Spiegels aan Zee in Rijswijk (west NL).
In May 1998 Arctic Peoples Alert participated in the ICASS-III conference (Changes in the Circumpolar North. Culture, Ethnics and Self-determination) in Copenhagen/Denmark.
In July two members of Arctic Peoples Alert were invited to the general assemble of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) in Nuuk/Greenland. The ICC is an international Inuit organization consisting of national and regional Inuit organizations in Canada, Greenland (Denmark), the Russian Federation (Chukotka) and the United States of America (Alaska). Besides these, also other supra-national organizations of Arctic indigenous peoples were present, like the Sami Council (Finland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden), and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) which represents 29 indigenous nations. In connection with the conference a unique Arctic cultural program was organized: the Circumpolar Drummers and Dancers Festival. During the conference many resolutions were adopted and the Inuit from Chukotka joined the ICC officially. The visit gave us the opportunity for an orientation on the actual and factual situation of indigenous peoples in Arctic regions. It also gave us the possibility to prepare the Museon exhibition and work on the activities that go with the exhibition. The Greenland government acknowledges the importance of the whole project and is the co-financier of parts of the program.
In close cooperation with the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen, we have organized a second Arctic Forum Day on the issue 'Arctic Nuclear Pollution: A Concern to The Netherlands?' This symposium took place in Groningen (north NL), 31 October 1998. The topic of this forum day underlines the Dutch concern for Arctic regions and is organized in the context of the intention of the Dutch government to help the Russian Federation in cleaning up the Barents Region. All in cooperation with the Norwegian government.
Meanwhile Arctic Peoples Alert published 6 issues of her new bulletin Arctica and one special issue about Greenland (21 September 1999). Each issue is printed in 2000 copies. Arctica is not only sent to all contributors of Arctic Peoples Alert, but also to politicians, civil servants, media representatives and NGOs. The bigger part of donors and contributors of the Foundation Innu Support Group continue to support Arctic Peoples Alert.
Museon The Hague
In close cooperation with many Danish and Greenlandic organizations, Arctic Peoples Alert was engaged in the preparations of a large exhibition in the Museon museum in The Hague: 'ESKIMOLAND, past, present and future of the Greenland INUIT'.
A few years ago the Museon moved to its present location. Since that time its unique Inuit collection has not been accessible to the public at large, but now substantial parts of it are on display. The title of the exhibition is derived from the book of Nobel prize winner Prof. Dr. Nico Tinbergen. He wrote Eskimoland after his journey to East-Greenland. He visited the area as a young biologist in 1933, right after he had finished his studies. The artifact collection Tinbergen then put together is the key collection of Inuit artifacts in the Museon and the basis for this exhibition.
The other key part of the collection dates from the period 1965-1985 and is collected by Drs. Gerti Nooter. He spent many years in East-Greenland and died in January 1998. The collection is completed by recently collected material and modern artifacts. The exhibition is scheduled from 24 April 1999 until 9 January 2000.
In our contribution to the exhibition we call attention to the importance of seal hunting for the Inuit, both in the past and today. In the western society seals have a special emotional appeal after the campaigns of animal welfare organizations. For the indigenous peoples of the Arctic however, seals are their daily bread. Just like cattle, chickens and pigs are to Dutch farmers. Furthermore, the seal hunt contributes to the self-respect and cultural identity of the Inuit.
Although the Netherlands acknowledges the rights of indigenous peoples, the country also has a ban on import of sealskin products of young seals. This ban is based on the stereotype of ill-behaving hunters during commercial hunts on young seal pups in Canada and Norway, but has its impact on the import of sealskins in general. Seals, however, are not an endangered species in the Arctic. In Europe most people are not familiar with the rules and regulations concerning hunting, or the protection measurements by the Inuit organizations themselves.
By providing information on the situation in present time Greenland and by staging an interesting parallel activity program, the exhibition in the Museon offers an unique opportunity to Arctic Peoples Alert to focus specifically on the position of (hunting) cultures in the Arctic and the need of an ecologically and culturally sustainable development.
Arctic Peoples Alert is a member of the Taiga Rescue Network, International Campaign for the Innu and the Earth and participates in the CHUM-list (a list regarding indigenous peoples in northern Russia, Siberia and the Far East).