Arctic Deeply: 16 young leaders who will influence the future of the North

Our friends at Arctic Deeply introduce us to the people who stand apart when it comes to improving education, fighting climate change, boosting international collaboration and revitalizing Indigenous culture in the Arctic. We highlight some below, and link to the full list.

By: , /
December 9, 2016
Arctic leaders
Arctic Deeply

In the year since Arctic Deeply launched, we’ve noticed that several names keep coming up over and over again. Whether we were covering climate change or Arctic shipping routes, oil and gas or Inuit education, the work of a group of educators, activists, filmmakers, scientists and policy shapers consistently amazed and inspired. Their mentors have praised them for their achievements, their peers have applauded their contributions to their communities.

As we can only expect to hear more from them in 2017 and beyond, we wanted to recognize these young leaders for their achievements. Some of these faces and stories will be familiar, but we hope to introduce you to some new people, too.

Read on to find out more about the 16 young leaders we think will leave their mark on the future of the Arctic. And stay tuned for more in-depth conversations with each of them. We can’t wait to see what they’ll do.

1. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

“How does a culture with an understated anger fight against a group that’s infamous for the exact opposite behavior?” – from “Angry Inuk”

Snapshot: Arnaquq-Baril is an Inuk documentary filmmaker based in Iqaluit, who produces films about Inuit culture as a way to bring Inuitstories to the world. Her most recent feature-length documentary, “Angry Inuk,” about Inuit who challenge animal rights activists about seal hunting, premiered at the 2016 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and has been amassing awards ever since.She tweets from @Alethea_Aggiuq.

2. Mia Bennett

“I’ve come to realize the Arctic is just as global a place as any.”

Snapshot: Bennett, 28, lives in Los Angeles, where she researches transportation infrastructure and natural resource development in the north for her PhD in political geography at UCLA. She also blogs about her northern adventures and insights on CryopoliticsMotivation: The many ways in which globalization is connecting the northernmost reaches of the world into globe-spanning circuits of people, trade and finance. Vision: A diverse Arctic economy that emphasizes local, renewable projects, where communities are consulted in a genuine and holistic manner.Follow her on Twitter @miageografia or at Cryopolitics.

3. Erlend Moster Knudsen

“With cycling and running you interact with a lot more people than you would if you were just sitting behind your desk.”

Snapshot: In 2015, Knudsen, 30, a recent PhD grad in polar science, launched “Pole to Paris” with his friend Daniel Price, an Antarctic climate researcher, and ran 3,000km (1,860 miles) from Tromsø, Norway, to Paris to raise awareness of climate change. Moment: During his run through northern Norway, Knudsen met Layla Inga, a Saami woman who worried about her family’s traditional livelihood – more winter rain put the reindeer they herded at risk of starvation. Vision: A world in which it is possible for countries to collaborate for the greater good of all people.He’s on Twitter @ErlendMK and @poletoparis.

4. Kyla Kakfwi Scott

“When I look around my community, I see a lot of vision, innovation and a super-passionate community of people ready to tackle big issues with integrity.”

Snapshot: Kakfwi Scott, 35, lives in Yellowknife, where she advises the government of the Northwest Territories on its anti-poverty plan, chairs the selection committee for the Arctic Inspiration Prize and works with Dene Nahjo, the social and cultural innovation organization she cofounded in 2013. Motivation: Finding ways to connect youth to their Indigenous culture. Inspiration: Lots of people, including her parents, Stephen Kakfwi, former premier of the Northwest Territories, and Marie Wilson, who was, most recently, the commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Follow her on Twitter @Feathermaker and @DeneNahjo.

5. Nina Larsson

“Nothing can be done with one person doing the work. It is the community’s work that is important.”

Snapshot: Larsson, 31, is a senior advisor in early childhood development for the government of the Northwest Territories, the founder of a biomass energy company, Energy North, and a cofounder of Dene Nahjo (see above), which spearheaded the Indigenous Circumpolar Women’s Gathering in 2014. Vision: “Land, language and culture forever,” is what guides Dene Nahjo. Motivation: All children and youth, so that they might be immediately connected to their culture.She tweets at @nina_ayiku.

6. Maatalii Okalik

“I try to lead by example.”

Snapshot: Okalik, president of the National Inuit Youth Council, is from Nunavut and is studying human rights, political science and aboriginal studies. At the recent climate change summit in Morocco, Canada’s minister of the environment and climate change introduced Okalik as “an incredible young leader for the Canadian Arctic and a strong voice for Inuit youth.” In April she was presented with the Outstanding Young Woman Award from the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council. Motivation: To make known the aspirations of Inuit youth and the barriers they face in achieving their dreams. Priorities: Language, culture, suicide prevention, education and empowerment, and reconciliation.She’s on Twitter at @maatalii.

7. Jordan Peterson

“If we don’t understand where we’re coming from, we won’t know where we’re going.”

Snapshot: Peterson, 29, lives in Inuvik, where he is the vice president of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, an organization representing 3,500 people living in the Mackenzie Delta of the Northwest Territories. He is a Jane Glassco Northern Fellow and cochair of Our Voices, a Yukon-based group for emerging leaders. Focus: Self-government and the “Many Rivers” project that sends youth to Dechinta University for coursework on Indigenous culture and land-based knowledge and on a paddling adventure through the massive Peel River watershed, which has recently been at the center of court battles over resources development. Vision: A future where borders and barriers between communities are erased and true collaboration occurs.Follow him on Twitter @gwichinpeterson.

8. Jean Polfus

“When you do research, it’s not just about the science, data and facts that you collect, it’s about becoming a more rounded person by finding ways to collaborate with people and discovering new innovations.”

Snapshot: Polfus is an ecologist and artist, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Manitoba, where she studied caribou populations in the Sahtú Region of the Northwest Territories. Polfus worked with the Sahtú Renewable Resources Board (Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı) and five Renewable Resources Councils (Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę) to combine traditional knowledge, Dene language and genetic research to understand the types of caribou that live in the region, to help with management and conservation.Follow her on Twitter @JeanPolfus, on Tumbler and on Google Scholar.

Get to know all 16:

The full list featuring all young leaders can be found here on Arctic Deeply.