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Indigenous Engagement

Importance of Proper Engagement with Local and Indigenous Communities in U.S. Arctic Research

There are 14 federal agencies in the U.S. that operate and/or fund research in the Arctic. All 14 agencies organize together within IARPC (Inter-agency Arctic Research Policy Committee). In 2018, IARPC updated their Principals for Conducting Research in the Arctic, which are meant to provide guidance to U.S. federally funded researchers while working in the Arctic. The five core principals are:

  1. Be Accountable

2. Establish Effective Communication

Communicate expectations, objectives, and potential outcomes at all stages of the project. Provide reasonable opportunities to local collaborators and Tribes to participate in planning, data collection, analysis, interpretation of results, and development of conclusions.” (Section 2.1)

Coordinate visits or fieldwork to avoid disrupting peak subsistence periods, traditional activities, religious events, and health services. Coordinate activities such as research vessel tracks or aircraft flights to avoid impact to residents.” (Section 2.3)

3. Respect Indigenous Knowledge and Cultures

Respect is enhanced by mutual understanding. Researchers are encouraged to learn about the regions in which they will conduct research. Understand the region's history, cultures, languages, community perceptions of past and current research conducted in the region, and organizational structures, practices, values, and institutions.” (Section 3.1)


4. Build and Sustain Relationships

Researchers are encouraged to work with local liaisons and research assistants, and to engage residents in research design, planning, data collection, storage, analysis, interpretation, and reporting.” (Section 4.4)


Build meaningful relationships based on good faith and partnership with communities and their representatives. When working in or near communities, develop a community engagement plan in collaboration and cooperation with Arctic Indigenous Peoples and other residents.” (Section 4.1)

5. Pursue Responsible Environmental Stewardship

Importance of Proper Engagement with Local and Indigenous Communities in International Arctic Research

Arctic Council:

“An important part of plan development is pre-engagement with Indigenous Peoples and local communities who may be impacted by the activity. Before planning an activity or entering local communities, it is important to educate yourself about the people and their communities.”

“Meaningful Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Marine Activities,” PAME 2021

Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska:

“Many of the overarching regulations, agreements, and laws employed by international fora/ federal/state/territorial governments were developed to address dominant cultural perspectives and worldview. Equitable management requires approaches, processes, and interpretations that are inclusive and respectful of multiple and diverse worldviews and knowledge systems, especially those of Inuit.”

“Food Sovereignty and Self-Governance: Inuit Role in Managing Arctic Marine Resources,” ICC Alaska, 2020

Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks:

“The SAON process is guided by the following principles: […] The Observing System will use Indigenous and local knowledge guided by ethical use and honouring the proprietary rights of data contributors,”

“Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks Strategy: 2018-2028,” SAON 2018

If you are interested in additional existing resources for further guidance, please visit: 

ARCUS: Conducting Research with Northern Communities

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