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Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Inuit Circumpolar Conference - (Inuit Youth International)

12-23 May 2003

U.N, HQ; New York

Agenda item 4 (e)


Mr. Chairman, On behalf of the youth in the circumpolar region, I hereby present this statement regarding culture.

My name is Aviaja E. Lynge and I am an Inuit from Greenland.

As I will talk about two issues, my statement will be twofold.

Firstly, colonial influence on cultural identity and secondly, on cultural property.



The diverse cultures of indigenous peoples of the Circumpolar North, are part of the cultural heritage of all human kind and every people have the right to and the duty to develop its culture.

One of the most dangerous threats to our cultures has been, and still is, the colonial influence on cultural identity, also called mental colonisation . And yet, much effort into decolonization focuses on other things.

As a child in Greenland, in the public school, it was expected that we should look down to the children who looked most Inuit, to the ones who could not speak the colonial language and the ones coming from the small villages. Said in other words, as indigenous peoples, we would only be worth something if we were good at adapting the colonial standards.

Today, we try to empower our youths to understand that they are valuable as anyone else, even if they only speak their own language, or are having social problems.

The colonial influence on our cultural identities still acts as an obstacle for our struggles for self-determination. From the indigenous youth's point of view, mental colonization is one of the biggest threats to our cultures. Thus, we strongly emphasize that greater attention should be made to empower young persons to make pride in their own cultures worth.


In the Arctic, we work with the rights to maintain, develop and practice our own cultures and the duty of Artic States to respect customary laws, practices, and traditions. And yet, we strongly need the international support to our work.

A concrete example-to this is that foreign countries, such as Bali in Indonesia, has begun to make fake and cheap copies of our traditional Tupilaat - Inuit arts with spiritual meaning.

In The Arctic policies, adopted through Inuit Circumpolar Conference, it has been declared that "Inuit cultural property merits adequate protection foremost because of its cultural spiritual and educational value and use". Furthermore, it has been declared that:

"In view of the extensive nature of Inuit rights and the continuing interest of Arctic States in relation to cultural property, it is vital that cooperative agreements be worked out between parties affected. In addition, international and legal standards should be devised in a manner consistent with these Arctic policy principles, so as to clarify the rights and duties of all parties concerned".

As such unacceptable things, as my example showed about Inuit arts, apparently are happening, we recommend that the World Intellectual Property Rights to a higher extend should include the Arctic in their work to protect indigenous peoples property rights.


Cultural property rights: