On the morning of November 26th in Inuvik Northwest Territories, the Arctic Youth Network hosted “Youth Leadership in Arctic Governance”, the second webinar in The Arctic Youth Network Webinar series. During this webinar, we had people presenting from various places of the world, and this session included Canada, United States of America, and Norway. The subject of the webinar was the importance of engaging youth in governing the Arctic. The North has one of the youngest demographics, which is why it is important to engage youth in forums and discussions regarding the arctic. the session’s moderator and started out the webinar by introducing our panelists.

Emily Tsui, was our first speaker. Emily is currently located in Toronto, and a master’s student of law at the University of Toronto. Her experience within Arctic governance and working with youth is varied. She considers herself as a Southerner, who works with the academic perspective of Arctic issues. From her experience of the role of youth leadership in the North, she understands that not all youth are the same. From her perspective, defines governing in the arctic as a practice by different private or public actors engaged in the development and implementation of governance through various actions and instruments for the arctic region. The participation of youth is important and believes that as youth we should work with the leaders of today, as they are the long-term stakeholders. They are the ones who will deal with the decisions they make and bring new perspectives to the table. Moreover, being able to develop expertise earlier can help working on youth issues. Youth are encouraged to embrace opportunities, to be in the conversation, and by doing so develop connection with other youth. This includes

Andreas Vestvann Johnsen, joined from Oslo and has been engaging in politics and participation from a very young age. The reason he started to engage himself is that he wanted to influence and help peers and acted as their advocate. He comes with experience by starting as a student representative for his class in school; from there he went on the join political parties, youth councils, municipality council, county council, student leadership, and works with political issues. He states the reason why youth should engage themselves is in view that they are the next generation. The focus is why and how youth should engage in arctic governance. Relating back to his experience, he provides some tools on “how to engage and influence 101”. Writing to the editor for magazines helped a lot to inform the people of his intentions, setting the agenda for say. Getting in the newspaper created opportunities for networks to get in contact and helps expand your network, speaking with people who have similar beliefs and formulating political parties. Your mind is also important, as you are advocating for the people and for your political stance as well. He wants youth never to doubt themselves as they can do anything, run for office as an example. He states that it is important to step up and engage yourself, and that starting small is a great foundation for your journey, to find a way to share your thoughts and opinions.

Deenaalee Sahn joining us from Alaska, is a youth leader involved in many things such as:

  • youth participant in the Arctic Athabascan Council, also
  • a permanent participant at the Arctic Council,
  • an advisor for the Arctic Youth Network, and
  • Sits on the advisory board for the Native Movement.

Deenaalee is the creator of On the Land Network, and has her degree from Brown University in Anthropology and Public Policy. She engages in Arctic issues and that was her start in the Arctic Youth Network. She recognizes her Indigenous relatives as governance have not been set up to include indigenous, as they were not considered as a full citizen, they were unable to vote among other citizen rights. As segregation in Alaska did not allow her grandfather to participate as a full citizen she finds that young, especially BIPOC, gave up the power they held. Government systems prevented Indigenous peoples from utilizing the co-production between the indigenous and government. She states that Indigenous peoples need to start at the grassroots and create an apparatus of the coproduction, between the government and the indigenous, the power to come together and utilize gifts and strengths. Stating that first starting locally and internally before going worldwide helps to aid in the success, through this, creating platforms that allow youth to be involved. Youth have an important leadership role outside the structure, and they need to influence better life in the Arctic.

The conversation

  • Letting your stance be known, letting people know that you want to contribute, that you want to speak for your peers, and also as an individual, not only as a youth.
  • Your voice means as much as everyone else’s.

However, not all youth voices are expressed equally. Each community in the north has a different experience; each community had a different experience of colonialism, and experienced a different level of loss.

  • It is important not to romanticize the north.

Although, it is amazing to hear when youth are heard, the success of hearing a youth stepping up are movements and recognition as the generations before have not seen youth step up.

  • Romanticizing the north is not what we should do. Considering we are at a pivot point, in which we can push the youth participation even further.
  • Recognizing the everyday process understanding what works and what does not should push us to make the change necessary in order to continue improving; we should not wait for the generations below us to make the change for us.
  • Youth need to continue pushing themselves at interpersonal levels.

Many of the challenges of engaging youth is developing moral courage, there is a real fear that everything recorded and may be used against you.

  • Understanding that taking a stand on activism point of view is courageous, to empower individuals to speak up.


About the Author

Cassidy Lennie-Ipana is an Inuvialuit youth born and raised in Inuvik Northwest Territories. She is 17 years old and enjoys going out on the land with her family. Family and community play an important part in her life. Schooling is also very important to her and she hopes to go to post-secondary for Nursing once she completes her high school diploma this year. In her participation in the Inuvialuit Living Histories project she co-founded with Mataya Gillis the magazine Nipatur̂uq, which means to have a loud voice in Inuvialuit, and is a platform for Inuvialuit youth.

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