• Kitkut ukua Siļaliñiġmiut? Grassroots land, air, and water coalition-building on Alaska's Arctic Slope

      Thomas, Sara K. Siqiñiq; Brooks, Catherine; Stern, Charlene; Brower, Pearl (2020-05)
      Arctic communities are experiencing dramatic effects of climate change and bioaccumulation of contamination and are also on the front line of expansion via the fossil fuel extraction industry. The Inupiaq culture provides a strong and clear example of harmonious living with one’s surroundings on Alaska’s Arctic Slope (hereafter referred to as Arctic Slope), yet recent community efforts to reduce waste or pollution or come together to address our role in this time of climate change have been short-lived. This applied community development project addresses the need for grassroots organizing within the Arctic Slope to address and react to issues of land, air, and water on a community level. The title of this research is: Kitkut ukua Siļaliñiġmiut? Who are the people of the land, air, and sea (of the Arctic Slope)? This is a self-reflective inquiry from within the community that aims to uplift Inupiat history and cultural perspectives and develop more effective strategies to collaborate to be better stewards of the environment. This project was guided by the Indigenous consciousness-raising theory and an Iñupiaqatigiigñiq framework, inspired by Topkok’s Inupiat Ilitqusiat (2015). The literature/narrative review comprises an overview of Iñupiaqatigiigñiq, or the Iñupiaq value system, as it relates to Indigenous knowledge. It also includes current and historical perceptions of ecological stewardship and environmentalism on the Arctic Slope, and barriers to social change in contemporary institutional representation. Community-based participatory research and strength-based methodology were utilized to inform data collection, which included a survey as well as a series of community dialogues with a variety of Arctic Slope stakeholders. Community perspectives regarding ecological sustainability were elicited using talking circles and group visioning around these questions: Sumik iļisimavisa Iñupiaqatigiigñiq suli nunalu, siļalu, taġiuglu? What do we know about Iñupiaqatigiigñiq and land, air, and water? Suniaqsimaavisa atusiullaaluta nakka qatilluta? What more can we do (to be better stewards) today as individuals and as communities? Data was analyzed using triangulation and thematic analysis techniques. The themes that emerged from the data were shared and then reshared to the larger community via social media, one-on-one outreach to smaller groups, and a community presentation. This project has resulted in both a data set and a framework for continued community-building and information-sharing around land, air, and water stewardship initiatives. The foundation for a regional grassroots coalition has been established via the collaborative development of a website and social media presence. It is my hope that this project will also inform the development of an after-school youth engagement program that could propel a grassroots network of people working together to foster greater stewardship of the land, air, and water.