Six Arctic indigenous peoples organizations saw the need for an indigenous-driven project that invites academics, policy-makers, international agencies, governments, philanthropists, film-makers, youth, elders and anybody really, to assess, monitor, and promote the vitality of the numerous indigenous languages found in the Arctic.

The governments of the 8-state Arctic Council agreed that there was such a need and pledged their support to a multi-year, pan-Arctic project called Assessing, Monitoring, & Promoting the Vitality of Arctic Indigenous Languages that is led by the Arctic Council's indigenous peoples.

The six indigenous peoples organizations that drive this project have "permanent participant" status inside the Arctic Council and work closely with the eight Arctic states on a variety of environmental and sustainable development initiatives. The so-called Permanent Participants bring the human dimension to the Arctic Council as it implements assessments, studies, and action plans related to diverse issues such as climate change, biodiversity, oil spill preparedness, Arctic shipping, mental health and corporate social responsibility, to name a few. This languages project is among the most important human-focussed projects of the Arctic Council.


The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is the international organization representing 160,000 Inuit living in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia.

The Saami Council (SC) is the international organization representing the 165,000 Saami living in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) represent 250,000 individuals who are part of 40 indigenous peoples from across Arctic Russia, each with its own distinct culture and language.

The Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC) is the international organization representing 50,000 Athabaskans living in both Canada and Alaska.

The Gwich'in Council International (GCI) is the international organization representing 9,000 Gwich'in living in Canada and Alaska.

The Aleut International Association (AIA) is the international organization representing 15,000 Aleut in Alaska and Russia.


The six Permanent Participants each have one representative on a project steering committee that advises the project manager, which is the Canadian office of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC Canada).

ICC Canada plays the central administrative role of the project and coordinates the work carried out independently by each of the Permanent Participants. The ICC Canada president, Duane Smith, is the overall project leader. Feel free to contact Mr. Smith and others involved in the project's governance.

While the project is indigenous-driven, academic collaborators such as linguists, and policy-makers such as government officials are necessary and welcome contributors. To ensure that all activities move toward the ultimate indigenous-defined objectives of the project, the proposed activities of these contributors are vetted and endorsed by the project Steering Committee before they gain official Arctic Council support.



While the ultimate long-term goal of the project is to maintain and bring vitality to the Arctic’s indigenous languages, it does so through two inter-related and collaborative processes: one is understanding and the other is action. Or put another way, the project promotes scientifically-based assessments of important language vitality factors so that appropriate community-based processes that promote vitality can be implemented.

While the activities and approaches are strongly inter-related, for the sake of project management, they are divided into two separate pillars. The first aims to understand how indigenous languages are faring in the Arctic and why their statuses are what they are. This pillar is called the “Research-Oriented” pillar, and is where much of the academic assessment work is commenced after receiving Steering Committee endorsement. The second pillar aims to implement processes based upon the current state of knowledge and is more community-focussed. This second pillar is therefore called the “Community-Oriented” pillar. Each pillar informs the other and guides each other’s work.

Under the research pillar, various project teams are undertaking the following assessments:

  • Assessing the state of each Arctic indigenous language
  • Assessing the various language policies found across the Arctic
  • Assessing the various language acquisition and teaching tools found across the Arctic


Under the community pillar, various activities are being planned or implemented, some of which are:


Sarah Aloupa
Email: Sarah.Aloupa@kativik.qc.ca
Sarah is presently working as the terminologist for Kativik School Board. She has served as a Commissioner for her home community of Quartaq for eight years and was the president for 6 years. She has extensive knowledge in the Inuttitut language. Sarah is currently creating a dictionary in 3 languages, which can be seen at the Kativik School Board website.
Bernadette Yaayuk Alvanna-Stimpfle
Eskimo-Heritage Program Director
Kawerak Inc., P.O. Box 948, Nome, Alaska 99762 USA
Tel: +1 907 443 4386
Bernadette is currently working on Kawerak Inupiaq language revitalization using the Visual Inupiaq Vocabulary Acquisition (VIVA) shared by North Slope Borough School District. She is Co-chair of the project committee on Language Acquisition.
Tatiana Degai
PhD Candidate, University of Arizona, American Indian Studies, USA
Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North of Kamchatka, Russia 
Email: tatiana.s.degai@gmail.com  
Tatiana is working with the endangered languages of Kamchatka, specifically with the Itelmen language, language planning, revitalization and development. 
Walkie Charles, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Alaska Fairbanks, PO Box 757680, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775 USA
Dr Charles teaches Yugtun (Yup'ik language) of southwest Alaska and has done extensive research in dynamic assessment.
Lenore A. Grenoble
The University of Chicago and ICC Canada
1130 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637 USA
Email: grenoble@uchicago.edu; grenoble@arcticlanguages.com
Lenore studies the causes and effects of language endangerment and methods of revitalization, specializing in the indigenous languages of Siberia and Greenland; in this project she is focusing on assessing language vitality and shift, and the causes underlying it. Lenore is Project coordinator of the Arctic Indigenous Languages Initiative and Co-chair of the project committee on Language Assessment.
Hishinlai’ “Kathy R. Sikorski”
University of Alaska Fairbanks, P. O. Box 757680, Fairbanks, AK  99775-7680, USA
Tel: +1 907 474 7875
Hishinlai’s research involves second language acquisition, specifically endangered Indigenous languages such as Gwich’in. She is Co-chair of the project committee on Language Acquisition.
Theresa John
Associate Professor, Department of Alaska Native Studies & Rural Development
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Email: tjohns@alaska.edu
Lawrence D. Kaplan
Alaska Native Language Center
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7680
Tel: + 1 907 474 6582, Fax:  +1 907 474 6586
Email: ldkaplan@alaska.edu, www.uaf.edu/anlc
Lawrence is Director of the Alaska Native Language Center.  He is a linguist working with Inupiaq and Comparative Inuit languages.
Elaine Maloney
Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta
Tel:  +1 780 492 4999, Fax: +1 780 492 1153
Email: Elaine.maloney@ualberta.ca
Elaine represents the Arctic Virtual Leaning Tools Project of the University of the Arctic, which works with the network to provide access to digital platforms and tools for information dissemination and sharing.
Ian Martin
English Department and Linguistics and Language Studies Programme
Glendon College, York University, 2275 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4N 3M6
Tel: +1 416 487 6713
Email: imartin@glendon.yorku.ca
Ian is Secretary to the project’s Policy committee.
Vera K. Metcalf
Eskimo Walrus Commission
Kawerak, Inc.
Email: vmetcalf@kawerak.org
Vera is the Steering Committee Representative for ICC.  She attended 2008 Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium and is involved in the Assessing, Monitoring, & Promoting Arctic Indigenous Languages: A Five Year Plan project.
Mary Jane Norris
Norris Research Inc., CP 1740, Chelsea, QC, J9B 1A1
Tel: +1 819 827 3872
Email: norrisinc@videotron.ca
Mary Jane’s areas of involvement and research include demography, geospatial analysis and mapping of Aboriginal peoples / communities, with specialization in language survival and revitalization.
Keren Rice
Department of Linguistics, 100 St. George Street, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3G3
Tel: +1 416 978 1763
Email: rice@chass.utoronto.ca
Keren has been involved in research on the Dene (Slavey) language in Canada's Northwest Territories for many years.
Toni White
Language Program Coordinator
Torngâsok Cultural Centre, Nunatsiavut Government
Tel: +1 709 922 2942, ext 238, Fax:  +1 709 922 2863
Email: toni_white@nunatsiavut.com
Toni is a member of the Assessment Working Group, with the goal of aiding in the development and implementation of an assessment model to accurately determine the vitality of Arctic Indigenous languages.


This multi-year project has in large part developed to its current state as the result of generous funding provided by the Government of Canada. Both the Department of Canadian Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada have provided funds that kick-started the project and are providing funds for ongoing core funding. The USA government, through its National Science Foundation, has more recently provided some funding for various research development activities. The Danish and Greenland governments have provided in-kind support.

The project is looking to other donors to come forward to help Arctic indigenous peoples implement the overall goal of the project, which is to maintain and bring vitality to the Arctic’s indigenous languages, and its peoples. If you wish to learn more about being a donor, please click here.