Sharing Inuit Voices Across Time: Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska’s Web and Digital Archive

Guest post by: Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska

This post is part of a series written by members of Internet Archive’s Community Webs program. Community Webs advances the capacity for community-focused memory organizations to build web and digital archives documenting local histories and underrepresented voices. For more information, visit communitywebs.archive-it.org/

Can you describe your community and the services and role of your organization within the community?

Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Alaska works on behalf of the Inupiat of the North Slope, Northwest and Bering Straits Regions; st. Lawrence Island Yupik; and the Central Yup’ik and Cup’ik of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region in Southwest Alaska. ICC Alaska is a national member of ICC International. Since inception in 1977, ICC has gained consultative status II with the United Nations, and is a Permanent Participant of the Arctic Council.

For example, ICC has provisional status with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), is an active member at the Arctic Council senior level and within the working groups and is a prominent voice at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Work and engagement occur in many ways at these different Fora. Within the UNFCCC, ICC has taken a leadership role in putting forward Indigenous Knowledge and establishing a platform for providing equitable space for multiple knowledge systems. Additionally, at the UNFCCC COP 26, ICC Chair, Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough, led an ICC delegation made up of Inuitrepresentatives from across the Arctic.

ICC COP26 position paper, available at https://iccalaska.org/wp-icc/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/20211028-en-ICC-COP26-Position-Paper.pdf

An immense amount of work occurs in direct partnership with Inuit communities to inform work at international fora. For example, ICC is facilitating the development of international protocols for Equitable and Ethical Engagement. These protocols will provide a pathway to success for all that want to work within Inuit homelands and whose work impacts the Arctic. The protocols will aid in a paradigm shift in how work, decisions, and policies are currently created and carried out. The paradigm shift will lead to greater equity and recognition of Inuit toward sovereignty and self-determination.

Why was your organization interested in participating in Community Webs?

The Community Webs program was attractive to ICC because it provided the training and the storage to effectively preserve ICC’s digitized & born-digital archival materials. We were pleased to see this offering as a solution for an ongoing desire to archive the prolific organization’s digital materials & products. This work dovetails nicely with ICC Alaska’s efforts to digitize 47 boxes, or around 80 linear feet of material that span 6 decades, including audio, film, photographic media, and paper documents.

ICC Jam – part 2 – Greenland

Cultural programming as part of the 1983 General Assembly. In this clip, view performances from Greenland’s Tuktak Theater and a Greenlandic choir

ICC advocates for Inuit and Inuit way of life, highlighted by ICC’s General Assembly meetings. The ICC receives its mandate from a General Assembly held every four years. The General Assembly is the heart of the organization, providing an opportunity for sharing information, discussing common concerns, debating issues, and strengthening the unity between all Inuit across our homelands. Through the Community Webs project, ICC Alaska has been able to preserve archival video of the ICC General Assemblies going back 30 years using Archive-It and the Internet Archive, as well as all newsletters, press releases, resolutions, social media campaigns, and reports published on its website. These are a significant record of ICC advocacy, but more importantly, Inuit political and cultural heritage.

Moses Wassillie’s Oral History of first ICC General Assembly in 1977, available at: http://oralhistory.library.uaf.edu/88/88-49-114_T01.pdf

Why do you think it is important for public libraries, community archives, and other local and community-based organizations to do this work?

Community-based organizations are uniquely positioned as both a part of and apart from the community. This vantage point allows for the self-reflection and observation needed for web archiving, as well as the relationships within the community to create the space and dialogue needed for community archiving projects. By building more capacity within community-based organizations for web archiving and digital preservation efforts, we can expand the recorded historical narrative and humanities-based inquiries in a multitude of directions, to truly reflect the diversity of our world & time.

Where do you hope to see your web archiving program going?

The core goal of this work is to make ICC documents and its narrative more accessible and discoverable within ICC, to ICC’s member organizations, international bodies, and researchers, our historical aspirations are much bigger. Our hope is that this web archive goes beyond the core goal to inspire, delight, hearten, inform, and add depth to the conversations Inuit are having about cultural identity, relationship to the land, hunting, advocacy, self-determination, and self- governance.

We are curious about the intangible outcomes: What new work does the archive inspire? How does the archive add depth & historical weight to existing projects, discussions, and advocacy? What stories and knowledge gets re-remembered, or re-investigated after viewing archival materials? What advocacy, ethics, and philosophical works come from Inuit leaders informed by the legacy that the archive shared? Are youth leaders interested in adding to the archive?

Is there anything you would like your organization to contribute back to the broader community of web archiving and/or local history in the form of documentation, workflows, policy drafts or other resources?

We have several wishes. Firstly, it is the telling of Inuit stories. The archive is another manifestation of that mission – to record and share Inuit voices across time. To increase access to those voices, information, knowledge, and history. The ICC Archival holdings are a historically unique & culturally significant telling of Inuit cultural heritage, history (including political history), educational pedagogy, philosophy, self-determination, values, ethics, environmental stewardship, and Indigenous Knowledge. It is important to create a way for Inuit to discover and interact with this work. Community Webs has offered a new tool in our toolkit.

Secondly, the goal is to move forward conversations about categorization and information management for indigenous communities. What does that look like in best practice? Can we, together with other Inuit archives, improve on existing practices to create a more equitable and ethical engagement with Inuit-produced information, the management of that information, and the discovery and access of that information.

What are you most excited to learn through your participation in Community Webs?

It was exciting to discover that many Inuit and Alaska Native resources that have already been preserved using the Internet Archive. These resources are often affected by insufficient financial support. Being able to have a preserved and accessible copy of these resources is an important step towards creating the bigger picture of the historical record of Inuit advocacy. As part of the Community Webs meetings, it was exciting to hear from other tribal librarians and community archivists across the country & world. Additionally, it was exciting to hear from speakers whose work informs our community archival work at ICC Alaska – such as Chaitra Powell who created (among other amazing things) the “Archive in a Backpack” project.

What impact do you think web archiving could have within your community?

Hopefully this work inspires other organizations to also preserve their digital assets, creating a richer narrative of Inuit political and cultural heritage.

What do you foresee as some of the challenges you may face?

We are eager to preserve our social media channels that have replaced the DRUM newsletter as a vehicle for keeping our community up-to-date on ICC’s work. Ongoing challenges with Facebook and Instagram archiving are preventing us from doing that. Hopefully these issues are resolved in the favor of the communities who created the content and bring their community and connections to these software platforms.

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