Arctic Encounter Symposium celebrates 10 years

Norway assumes a leadership role in Arctic policy and business at international forum

Arctic Encounter Symposium

Rachel Kallander is the founder and CEO of the Arctic Encounter Sympoisum. She heads up the firm Kallander & Associates and is the owner and publisher of The Cordova Times.

Christie Ericson
Alaska Correspondent
The Norwegian American

Over 1,000 stakeholders from the Circumpolar North and beyond converged on Anchorage, Alaska, for the 2024 Arctic Encounter Symposium (AES), held April 10–12. The largest annual Arctic policy and business conference in the United States, the AES brings together Indigenous leaders, policymakers, government officials, and academic, science, business, technology, and energy experts for three whirlwind days of sessions, exhibits, and cultural experiences.

This year’s event celebrated the 10th anniversary of the symposium, founded by CEO Rachel Kallander. The mission of the AES is to raise awareness of the challenges facing the Arctic, to facilitate discussions on shared interests and concerns, and to collaborate on sustainable solutions. Raised in Cordova, Alaska, Kallander is also the CEO of Kallander & Associates, the owner and publisher of The Cordova Times, and the Honorary Consul of Iceland for Alaska.

It’s only appropriate that the AES is based in Alaska, the state that makes the United States an Arctic nation and one of the eight member states of the Arctic Council. Major themes of this year’s symposium revolved around topics shared across the North: responsible resource development; climate change and its impact on Arctic communities; lack of infrastructure; high energy costs; out-migration; and Indigenous knowledge vs. Western science. As in previous years, another important thread was the critical need for Indigenous representation in making informed decisions about the Arctic. “Nothing about us without us” was a common refrain by panelists.

Each day kicked off with welcome remarks, as well as the Iñupiaq “Word of the Day,” presented by Patuk Glenn, executive director, Arctic Slope Community Foundation. Iñupiaq is spoken throughout much of northern Alaska and is closely related to Canadian Inuit dialects and Greenlandic dialects. Language and culture were important themes throughout the conference, as they play a significant role in promoting the well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. As one participant noted, “language is power.”

Norway was well-represented at the AES, with attendees including high-level government officials, ambassadors, and experts from a number of organizations. The following are some highlights of sessions with Norwegian speakers.

Arctic Encounter Symposium

Photo: ChristiThe crafts and design work of Indiginous people were offered for sale at the symposium. Visitors enjoyed one colorful display after the other in the convention center foyer.

Day 1
Iñupiaq Word of the Day: paġlan (welcome, greeting)

The High North Center for Business and Governance in Bodø hosted the session, Blue Innovations for Policymakers: Enhanced Blue Economy Collaboration across Alaska, Greenland and North Norway. Moderator and Senior Researcher Andreas Raspotnik gave an overview of the ArcBlue Project, a three-year program (2022-2025) to promote sustainable fisheries in Alaska, Greenland, and North Norway.

Apostolos Tsiouvalas, research associate at The Arctic Institute and Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian Center for the Law of the Sea at the University of Tromsø (UiT), presented the highlights of a newly released report Enhanced Blue Economy Collaboration across Alaska, Greenland, and North Norway. This report “provides for a first comparative assessment of the blue economy in Alaska, Greenland, and North Norway, with a focus on fisheries and marine-related aquaculture, also known as ‘mariculture.’”

Other panelists shared perspectives from academia and industry. Bjørn Larsen, executive of business development, Nordland County Council, discussed aquaculture production in Nordland from a policy and business angle. Gry Agnete Alsos, D=dean, Nord University Business School, emphasized the importance of scientific and entrepreneurial relationships in building and sustaining new industry. Linda Simensen is the regional manager Nordland for Akvaplan-niva, a not-for-profit research institute focusing on water, ocean, and Arctic issues. Simensen gave an overview of the development of clusters as a tool to sustain aquaculture development, especially in rural areas.

Patti Bruns, secretary general of the Arctic Mayors’ Forum (AMF) moderated the plenary session, Northern Leadership: Insights from Arctic Mayors. The AMF Secretariat is permanently located in Tromsø and members represent local governments in Canada, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States.

The mayors on the panel represented communities in Finland (Rovaniemi, Tornio), Alaska (Utqiaġvik, Kotzebue, Northwest Arctic Borough, Anchorage), and Iceland (Akureyri). They discussed the common challenges they face in the provision of municipal services, (education, infrastructure, housing, energy) as well as some of the differences (revenue sources).

The first day ended with a reception hosted by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C, the High North Center for Business and Governance, and the Nordland County Council. Norwegian and Alaskan participants were invited “to celebrate the rich history of fisheries, exploration, and northern innovation between these two unique regions, and the hearty familiarity shared between the peoples of Norway and Alaska.”

Day 2
Iñupiaq Word of the Day: uvaŋa (I am)

Anniken R. Krutnes, Norway’s ambassador to the United States, participated in two sessions on the importance of resource management in the Arctic, One World, One Ocean: Fish Stocks in Motion and the Blue Economy and Leading the Charge: Innovations and Challenges in the Energy Sector. An expert in security policy, law of the sea, and Arctic issues, Krutnes emphasized that economic, social, and environmental sustainability plays a crucial role in the development of Arctic policy for Norway.

Frode Halvorsen, cluster manager, Ocean Autonomy Cluster, and Trondheim City Council member, was also a panelist in the session, One World, One Ocean: Fish Stocks in Motion and the Blue Economy. Halvorsen participated in the Innovation & the Blue Economy track, where he discussed how autonomy and new technologies will play an important role in making the maritime industry more efficient and sustainable, as well as making more efficient systems for protecting our oceans.

Anu Fredrikson, executive director of Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø, moderated the plenary session, Beyond the Arctic Circle: Harnessing Storytelling and Media in Northern Communities. During this session, panelists discussed examples of misrepresentation of the Arctic by the media and the impact this has on Arctic peoples. Participants also discussed how Northern communities are using multimedia storytelling to take back ownership of their narratives and amplify voices in the Arctic.

Artist and director Elle Márjá Eira, who is from a reindeer herding family in Kautokeino, discussed the premier of her film Stolen. Based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name by author Ann-Helén Laestadius, the film is the first production from Sápmi to be shown on Netflix. Through her work, Eira hopes to provide an authentic voice for Sámi culture.

Producer/director Peter Chelkowski discussed his experiences filming the documentary, One with the Whale, the story of a whale hunting family on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. Chelkowski, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., stressed the importance of working with the local community to produce an authentic story, not one based on preconceived notions.

Alaskan Patuk Glenn, executive director of the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, noted that many voices are not heard and it’s important to continue telling and advocating for the stories Arctic peoples want to be shared. Her sister, podcast host/producer Alice Qannik Glenn, created the show “Coffee & Quaq” as a platform “to celebrate, share, and explore the collective experience of contemporary Native life in urban Alaska.”

Arne O. Holm, editor/commentator with High North News, an independent newspaper in Bodø, emphasized the point that there isn’t only “one” Arctic, as the mainstream media tend to portray. There are many differences across the Arctic nations, and Holm reiterated the importance of engaging in dialogue with people of different views.

Anniken Krutnes

Norway’s ambassador to the United States, Anniken R. Krutnes, is an expert in the Arctic region and was an active participant at this year’s Arctic Encounter Symposium.

Day 3
Inupiaq word of the day: aarigaa (good, great)

Mads Qvist Frederiksen, executive director of the Arctic Economic Council in Tromsø, moderated the plenary session, Investment Landscape: Opportunities for Growth and Development. Panelists discussed the growing interest in Arctic investment and explored strategies for attracting investment, including building relationships with communities and prioritizing social welfare and environmental sustainability.

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) and the University of the Arctic (UArctic) hosted the session, Building Indigenous and Inclusive Education Across the Arctic. In this session, moderated by Dr. Diane Hirshberg (director, UAA ISER, professor of Education Policy, and vice president – Academic, UArctic), the speakers discussed the challenges of meeting the needs of all students across the Arctic, especially Indigenous students and those with learning disabilities.

They also talked about initiatives in Alaska, Canada, and Norway to create more Indigenous and inclusive learning environments and to prepare teachers to be successful.

Anne-Mette Bjøru, lecturer, master’s program in special education, UiT – Alta, presented her research on the Sámi approach to inclusion and adapted education. Gregor Ross Dørum Maxwell, associate professor in pedagogy and inclusive and special education, UiT, discussed the results of a longitudinal research project to measure Indigenous and inclusive education awareness among newly qualified teachers in Norway. The study showed that new teachers experienced challenges in adapting their teaching for all students and that general awareness of Indigenous (Sámi) culture needs to improve.

Ambassador Morten Høglund, senior Arctic official chair of the Arctic Council and Arctic ambassador for Norway, spoke on several panels, including From Local to Global: Navigating the Impact of Thawing Arctic Permafrost on Communities and Climate and Rising Arctic Flames: The Local and Global Consequences of Northern Wildland Fire. He also participated in the session, Charting a Course: The Arctic Council’s Future and Global Cooperation.

During this session, panelists discussed the relationship between Arctic Council member states and key Arctic Indigenous groups with permanent participant status on the council. The discussion also included how Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaboration in the Arctic Council can be best used to advance a strong and secure Arctic.

Norwegian State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson also attended the AES this year and participated in several panels along with Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Petersson highlighted the need for preserving peace and stability in the Arctic. He discussed the mobilization of global resources to tackle important needs and challenges, and he also emphasized the importance of maintaining the Arctic Council as the main format for governance and cooperation in the region.

All photos courtesy of Christie Ericson

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Christie Ericson

Christie Ericson is an academic librarian living in Anchorage, Alaska. She has a background in languages and linguistics and has been fulfilling her lifelong dream of learning the Norwegian language. She also serves as the cultural director and librarian at her local Sons of Norway lodge and is completely addicted to Selbu mitten knitting.