Cottongrass

The impact of Covid-19 on Indigenous peoples in the Arctic

Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have historically almost always been severely impacted by pandemics and have shown a higher mortality rate than communities further South – due to a suit of reasons. However, their traditional knowledge has enabled communities to respond to pandemics in flexible and adaptive ways, strengthening their resilience. In preparation of the "Covid-19 in the Arctic - Briefing document for Senior Arctic Officials", the Council's Permanent Participants offered their insights to how their communities are affected by the current pandemic.

Representatives of the Indigenous Permanent Participants

The impact of Covid-19 on Aleut communities

"We do have a very vulnerable elder population and we also have many people who are diabetic. All of our communities can only be reached via air and sea. There are no roads. Weather conditions could easily hinder transportation in and out of our communities, potentially leaving someone who is sick very vulnerable to grave illness. Some of the steps that have been taken included incorporating testing and encouraging people to keep to social distancing standards. Our leadership has also been in talks to restore the transportation links to our communities. There are currently opportunities to be tested in several of our communities, including Unalaska, Sand Point and King Cove." - Liza Mack from the Aleut International Association. Click here to read the full interview with Liza Mack.

The impact of Covid-19 on Athabaskan communities

"The disconnect and isolation from extended family and kin has impacted Athabaskan communities. When one is used to gathering in times of joy and sorrow and being told that is not possible for the overall safety of the collective - we are tossed into a very confusing space. This period of time has extended into three months, the stress and trauma of isolation, physical disconnect from elders and the greater community as a whole is manifesting itself in many shapes and forms. Affecting not only physical, but also mental and spiritual health as well." - Arctic Athabaskan Council. Click here to read the full interview with AAC.

The impact of Covid-19 on Inuit communities

"I really do believe that it is because of the decisive, early action of Inuit community leadership that we have been able to contain and exert greater control over the spread of the virus. It is my hope that the leadership continues in this fashion and that they are very smart about the travel to and from communities to maintain these very low case numbers. My greatest fear is that if restrictions are eased in some areas – especially where there is growing pressure in the south to do so – we will have dramatically different and increased numbers." - Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Click here to read the full interview with Dalee Sambo Dorough.

The impact of Covid-19 on Indigenous Peoples living in the Russian Arctic

"Arctic reindeer herders revealed resiliency. Their elders keep memories about Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. There were flu victims among nomadic reindeer herders that time. Nowadays, they were timely informed about coronavirus. Thus, they did not come to towns and villages. We also should stress here, how important for Indigenous Peoples is the opportunity to self-supply by traditional ways." - Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North.Click here to read the full input from RAIPON.

The impact of Covid-19 on Saami communities

"The Saami people lives across several national borders. Months of closing of these borders interferes with the Saami families living on different sides of a border. It interferes with the social life of Saami as a people. And not least, it impacts the economy. A great part of the Saami economy is Saami wide. The market for duodji (Saami handicrafts) stretches across the whole of Sápmi (across borders). The Saami festival audience does not know the borders, and the same goes for many large institutions, such as Saami University of Applied Sciences." - Christina Henriksen, President of the Saami Council. Click here to read the full interview with Christina Henriksen.