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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Indigenous Diplomacies in International Relations
While there is a large body of literature on indigenous political activism, the role of indigenous
peoples in international affairs is a relatively new scholarly focus (Abele & Rodon, 2007; Beier, 2007a
& 2007b; Graham & Wiessner, 2011; Wilson, 2007; Zellen, 2008, 2009a, 2009b, 2010). Beier (2007a)
argues that while foreign policy practitioners have realized the effective role of indigenous peoples in
international affairs for some time, international relations scholars are just beginning to address this
fact. He critiques international studies as focusing primarily on the traditional relationship between
nation-states arguing that, “Indigenous diplomacies are not at all new, but merely newly noticed in
these fields” (Beier, 2007a: 9). The result is a “small but growing conceptual space within which to
consider increasingly important intersections between indigenous diplomacies and the foreign
policies of states” (Beier, 2007a: 9). Beier (2007b) observes the “growing currency of indigenous
diplomacies in mainstream international politics” (Beier, 2007b: 126). Certainly, the ICC is a perfect
example of the “growing currency” of the Inuit in global affairs. He argues that the integration of
indigenous involvement in political affairs is destabilizing conventional nation-state relations, and
that this destabilization is fast becoming a norm in international relations (Beier, 2007b: 128).
Wilson (2007) applies the concept of indigenous diplomacies directly to the Inuit. He argues that the
ICC has played a key role in how the rest of the world understands the Arctic and Arctic foreign
relations. The Arctic Council is usually credited with promoting the concept of the Arctic as a region
(Keskitalo, 2004 & 2007; Young, 2009 & 2011). However, Wilson argues that the ICC was, in fact,
the first organization to provide a regional model for the Arctic. Wilson refers to the ICC as a
“multi-state nation” (Wilson, 2007: 77), a concept that challenges conventional nation-state models
and allows for a new framework within which to better analyze the complexity of actors in the Arctic
Abele & Rodon (2007), like Wilson, argue that the ICC has contributed significantly to the regional,
transnational concept of the Arctic. They note that the founding of the ICC in 1977 was, in itself, the
beginning of the promotion of a trans-Arctic identity. The ICC “was able to promote and participate
in the establishment of the Arctic as a coherent political region, to foster international cooperation in
a strategic Cold War zone, to develop and advocate a pan-Arctic environmental strategy, to support a
non-threatening decolonization of the Arctic, and to establish Inuit people as international actors”
(Abele & Rodon, citing Bloomfield, 1981; Lauritzen, 1983; Petersen, 1984; 2007: 55). Abele &