Graduate students, local leaders come together to address economic and social issues in Canadian Arctic

WAGE summer school students and faculty smiling wearing caps and scarves holding certificates

Five graduate students hailing from Arctic nations completed an intensive summer program in Canada, looking at ways to diversify economies in the North in order to build equity. Organized by Wealth of the Arctic Group of Experts (WAGE) Circumpolar Partnership, this year’s two-week course was hosted in Yellowknife, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

The social science students from Finland, Russia and Quebec met local leaders, the heads of tribal corporations, Northwest Territory government officials, local residents, mining company developers, and they participated in the Arctic Development Expo in Inuvik. Students also participated in local events, explored the tundra, and swam in the Arctic Ocean. 

WAGE summer school standing on the tundra looking at Arctic cotton

Each year, the summer school intensive is hosted in an Arctic location where social science students, some Indigenous from Arctic communities, can meet local residents, leaders, and other decision makers. This summer’s trip was led by several faculty members, including Davin Holen, Alaska Sea Grant coastal community resilience specialist.

“It was an absolute pleasure to watch the students learn new things from local residents, officials, developers, and others, process what they heard, and then start to question what they were learning,” Holen recalled. “Throughout the process, they began to realize how much they were learning, but also what was missing, who they weren’t hearing from. I saw so much growth in just two weeks from every student. As an educator, this was the bright spot of our journey together.”

The WAGE Circumpolar Partnership, led by Canada’s Université Laval and composed of members from Arctic countries including the United States, was developed by participants in the Arctic Council-endorsed project The Economy of the North (ECONOR). Holen has been a member of the ECONOR team for almost 20 years and leads the training commission for WAGE.

WAGE summer school students smiling in front of a Inuvik sign/artwork

The WAGE Circumpolar Partnership explores economic and social inequalities in the circumpolar North. It responds to calls voiced at the Arctic Council for countries to tackle the inequalities that affect Indigenous peoples and to initiate a fundamental transformation in the distribution of wealth produced in the Arctic. The partnership uses a knowledge co-production approach, bringing together the research community and local decision-makers in Northern communities, especially when researchers are working with Indigenous organizations.

The students are currently collaborating on a report they will present this November at the WAGE annual meeting in Quebec City.

Next year’s summer school will offer opportunities for a larger group of students. Focusing on the emerging blue economy, it will be held in two communities in Nunavut, and may include transport aboard a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker research vessel.