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This webinar provides a brief introduction to the historical context of colonialism in the Arctic, focused on Alaska, and its relationship to climate change impacts on Arctic Indigenous Peoples. For researchers working in the Arctic, it will provide insight into the ways that relationships, resource extraction, compensation, and infrastructure building have been predominantly one-sided.
First contact of European colonizers in Alaska were Russian explorers in the 18th century, with the state purchased by the U.S. government in 1867. The discovery of gold and oil led to the rapid influx of settlers; local Indigenous populations were excluded from gold claims due to their lack of recognition as citizens. During these stages of economic development, the U.S. government took steps to assimilate Alaska Indigenous people such as the forced establishment of permanent settlements rather than traditional semi-nomadic camps. Barely less than a generation later, fossil fuel combustion has altered the greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere and catalyzed climate change, resulting in dramatic changes in Arctic ecosystems and environments noted by both Arctic Indigenous Peoples and western scientists. Manifestations of Arctic climate change include, but are not limited to, diminished shorefast sea ice which acts as a barrier against storm surges and a platform for subsistence hunting. Food security and management practices are some of the most pressing issues that Arctic communities and peoples are currently facing. Current solutions are to transplant entire communities or relocate. This webinar will go into detail about this historical context.
About the Speaker
Assistant Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Sarah is an Iñupiaq (Alaska Native) Earth scientist and Assistant Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego specializing in climate change, Earth's surface processes, isotope geochemistry, and paleoclimatology. She was born in Dillingham and raised in Anchorage, with her maternal family hailing from Unalakleet.