UAA professor elected international chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council

In July, the Inuit Circumpolar Council General Assembly converged in Utqiagvik to approve a new declaration and elect a new international chair to oversee the implementation of the organization’s priorities.

Dorough speaking before the ICC General Assembly in Utqiagvik Photo credit: Robert Mesher

At the assembly, Dalee Sambo Dorough, former associate professor of political science, was unanimously elected by the body to serve as the international chair of the ICC, a position with a term limit of four years that rotates between the member states of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia.

“In the next four years, I will do everything that I can to make you happy. Not only for you, here in this room, but more important to all those Inuit across the entire stretch of Inuit Nunaat. Quyanaq. Nakurmik. Quyaanasuaq. I’m honored,” Dorough said before the assembly.

The ICC is a non-governmental international organization that organized in 1980 with the goal of securing the rights, interests and development of Inuit as well as their cultures and languages. As international chair, Dorough will work with four vice chairs and an additional executive council members from each country.

Dorough first got involved with the organization in its early stages of development in 1977 as a volunteer and has been involved with the ICC’s work since the very beginning.

In her closing remarks given before the general assembly, Dorough explained that she had disliked high school so intensely that she gave the principal an ultimatum: to allow her to develop her own independent study classes or drop out.

“It was one of the ways I got out of high school,” Dorough said. “I developed some independent studies classes in political science to satisfy the credits I needed to graduate.”

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After high school, from 1982-89, Dorough was the executive director for the ICC’s Alaska office and additionally served as the special assistant to the first president of the ICC, Hans-Pavia Rosing.

Dorough first learned that she was under serious consideration for the position several months prior to the ICC’s general assembly in Utqiagvik. While the position was open to any Alaskan Inuit, as this term is Alaska’s turn to chair the ICC, other potential candidates chose not to submit their names for consideration.

While Dorough is enthusiastic about being the new chair, the full-time position with the ICC means resigning from the UAA Political Science Department, where she has taught since 2008.

“I’m going to miss teaching,” she said.

Dorough specialized in teaching classes relating to Arctic policy and Indigenous peoples’ issues, such as Comparative Northern Politics.

“All of the courses I’ve taught have been in political science or cross-listed with Alaska Native Studies, and you can see how those two intersect as the rest of the world catches up and realizes that the United States is an Arctic nation with a significant number of indigenous peoples that inhabit the circumpolar region,” Dorough said.

For many students and colleagues at UAA, Dorough’s departure from the university is bittersweet.

Delaney Thiele, a junior majoring in political science and minoring in Alaska Native Studies, first met Dorough taking her Tribes, Nations, and People’s class in the fall semester of 2017.

“Professor Dorough has a wealth of knowledge,” Thiele said. “As an Alaskan Native person, I have been inspired to focus on indigenous rights and advocacy work because of Professor Dorough.”

The faculty of the Political Science department also feel Dorough’s absence.

“Professor Dorough will be missed by her students, myself and the Department of Political Science, as well as the University as a whole,” Kimberly Pace, professor of political science, said.

Pace explained that while Dorough will no longer be at UAA, the two hope to maintain a relationship to coordinate guest speakers, lecturers and additional opportunities for students.

“I will miss her but wish her all the best,” Pace said.

For Dorough, the next four years will be spent focusing on the priorities established under the 13th General Assembly Utqiagvik Declaration. The marine environment, impacts on sea life, food security and family and youth related issues are just a few of the many areas of concern Dorough will be working on, as well as seeking to increase the ICC’s participation within international organizations, such as the United Nations, the Arctic Council and other international fora.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that the current [presidential] administration is pulling away from areas of direct concern to us… Climate change and the Paris Agreement are key issues,” Dorough said.

Dorough believes that the ICC has the ability to calibrate and adapt to changing conditions, but that the organization needs to become more assertive about both the individual and collective rights of indigenous people not only in Alaska but also across the Arctic.

“If we’re not more firm about these messages, we could be easily overwhelmed by the non-Arctic states,” she said. “We should be dealing in areas that affirm our right to participate directly in the actions that affect us, our lives, our homelands, territories and our resources.”