by Dewey Kk’ołeyo Putyuk Hoffman, Arctic Indigenous Fund Advisor
I volunteered to share about our group because it brings me joy. My intention is to describe this experience from a shared perspective as the result of ongoing conversations and knowledge exchanges in Denendeh, in the Yup’ik region of Alaska, in Northern, Inari and Skolt Sápmi and later this year in Kalaallit Nunaat. The Arctic Indigenous Fund (AIF) is a relatively new collective which seeks to transform philanthropy across the Circumpolar North. Comprised of 100% Indigenous advisors and staff, we were formed in 2018 and essentially started from scratch to decide how philanthropic funding should be distributed in ways that best support the needs of the regions where we ourselves were raised and choose to live and work. We seek to connect the past experiences of our own families and home community’s history directly with what we want to perpetuate for our descendants into the future. We recognize the interdependence and interconnectedness of our peoples across families, cultures, and regions of the world.
Volunteer advisors from Inuit, Northern Dene and Sámi communities work with the Arctic Funders Collaborative, where AIF is currently housed, in Northwest Territories, Canada. We rely on broad-based Indigenous approaches to this work since we come from across Alaskan, Canadian, Greenlandic and Northern European regions, each with our own distinct beliefs, cultural practices and communication styles. We acknowledge the interwoven history that includes interests that actively work to destroy Indigenous ways of life, those who actively uplift the dignity and honor of Indigenous lifeways, and others somewhere else along the spectrum. This requires an ongoing constant process of filtering things out based upon our individual and collective value system and beliefs. We can apply teachings from one set of experiences to another and begin to uphold a holistic worldview.
AIF is kinship-based, just like many of our local Indigenous communities. We treat each other like family. As a group we have agreed to ensure that everyone in the discussion feels heard. We facilitate our meetings ourselves with a rotation of AIF staff and advisors. When we aren’t sure how to reach consensus on an issue, we might ask ourselves “what would my aunt/uncle/grandparent/local Elder back home do?”, or not, make a decision and move forward. We promote free prior and informed consent, and safe spaces to share and learn together. Whenever we might encounter an “oops, ouch!” moment with one another, we address the issue head on and work towards a resolution. This approach directly ties to the policies, activities, and partnerships that we create for the fund.
Together we can then map out specific goals and actions tied to our vision:
Our communities thrive when making decisions for themselves on their own terms;
Our lands and waters have the power to heal us;
We treat each other and our partners with respect, patience and kindness.