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Speaking of Rights: Indigenous Linguistic Rights in the Arctic

In: The Yearbook of Polar Law Online
Author: Romain Chuffart
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This paper discusses and compares the evolution of language policies, laws and rights for indigenous peoples and minorities living in six of the eight Arctic states. It focuses on language rights of indigenous peoples living in the Fennoscandian Arctic (Sami people of Norway, Sweden, and Finland), in the American Arctic (Alaska) and in the Canadian Arctic (Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon). This paper also focuses on linguistic rights in Greenland. The aim of this study is to add to the discussion about how the use of indigenous languages in the public sphere (education, the judicial system, and interactions with the government) helps indigenous-language speakers who live in the Arctic to preserve their ways of life and their cultural identities. This paper posits that asymmetrical management is key to fulfilling indigenous linguistic rights. Devolution of language planning and policy implementation to the relevant local authorities often makes sense from a state viewpoint and, although it is not enough, it can be beneficial to indigenous speakers.

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