Itoah Scott-Enns, Director of the Arctic Funders Collaborative
In the Dene culture, it is a part of our tradition that when you harvest food from the land, you distribute your catch amongst those close to you and those in need. My large family was very fortunate to always have a constant supply of caribou, moose and fish provided by family and friends from surrounding communities. The values of giving and taking care of one another is at the heart of our culture and many Indigenous cultures in the North. We share this common value with the philanthropic community and it is a great foundation upon which relationships can be built between Indigenous and philanthropic communities.
Funders in the North occupy a critical role as supporters of a variety of Indigenous initiatives, all of which ultimately seek to advance the self-determination of Indigenous communities in the North. Everything from capacity building in remote communities, to Inuit-led whale stewardship, to Sami reindeer herding, to performing arts programs represent efforts by a community seeking to become more self-sufficient, promote cultural resilience, strengthen the health of their community, and maintain the traditions that have governed their people since time immemorial.
These initiatives also reflect the evolution of Northern cultures that have had to adapt at an increasing rate to meet the demands of the modern day and become resilient to the rapidly changing Arctic environment. Indigenous peoples across the Arctic are often in a conflicting position of wanting to support economic growth, but needing to maintain the integrity of their ecosystems and cultures, which are increasingly impacted by climate change and resource development. This is a very challenging balance to achieve and communities are on a continuous learning journey as they seek to adapt to a constant influx of new challenges and new opportunities. Many of the projects and programs funded by members of the Arctic Funders Collaborate directly correlate to these challenges and opportunities, and so for Northern funders, being willing to embark on this continuous learning curve to deepen your understanding of the constantly evolving cultural, political, social and environmental context of Northern communities is critical to responsible funding.
While that may sound daunting, it really isn’t and comes down valuing relationships and reciprocity. Knowing that your role in a community is both a privilege and a responsibility that must be nurtured carefully; that your work can have significant impacts on the communities you are partnering with, as well as those you don’t; and that your own approach to that work can either contribute to the resilience of a community if done responsibly or be another challenge to overcome if not. Partnerships that are founded on common values and nurtured with reciprocity lead to stronger relationships and more productive partnerships.
This learning curve could use some guidance and support at times, which is why the Arctic Funders Collaborative has formed as a community of support. To learn from one another and become more effective, informed, and responsible funders by working together and embarking on this continuous learning journey together. We will be using this blog as a vehicle for sharing our stories, experiences, and exciting updates coming out of the North and our work in Arctic philanthropy. We are excited to share this with you!
-Itoah is a member of the Tlicho Nation in the Northwest Territories, Canada, and has been working as the Director of the AFC since June 2015. She seeks to bring a Northern Indigenous perspective to the forefront of her work within the philanthropic community. She is based in Yellowknife and is passionate about building a sustainable future for Dene in the North.