Arctic Portal logo

Out of a total of 4 million inhabitants of the Arctic, approximately 500,000 belong to indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples' organizations have been granted Permanent Participants status in the Arctic Council. The Permanent Participants have full consultation rights in connection with the Council's negotiations and decisions. The Permanent Participants represent a unique feature of the Arctic Council, and they make valuable contributions to its activities in all areas. The following organizations are Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council:


Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC)

Territory: Alaska (United States), Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada

Indigenous Peoples: Athabaskan

Indigenous Population: 45,000

Languages: 23

The AAC was established to defend the rights and further the interests internationally of American and Canadian Athabaskan members. The AAC also seeks to foster a greater understanding of the shared heritage of Athabaskan peoples of Arctic North America.

About the Athabaskan Peoples

The Athabaskan peoples have traditionally occupied a vast geographic area of approximately 3 million square kilometers. This region has been continuously occupied by Athabaskan peoples for at least 10,000 years. The ancestors of contemporary Athabaskan peoples were semi-nomadic hunters. The staples of Athabaskan life are caribou, moose, beaver, rabbits and fish. Collectively, the Arctic Athabaskan peoples share 23 distinct languages.

Peoples of Arctic Athabaskan descent represent approximately two percent of the resident population of Alaska (12,000), compared with about one-third of the Yukon Territory (10,000), the Northwest Territories and provincial norths (20,000) in Canada. Athabaskan peoples are a relatively young and growing population compared with non-Aboriginal Arctic resident groups.

Arctic Athabaskan Council in the Arctic Council

The AAC collaborates with Arctic States, Working Groups and other Permanent Participants regarding circumpolar relations with regular contributions to Chairmanship work plans. The AAC has particular interest in balancing environmental protection with economic sustainability.

Arctic Athabaskan Council Official website

Source: Arctic Council

Aleut International Association (AIA)

Territory: Alaska (United States), Russian Federation, Pribilof Islands (United States) and Commander Islands (Russian Federation)

Indigenous Peoples: Russian and American Aleut (Unangan)

Indigenous Population: Approximately 15,000 Aleuts in the United States and 350 Aleuts in the Russian Federation

Languages: English, Russian, Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Dialect of the Aleut Language), Niigugim Tunuu (Atkan Dialect of the Aleut Language)

About Aleut International Association

The Aleut International Association (AIA) is a not-for-profit corporation that represents the Indigenous peoples of Aleut descent in the United States and the Russian Federation. It was created by the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) and the Association of the Indigenous peoples of the North of the Aleut District of the Kamchatka Region of the Russian Federation (ANSARKO). AIA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of four Alaskan and four Russian Aleuts under the leadership of a president.

AIA was formed to address environmental and cultural concerns of the extended Aleut family whose wellbeing has been connected to the rich resources of the Bering Sea for millennia. Its mission is to promote continuity of culture and protect the resources needed to sustain it. The need to understand global processes, such as trans-boundary contaminants transport, the impacts of climate change and the effects of commercial fisheries on the ecosystem of the Bering Sea, to name a few, was an impetus in joining in the work of international fora where AIA is actively pursuing collaboration with governments, scientists and other organizations to improve the wellbeing of the Aleut peoples and their environment.

In addition to its status as a Permanent Participant of the Arctic Council, AIA was granted Special Consultative Status by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 2004. AIA is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

About the Aleutian Peoples

The Unangan (Aleut) people have traditionally lived in the Aleutian Islands region of southwestern Alaska and the Commander Islands in the Russian Federation for nearly 10,000 years. Russian and American Aleuts are separated by distances, borders and the International Date Line, but united by the great Bering Sea and the North Pacific and the cultural practices that have helped the Aleut people to survive in the Aleutians.

Aleut International Association in the Arctic Council

The AIA was admitted as a permanent participant of the Arctic Council in 1998. As part of the Arctic Council framework, the AIA collaborates with Arctic States, Working Groups and other Permanent Participants with regular contributions to Chairmanship work plans. AIA has a particular interest in the ocean, and the environmental and social changes occurring in the region.

Aleut International Association Official website

Source: Arctic Council

Gwich'in Council International (GCI)

Territory: Alaska (United States), Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada

Indigenous Peoples: Gwich’in

Indigenous Population: 9,000

Languages: Gwich’in (Dinju Zhuh Kʼyuu), one of 47 Athabascan languages

About the Gwich’in Council International

The Gwich’in Council International (GCI) is a non-profit organization that represents 9,000 Gwich’in in Alaska, United States and the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada.

GCI’s mission is to amplify the voice of the Gwich’in Nation on issues of sustainable development and the environment in international fora, predominantly the Arctic Council. GCI’s membership consists of two representative bodies in Canada and one in the United States: Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC), who represents the beneficiaries of the Gwich’in Land Claims Settlement Act in Canada’s Northwest Territories; the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation (VGFN), which is a self-governing First Nation in Old Crow, Yukon; and the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG), for the eight Gwich’in communities in Alaska – Fort Yukon, Venetie, Arctic Village, Chalkyitsik, Birch Creek, Circle, Canyon Village and Beaver. GCI is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, composed of four members from Canada and four from Alaska. Canada and Alaska each appoint a co-chair from its members.

About the Gwich’in Peoples

The Gwich’in people are one of the most northern Indigenous peoples in North America, living in the northwestern limits of the boreal forest. The Gwich’in are part of a larger family of Indigenous people known as Athabaskans, although their language and culture are distinct. The Gwich’in language, consisting of different dialects, is one of 47 Athabascan languages and is considered a severely endangered language today.

The Gwich'in life and culture has traditionally been based on the Porcupine Caribou herd, the people's main source of food, tools and clothing. The Gwich'in practiced a nomadic lifestyle until the 1870's, when fur traders came into the area to establish trading posts that later became settlements. Hunting, fishing and trapping remain important both culturally and economically, with caribou, moose and whitefish being staples of the Gwich’in diet.

Gwich’in Council International in the Arctic Council

GCI collaborates with Arctic States, Working Groups and other Permanent Participants regarding circumpolar relations with regular contributions to Chairmanship work plans. The GCI has particular interest in the environment and sustainable development to support resilient and healthy communities, and actively participates in the SDWG, CAFF, and EPPR Working Groups.

Gwich´in Council International Official website

Source: Arctic Council

Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)

Territory: Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka

Indigenous Peoples: Inuit

Indigenous Population: 180,000

Languages: Numerous dialects of the Inuit language, English, Danish, Russian

About Inuit Circumpolar Council

To thrive in their circumpolar homeland, Inuit realized they must speak with a united voice on issues of common concern and combine their energies and talents towards protecting and promoting their way of life. ICC’s principle goals are to:

  • Strengthen unity among Inuit of the Arctic region
  • Promote Inuit rights and interests on an international level
  • Develop and encourage long-term policies that safeguard the Arctic environment
  • Seek full and active partnership in the political, economic and social development of the Arctic region

ICC has held Consultative Status II at the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 1983 and is active within the United Nations and its various subsidiary bodies. ICC consults regularly with the United Nations on a broad range of issues concerning the Arctic and Indigenous human rights.

About Inuit

Historically, Inuit were hunter/gatherers living a nomadic life in the Arctic following the game and the seasons. Inuit now live in widely dispersed communities throughout a vast area of the Arctic in North America, Greenland and the Russian Federation. Today, Inuit are an integral part of modern society, actively engaged within the global community.

Inuit Circumpolar Council in the Arctic Council

ICC was actively involved in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, which later became the Arctic Council in 1996. ICC is one of the original Permanent Participants under the Arctic Council structure. ICC focuses great effort within the Arctic Council and is active in its various Working Groups, Task Forces and individual projects. ICC also participates in the Senior Arctic Officials meetings and Ministerial meetings. ICC considers the Arctic Council to be the premier international forum dealing with Arctic policy issues today.

Inuit Circumpolar Council Official website 

Source: Arctic Council

Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)

Territory: The Russian Federation

Indigenous Peoples: 40 Indigenous Peoples that live in the Russian Federation

Indigenous Population: 250,000

RAIPON's goal is to protect Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, defend their legal interests, assist in solving environmental, social, economic, cultural and educational issues and to promote their right to self-governance. RAIPON works with the State Duma and the Government of the Russian Federation regarding legislation related to Indigenous Peoples’ issues. In addition to its status as a Permanent Participant in the Arctic Council, RAIPON participates in international structures such as the United Nations Economic and Social Council with a special consultative status and the Governing Council, and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum of the United Nations Environment Program as an observer.

About the Russian Indigenous Peoples Represented in RAIPON

RAIPON represents 40 Indigenous peoples totaling over 250,000 people. The peoples represented in RAIPON live in 60 percent of the whole Russian Federation territory, including the North, Siberia and the Far East.

RAIPON's Indigenous community includes distinctive cultures with a variety of native languages and varied economic activities that are largely based on natural resources.

RAIPON in the Arctic Council

RAIPON collaborates with Arctic States, Working Groups and other Permanent Participants regarding circumpolar relations with regular contributions to Chairmanship work plans. RAIPON has particular interest in social and economic issues, environmental protection, cultural development and education.

Raipon official website

Source: Arctic Council

Saami Council (SC)

Territory: Finland, the Russian Federation, Norway and Sweden

Indigenous Peoples: Sámi

Indigenous Population: Estimated over 100,000

Languages: Nine

The Saami Council’s core missions are to:

  • Promote Sámi rights and interests in the four countries where Sámi are living
  • Consolidate the feeling of affinity among the Sámi people
  • Attain recognition for the Sámi as a nation
  • Maintain the economic, social and cultural rights of the Sámi in the legislation of the four states

About the Sámi People

The Sámi people live in Sápmi, an area that stretches across the northern parts of Finland, the Russian Federation, Norway and Sweden. There are no available statistics on how many Sámi there are, but over 100,000 is the estimate that is used most often. The majority of the Sámi population lives in Norway. There are nine total Sámi languages spoken today.

The Sámi people traditionally made their living from reindeer herding, fishing, livestock farming and hunting. Since 1989, the Sámi in Norway have had their own elected assembly – the Sámediggi – which acts as a consultative body for the Norwegian government authorities.

Saami Council in the Arctic Council

The Saami Council collaborates with Arctic States, Working Groups and other Permanent Participants regarding circumpolar relations with regular contributions to Chairmanship work plans. The Saami Council has particular interest in environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic.

Saami Council official website 

Source: Arctic Council