Among the 4.5 million inhabitants of Arctic, less than 20% are Indigenous Peoples. The question of who is indigenous or not is currently a crucial issue in the Arctic. It is mostly related to economic, political, and ideological concerns.
Indigenous peoples are those peoples who were marginalized when the modern states were created and identify themselves as indigenous peoples. They are associated with specific territories to which they trace their histories.
They exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:
*They speak a language that is different from that of the dominant group(s),
*They are being discriminated in the political system,
* They are being discriminated within the legal system,
*Their cultures diverge from that of the remaining society,
*They often diverge from the mainstream society in their resource use by being hunters and gatherers, nomads, pastoralists, or swidden farmers,
*They consider themselves and are considered by others as different from the rest of the population.
One of the main roots of the indigenous culture is the relation between man and nature. The perspective of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic consider human as part as the nature in same way as the other elements like the vegetation, the minerals and the animals. All elements are also perceived in an equal way.
Original belief of arctic Indigenous Peoples is defined as animist, meaning that any element of the nature is animated by a soul. However the perception have changed or evolved along the history due to several factors even though nowadays the nature is still in the core of arctic Indigenous Peoples’ Culture and life. Meeting with other peoples, politics of assimilation and leadership of sovereign countries, modernization and industrialization are as much factors that affected the original perception of arctic Indigenous Peoples.
Arctic Indigenous Peoples include for example Saami in circumpolar areas of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Northwest Russia, Nenets, Khanty, Evenk and Chukchi in Russia, Aleut, Yupik and Inuit (Iñupiat) in Alaska, Inuit (Inuvialuit) in Canada and Inuit (Kalaallit) in Greenland.
Arcticum Museum Rovaniemi
Arctic Human Development Report, 2004. Akureyri: Stefansson Arctic Institute, p. 46.