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Rumors of Arctic Belonging by Kiliii Yuyan

Towering icebergs, doomed expeditions in tall ships, desolate landscapes with naught but howling wind– this was the vast Arctic from the paintings of European explorers in the 19th century. That romance carries on in the 21st century, even as the ice vanishes and increasing numbers of people experience the North in person.

When the future has its way with the North, it will leave a radically altered land. The sea ice and its denizens will have vanished. Contemporary Inuit will be living vastly different lifestyles than that of their ancestors. Future generations will look back to remember a land little understood by outsiders. Will the imaginations of foreigners paint the sole history of an Arctic with ice and snow? What are the memories of the 3 million Greenlandic Kalallit, Alaskan Iñupiat, and European Samí who call the Arctic their home?

Despite my ancestry as a Native Siberian, I experience the Arctic both as an insider and an outsider. My years there have left me with a vision of a multi-chromatic Far North. This is a land blued with ancient ice, deepened by blood, and radiant under the northern lights. My Arctic nostalgia is not for sailing ships, but for skinboats. My strongest memories are intimate ones– the smell of fermented seal oil, the sting of ice crystals on snowmobile rides, and the background din of howling Greenlandic huskies.

A future North awaits– not cold and unchanging, but living, dying and being reborn. Everyday memories of the Arctic will pass forward as they always have, kept by its Indigenous peoples and hidden in plain sight.

The Aurora Borealis flares alongside the Milky Way above Iceland.

Jul 2022
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