Global Classroom Workshop: Contested Claims in Arctic Exploration 02.28.17

On Tuesday, February 28th Global Classroom hosted its monthly Teacher’s Workshop on Contested Claims in Arctic Exploration. The workshop was held at The Lakeside School and sponsored by The University of Washington’s Canadian Studies Center, the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies and The Center for Global Studies, at The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

Professor Vincent Gallucci, Director of the Canadian Studies Center and Arctic & International Relations at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, started the program by providing an overview of environmental changes in the Arctic region. Professor Gallucci revealed that climate changes and glacial melting in the region opens up new possibilities for international trade and resource access; it is the backdrop for shifting relations and emerging interests amongst Arctic nations. He presented an overview of the Arctic Council and the member nations that make it up. Interestingly, he also suggested that the admission of countries in Asia as Observers on the Council—including China, India, Japan, South Korean, and Singapore—has the potential to reshape Arctic relations in unexpected ways in the future. Indeed, Professor Gallucci’s most significant takeaway point was that students are going to see “big changes” in the region and around around Arctic policy over the course of their lifetimes. Teaching about the Arctic is more important than ever, as students try to navigate major geopolitical and environmental concerns.

Harkiran Rajasansi, Consul in the Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Service Section at the Consulate General of Canada in Seattle, shared more details about the organization and work of the Arctic Council. Specifically, she detailed Canada’s priorities, interests, and work as a leader on the Council. The Arctic makes up 40% of Canada’s territory; combined, Canada and Russia have sovereignty over 80% of the land in the Arctic. Ms. Rajasansi discussed contested claims from within this context, and showed how, in many cases, claims are not up for debate as far as Canada is concerned. In other cases, like the Hands Island, competition over territory is played out amicably. Ms. Rajasansi also demonstrated how Canada’s expressed priorities in the Arctic during its 2-year period of chairmanship on the Arctic Council—including promoting economic and social development and environmental protection in that region—have carried over into the U.S.’s agenda as current chairman of the Council.

Dr. Nadine Fabbi continued the discussion around contested claims in the Arctic by focusing specifically on the rights and interests of Indigenous communities in that region, and in the Canadian Arctic in particular. Dr. Fabbi took time to present the case of the Inuit and the establishment of the Nunavut territory in northern Canada. She used this as an example of a modern indigenous movement that has reshaped Canada’s map in order to reflect the longstanding claims of Indigenous Peoples to territory. She revealed how indigenous communities in the Arctic have effectively adapted the language and defense of their claims in order to continuously confront changing geopolitics—and showed how the permanent participation of 6 Indigenous organizations on the Arctic Council is proof of the radical success of Indigenous communities in the Arctic. The impacts of climate change in the Arctic are, in Dr. Fabbi’s words, “depressing”; but the successes of indigenous peoples in the Canadian Arctic in asserting land claims and defending territorial integrity offer an optimistic flipside to emerging issues.


Eileen Hynes, Director of Thematic Studies at the Lake and Park School and The World Affairs Council’s World Educator of 2016-2017, led our curricular connections portion of the Teacher’s Workshop. Ms. Hynes travelled to the Arctic with the National Geographic as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. She shared stories from her experience, and showed how she “brought the Arctic home to Seattle” by creating a unit on Arctic exploration at The Lake and Park Elementary School. Ms. Hynes revealed ways that the Arctic can be incorporated into early learning by challenging students to think about cultural adaption, evolution and diversity, and climate change. For more teaching tips and resources for incorporating the Arctic into your classroom teaching, explore Global Classroom’s curricular resource packet on ‘Contested Claims in Arctic Exploration’.