Arctic Congress began Wednesday afternoon with an art exhibition beautifully showcasing indigenous stories across the Arctic. The themes of the exhibit mirrored my arrival that morning in Bodø, welcomed by the arctic sun shining down and casting light on the important events to come. The artists discussed the intricate relation-ship between experience, art, and science, a theme that would carry throughout the congress. The highlight for me, being a linguist en-gaged with endangered language documentation and sustainability in the Arctic, was the care paid to storytelling in the artist’s languages and the word lists focused on key motifs such as snow and ice termi-nology, paralleling the work on Inuit ethnophysiography and ice terms by Scott Heyes (Heyes, 2011).

Arctic Congress 2024, three conferences rolled into one and centred on the knowledges of the Arctic, filled my week with networking events, conference presenta-tions, and panel discussions. Represented by expert knowledge holders and government officials alongside local and indigenous knowledge holders, the topics ranged from anthropology and lin-guistics to geopolitics and the economy to ethics, research methodologies and education—and even the culinary arts (Bunderson, 2023). This unique convergence of diverse perspectives and expertise co-created a genuinely collaborative and diverse space for discourse on critical issues affecting the Arctic and the world today, science diplomacy at its best.

As a linguist, two sessions were of crucial importance to me; the first focused on language structures and language use in a changing Arctic, where I had the privilege of presenting a snapshot of my work on an endangered Yup’ik language variety. My research focuses on doc-umenting the Norton Sound Kotlik Yup’ik dialect spoken at the mouth of the Yukon River in Alaska. The dialect is only spoken by around 40 Elders today and is on the verge of falling silent. Working with the Elders, I am engaged in making audio and video recordings of Quli-raq ‘traditional stories,’ Univkaraq ‘historical narratives,’ Yuuyaraq ‘way-of-life narratives’ and conversations to support language revitalization and sustainability in the community. These recordings can be used to create dictionaries, storybooks, and pedagogical resources, and they can be compiled into a language corpus to help inform linguistic theory from a different typolog-ical perspective. My linguistic work using the beginnings of this language corpus focuses on how the language embeds its demonstrative inventory into the physical, metaphorical, and cultural landscape by using three distinct frames of reference, each employing a different distance-based typology with particular attention paid to the nature of the ground and the shape of the figure (Toler, [Manuscript submitted for publication]). The second session focused on strengthening indigenous language vitality in the Arctic. Between 40 and 90 Indigenous languages are spoken in the Arctic, and all are on the path to falling silent (Council, 2023). This threat is positively correlated with and compounded by climate change, environmental degradation, and even so-cioeconomic developmental policies designed without local input (Bromham et al., 2021; Fine et al., 2023). This important session sought to highlight the threat to the languages of the Arctic and showcased work being done to support language vitality in these changing communities.

Having moved to Norway from Canada, I came to the Arctic Congress hoping to meet linguists and researchers working in similar fields and network with the Nordic linguistics com-munity. Through these two sessions, among others, I had the opportunity to do just that by reconnecting with old friends and making new ones who also work with indigenous languages across the Arctic—from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to the Nordics to Russia. I had the privilege of sitting down and talking linguistics with Lenore Gronoble, who served remotely as the external on my Ph.D. defence in April. I also had the privilege of meeting Indigenous knowledge holders from Alaska, sharing my work with them, and listening to their perspectives and feedback. A key goal of attending this event was to share my research with the Yup’ik community and the Arctic community at large as a step in returning the knowledge to the people.

UArctic made attending this groundbreaking event possible. So, it was a joy to meet the founders and current leadership at the Lávvu NOMAD Indigenous Food Lab early on in the conference. Thanks to UArctic’s support, I could communicate my work to my peers, network with influential leaders in Arctic policy and planning, and was reinvigorated to continue col-laborating with Indigenous communities across the circumpolar north in language vitality and linguistic research. The motto of Alaska seems fitting here, “North to the Future,” because the future does depend on the Arctic’s well-being, supported by collaborative initiatives with the people who live there and the knowledges embedded in the languages they speak.


Bromham, Lindell, Russell Dinnage, Hedvig Skirgård, Andrew Ritchie, Marcel Cardillo, Felicity Meakins, Simon Greenhill, & Xia Hua. (2021). Global predictors of language endanger-ment and the future of linguistic diversity. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 6 (2), 163–173.

Bunderson, Jason Eric. (2023). Knowledges of development. NTNU Open.

Council, Arctic. (2023).

Fine, Julia C., Jessica Love-Nichols, & Bernard C. Perley. (2023). Climate & language: An entangled crisis. Daedalus, 152 (3), 84–98.

Heyes, Scott. (2011). Between the trees and the tides: Inuit ways of discriminating space in a coastal and boreal landscape. In D Mark, A.G Turk, N Burenhult, & D Stea (Eds.), Landscape in language (First, pp. 187–224). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Toler, Nicholas Gregor. ([Manuscript submitted for publication]). Demonstrative frames of ref-erence in Norton Sound Kotlik Yup’ik: A corpus-based analysis [Doctoral dissertation, University of Alberta]. U of A Libraries.