U.S. Embassy Helsinki joined forces with a dynamic group of our young alumni to travel to the Arctic and get a first-hand understanding of Arctic communities and livelihoods. This was the second half of a program created to familiarize youth with important Arctic issues, with a special focus on the core goals of the Arctic Council. This is timely, as the U.S. assumed chairmanship of the Arctic Council in April this year, and will be followed directly afterward by Finland. In our previous session, we focused our attention on Arctic environment issues and sustainable development.
We were all deeply moved by what we discovered on this two-day journey. The youth visited the Sajos Sami Cultural and Administrative Center as well as YLE Sapmi, where they engaged in discussions about the challenges confronting indigenous people, their lifeways and livelihoods. Later, they had the opportunity to hear hauntingly beautiful traditional joiking performed by Jon Henrik Fjällgren during the Ijahis idja Indigenous Music Festival. We finished our journey with exploration of the fascinating Sami Museum, Siida, and an informative visit to the Inari Reindeer farm.
These experiences brought home to the group the incredible richness and fragility of the Arctic region, shed new light on the challenges faced there, and truly served as a call to action. During the long trip back home, the young alumni vowed together to take action to protect this precious region, its environment and communities.