International Arctic Science Committee awards former professor Dalee Dorough 2022 IASC Medal

by Catalina Myers  |   

Dalee Dorough Sambo
Former tenured professor of political science Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough was recently awarded the 2022 International Arctic Science Committee Medal. (Photo by Erin Hooley, University of Alaska Anchorage)

The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) awarded former UAA tenured political science professor Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough the 2022 IASC Medal. The IASC is a nongovernmental, international scientific organization committed to facilitating collaborative interdisciplinary research in the Arctic and the Circumpolar North. IASC awarded Dorough based on her outstanding achievements in advocating the rights of Indigenous peoples, service to Arctic communities and her influence as a legal scholar.

“The award from IASC is important to me because it reflects a growing recognition of our legitimate perspectives by Western and other scientific institutions that historically have rarely considered the significance of the views of Indigenous peoples. The exception to this practice has been brought by those Indigenous peoples that have been trained through Western education and science,” said Dorough. 

She said increasingly, international institutions like IASC are becoming more aware and inclusive of including Inuit and Indigenous voices in their work and research. She acknowledges that within the research community, there have been individuals who are sensitive to including Indigenous voices and knowledge of the Arctic. However, overall, the shift to include Inuit and Indigenous peoples in scientific research and policy hasn’t been until more recently and more often than not, as a result of the advocacy of Indigenous peoples themselves. 

“This to me is the really important message of this award and going forward, I will work to underscore Inuit and other Arctic Indigenous peoples need to play a direct and meaningful role in the work of research that takes place in the Arctic,” she said. Dorough said the award from IASC serves as a type of “bellringer,” signaling to the international community, whether it’s through scientific research or public policy, that Indigenous voices are a critical component when it comes to conversations centered around Arctic issues and the Circumpolar North. She further explained that Arctic issues are relevant to the entire globe and that what happens in the North will impact people across the world. She said Indigenous voices play a vital role in the integrity of the Arctic environment and its sustainability in the future because of the immense knowledge we have of the land and environment. “I’m hoping that this indicates a more global embrace of Inuit and Indigenous peoples and our status, rights and role in every form — but particularly when it comes to research.”

Dorough has spent her life’s work lending her voice to speak on and advocate for Indigenous rights, especially in the Arctic and Circumpolar North. Her work with the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) started over 40 years ago when she volunteered with them during their formation in 1977. In 2018, Dorough was elected as the international chair of the ICC. 

Since her teens, Dorough has focused her attention on political science. Throughout her career, she’s worked in international relations with nongovernmental organizations like ICC and has helped draft policy at the highest levels of national and global intergovernmental entities. Dorough was even recognized by former President Barack Obama in 2010 over her work and championing of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the U.N. General Assembly adopted in 2007. Additionally, in 2011, Dorough was appointed to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and served for two three year terms on the Forum.

Dorough holds a master's degree in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Ph.D. in law from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Faculty of Law. In 2008, she joined UAA’s Department of Political Science faculty as an assistant professor of political science, specializing in international relations. While Dorough left her post at UAA in 2018, her love of teaching has not waned. This summer, her four-year international chairmanship of ICC concludes, and she hopes to return to UAA and serve in some capacity. She knows her award from IASC is significant and hopes that it inspires youth in the Alaska Native community to join her and continue the work she started so many years ago. 

“This award signals a turning point,” said Dorough. “I hope this means there will be a genuine change in how research is conducted in the Arctic and that the outcomes will not only be beneficial to those in the Arctic and Arctic rim states but to all of humanity because the Arctic is a key region to the entire globe.”

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