Inuit kids in front of their house, Greeenland / ©: Staffan Widstrand / WWF

Arctic peoples

The Arctic is home to over four million people.
Nowhere on Earth are the immediate effects of climate change felt so intensely. New economic opportunities are coming to the Arctic as oil and gas, shipping, and tourism, while melting permafrost and changes to the patterns of game animals are changing the face of life in the north.

WWF works with communities throughout the Arctic to help communities deal with the effects of climate change, support research, and bring northern stories to a global audience.

Working with people around the Arctic

Featured story

Watching for the umkys


Vlad Kavry is a Chukchi hunter and a leader of the Umky Patrol.

“Umky” means “polar bear” in the Chukchi language, and the Umky Patrol works to ensure the safety of people living near polar bears, preserve walrus haul-outs and other unique places, and to help local people participate in scientific research on polar bears and other animals.

Developed on the initiative of the people of Vankarem, this WWF-supported project keeps local people safe. Patrol members escort children to school and to daycare, patrol the village for bears, and keep people informed about the current situation.

The patrol model has been successfully exported to other parts of the Arctic also, with the help of WWF and other partners. Today, over a dozen additional Patrols have been created in other villages on Russia's Arctic coast, in Alaska, and in Canada.

Valuing knowledge

Knowledge comes from many places. In the Arctic, we speak of our work as being “knowledge-based” rather than solely “science-based”.

Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have a store of ecological knowledge based on their own observations of the environment, and on information handed down over generations.

WWF encourages the use of this traditional ecological knowledge to inform management policies in the Arctic. We have supported several projects that collect this form of knowledge, helping to provide a more rounded knowledge base.

 / ©: Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon
Berta Tokeinna and son Jeffrey pick berries on the tundra, Serpentine river delta, Alaska, United States.
© Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

Arctic wildlife and livelihoods

For thousands of years, Arctic Indigenous peoples have hunted animals for food, clothing, and other essential uses. Hunting is still part of the cultural identity of many northern peoples, and for some, still an essential part of their livelihoods. People still hunt because other foods available to people in northern communities are often less healthy than traditional foods, and too expensive for people to buy.

Learn more
 / ©: Pete Ewins / WWF
Ringed seal skins drying on stretching frames in the Inuit community of Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.
© Pete Ewins / WWF
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  • OVER 40
    Indigenous languages are spoken in the Arctic though some languages are down to only one or two remaining speakers.

    4 MILLION
    people live in the Arctic, about half of them in Russia.

    ABOUT 10%
    of the Arctic's population are Indigenous, according to the Arctic Council. Estimating numbers of Indigenous people in the Arctic is difficult. Not everybody collects the numbers, and different countries define “Indigenous” differently.

    ALMOST 90%
    of Greenland's population is made up of Indigenous people.

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