Language not only communicates, it defines culture, nature, history, humanity, and ancestry [1]. The indigenous languages of the Arctic have been formed and shaped in close contact with their environment. They are a valuable source of information and a wealth of knowledge on human interactions with nature is encoded in these languages. If a language is lost, a world is lost.

Download the linguistic diversity map in full size

This deep knowledge and interconnectedness is expressed in Arctic song, subsistence practices, and other cultural expressions but especially in place names across the Arctic. Place names of the indigenous peoples reflect subsistence practices, stories, dwelling sites, spawning sites, migratory routes of animals, and links to the sacred realms of the indigenous peoples of the north.

The preservation of languages is a crucial step in allowing us to benefit from traditional knowledge and form a better understanding of our environment. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes that linguistic diversity is a useful indicator of the retention and use of traditional knowledge, including knowledge of biodiversity. It has, therefore, been included in the suite of indicators being used to assess progress towards meeting the 2010 biodiversity targets.

Ref. Arctic Biodiversity Assessment - Linguistic Diversity (Chapter 20)