Date of Award

Spring 6-9-2024

Document Type

Thesis (Undergraduate)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Ross A. Virginia

Second Advisor

Melody B. Burkins


This study aims to analyze the land use governance structures and the role of Indigenous engagement in Alaska and Norway using a comparative approach, with special focus on successful practices, current gaps, and paths forward to achieve equitable governance. Extractive land uses, such as oil and gas extraction and the construction of wind farms, have mixed impacts on Indigenous communities and lead to social and legal issues such as land use conflict and environmental injustice. Previous research has studied land use governance in Arctic countries with regard to Indigenous Peoples, yet there is a lack of literature that spans Alaska and Norway, a gap that this study aims to fill. To maximize comparability given different colonial histories and produce informative results that contribute to knowledge-sharing, this thesis focuses on Indigenous Peoples that still actively practice subsistence livelihoods: Iñupiats in the North Slope of Alaska and Sámi reindeer herders in Norway. To examine similarities and differences in the determinants, status quo, and opportunity areas of land use governance in Alaska and Norway, I conducted semi-structured interviews with Indigenous leaders, locals, and researchers followed by thematic analysis. Supplemental informal interviews as well as document and literature review add to the results. I found that land use governance structure is highly path-dependent, with governance in the North Slope being more Indigenous-driven, which better meets community interests. The structure of government institutions and policies in Norway is less conducive for Sámis to have the same degree of self-determination as seen in Alaska, but Sámis may work within the Norwegian structure to indigenize decision-making. Self-determination, Indigenous Knowledge, and relationship-building among stakeholders are crucial to successful and equitable land use governance, as decisions affecting Indigenous Peoples should be made with Indigenous Peoples who have been great stewards of their lands since time immemorial.