What is modern living like for people in the Arctic Circle? These native artists will show you.
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Natural Resources Defense Council

It didn't take long for Khadry Okotetto to realize he wasn't cut out for a life in finance.

Born in the remote Siberian tundra, far beyond villages and roads, Khadry didn't learn Russian until he was sent off to boarding school at age 7. His native tongue is that of the Nenets, one of the many indigenous peoples of the Arctic Circle — and barring a brief moment (which now makes him laugh) when he studied banking in college, Khadry has dedicated his life to the traditional music and folklore of his people.


Photo by Asya Malysheva/Circum-Arctic Art Show. Used with permission.


In the Nenet language, Khadry's name means "eternal blizzard." He finds that oddly fitting. "I end up all over, in unexpected places," he told the Circum-Arctic Gallery in Reykjavík. "I love freedom. I love to travel. I love to do what I like." Though he now has a home and studio in Moscow, he's still true to his nomadic roots — often traveling the world to perform and connect with other cultures.

Khadry is just one of over 30 indigenous artists featured in the first-ever international Circum-Arctic Art Show.

Opening on Oct. 15, 2015, at the Gamla Bíó theater in Reykjavík, Iceland, the Circum-Arctic Art Show is a rare opportunity for people to share in the rich cultures of indigenous Arctic people.

Although many of these communities continue to honor their thousands-year-old traditions, they're also constantly adapting to the changes of the modern world, including new technologies and rising temperatures. But no one has ever turned the spotlight on their struggles and experiences in quite the way that the Circum-Arctic Art Show is doing now.

Because let's be honest: Most of us have no idea what modern Arctic life is like.

We probably think of snow huts and fur-lined hoods on burly coats that keep the sub-zero temperatures out. While that's not necessarily inaccurate, it's a totally oversimplified stereotype.

Turns out, there's an incredible range of diversity among indigenous Arctic peoples. And while there are certainly some similarities between them, each individual nation has its own unique language, culture, and history. Sure, you may have heard of the Inuits and maybe the Saami (and now, I guess, the Nenets). But what do you know about the Dolgans or Nganasans? How about the Tlingit?

Here are just a few of the artists whose wonderful work will be displayed at the Circum-Arctic Art Show:

Lucy Nigiyok, Inuit

Born and raised in Canada's Northwest Territories, Lucy Nigiyok learned the craft of sewing and printmaking from her mother — and neither one ever owned a sewing machine.

Mary Ann Penashue, Innu

For more than 20 years, Mary Ann Penashue has used modern-day colors and painting techniques to depict her aboriginal ancestors on canvas. Her grandparents, pictured above, were painters as well, and her work is a way of honoring that tradition.

Zarina Kopyrina, Sakha

Zarina Kopyrina also learned traditional Sakha songs from her grandparents, but it was her own idea to combine the deer-skin rhythms and mouth-harp melodies with electronic drums and special effects. She believes strongly in the shamanistic role of music in her culture, and she's even appeared on several Russian reality shows such as "X-Factor" and "American Fiancé."

Fredrik Prost, Saami

Fredrik Prost first learned traditional Saami handcrafts from a village elder in his northern Sweden village when he was just 15 years old. He quickly came to view these traditions as a means of connecting the past and the present and the people to the land. He considers his intricately detailed artwork to be a lifestyle more than a career and proudly gathers antlers, wood, and other raw materials from the environment around him.

John Sabourin, Dene

Working in both painting and stone carving, John Sabourin's art is firmly rooted in animal life and the mythology of places. The piece above is part of a series called "Dream Invaders," depicting the swirling visages of the animals that visit his dreams and inspire his creative process.

Billy Gauthier, Inuit

Billy Gauthier always had artistic inclinations, but he didn't start carving until he was 18 years old. His work tends to explore spiritual connections with the earth, both in traditional and modern ways — a stone marriage of folkloric demons and the present-day spirits of alcohol and the environment.

All of these amazing artists live at the intersection of tradition and the ever-changing world of today.

As they continue to hone their craftsmanship, these artists will also be forced to question their connections to their own environment. With so much of their lifestyles steeped in nature and the land, what will it mean when the animals they depict are gone, or when the rising sea levels swallow up the ground beneath them?

The survival of any art form depends on the support of its patrons. But for these indigenous Arctic artists, the survival of their cultures, languages, and lifestyles depend on us as well. So let's demand climate action — before the rest of human culture disappears as well.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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