A group of 11 Alaskan Iñupiat and Yup’ik hunters and leaders will gather on campus September 18-20 for a series of meetings. On September 20 they will participate in a panel discussion, Navigating Alaskan Waters: Natives, Science, and Politics. George Noongwook, a representative of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, will be the keynote speaker. Representatives of the five Alaskan marine mammal commissions (whale, beluga, polar bear, seal and walrus) will join him in discussions moderated by Martin Robards, of the Arctic Beringia Program. The event will take place from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center, and is free and open to the public.
The panelists will talk about the challenges and opportunities their families and communities face in light of intensification of oil and gas development in Alaska, dramatic increases in ship traffic as ice disappears from northern waters and climate change. They will also reflect on the importance and difficulty of integrating traditional knowledge, science and policy when trying to safeguard marine mammal habitat and traditional cultural lifeways.
The commissioners work with state and federal authorities to make sure marine mammal populations stay healthy and indigenous hunters can continue their traditional harvesting of animals. Along with representatives of local Alaskan community governments, they are conducting two days of meetings at Bowdoin College to work on common community concerns, most immediately the dramatic increase in international ship traffic through Alaskan waters. They will be finalizing a statement to be presented to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Congressional Delegation, and the federal Marine Mammal Commission detailing key concerns about shipping and measures that should be taken to ensure the safety of marine mammals, indigenous subsistence activities, and food security.
While at Bowdoin the Alaskans will visit a number of anthropology, sociology, and environmental studies classes where they will talk with Bowdoin students about how the Iñupiat and Yup’ik organizations work with local, state, federal and international organizations.
This gathering of Alaskan leaders is funded by the Oak Foundation and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, whose current exhibition, Animal Allies, Inuit Views of the natural World, highlights traditional knowledge of Alaskan and Canadian northern hunters.