Navigating Alaskan Waters: Natives, Science, and Politics

  • 9/20/2012 | 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Location: Visual Arts Center, Kresge Auditorium
  • Event Type: Discussion

Navigating Alaskan Waters: Natives, Science, and PoliticsAn extraordinary group of 11 Alaskan Iñupiat and Yup'ik hunters and leaders will gather on the Bowdoin College campus September 18 through 20, 2012, for a series of meetings to look at issues of marine mammal protection and indigenous subsistence activities in light of climate change, as well as growing gas and petroleum development and ship traffic in the region.

On Thursday, September 20, the leaders will participate in a panel discussion, "Navigating Alaskan Waters: Natives, Science, and Politics" from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center. The panel discussion is free and open to the public.

George Noongwook, a representative of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, will be the keynote speaker. Representatives of the five Alaskan marine mammal commissions will join him in discussions moderated by Martin Robards of the Arctic Beringia Program.

The panelists are the heads of Alaska's five marine mammal commissions (whale, beluga, polar bear, seal, and walrus). They 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 ensure 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 on the Bowdoin College campus 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.

For more information about the panel discussion call 207-725-3062 or 207-725-3416.

Photo by Anne Henshaw.