Interior Secretary Has ‘Much to Learn’ from Kivalina’s Inupiaq Elders and Hunters about Climate Change and Village Relocation
Last Monday morning in Inupiaq Alaska, at Kivalina’s McQueen School gymnasium, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stood from her seat at a table surrounded by community elders, hunters and search and rescue volunteers. “For the elders that are willing to open up,” she gestured, “I’d be very interested in hearing about the changes you’ve seen on the landscape, how that’s impacted your subsistence… [and] where you’d like to see things go for the future.”
Those who gathered shared a wide range of climate concerns ranging from melting permafrost and unstable river travel to ocean acidification and disruption of critical migration routes. Community members talked about intense fall storms, which, because of the late-forming sea ice, have led to severe coastal erosion since 2004. Whaling captains alluded to the spiritual importance of the spring bowhead hunt, made difficult by unstable ice conditions in recent decades.
Jewell welcomed these observations of environmental change as helpful “to supplement the work that the scientists are doing,” adding, “You are experiencing things here in Kivalina that we can learn from… so thank you for sharing this with me.” Read more here.