The Young Walrus Hunters Summit, the first of its kind, will be held in Nome next month. In a Strait Science presentation on Aug. 25, Vera Metcalf, director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission, or EWC, gave an overview of what will happen at the summit. She said the mission of the summit falls within the broader mission of the EWC.
“Our mission is very simple. This is to protect Pacific walrus conservation,” Metcalf said.
The summit is in collaboration with nineteen CEE communities. Participants from each community between the ages of 18 and 29 are invited to gather in Nome for an intensive three-day session to discuss and study topics related to walrus hunting.
These topics include the Marine Mammal Protection Act, socio-economic and environmental change at the community level, the European Enterprise and Co-management Regime, the Endangered Species Act, Indigenous Knowledge and Understanding, tribal harvesting and management plans, ivory bans and wildlife conservation organizations.
The summit will conclude with presentations on potential threats and opportunities for marine mammal management in the New Arctic. The hope is to have a smaller strategic planning session sometime after the larger summit, Metcalf said.
According to Metcalf, the promising outcome of the summit is to give the next generation of hunters, leaders and culture bearers the opportunity to meet and learn from experts.
“And of course we hope to find ways to help connect with our future Indigenous food providers, as some of these young people are already providing food in their communities,” Metcalf said.
In addition, Metcalf said, reports from the summit will provide important guidance for future EWC work and will be shared with EWC communities for Indigenous resource management planning. The summit will also potentially bring increased visibility to Pacific walrus conservation and management issues.
The CEE has four goals, which will be reflected at the summit, Metcalf said. The first objective is research, particularly in the face of climate change. The second goal is education, which Metcalf described as “an ongoing effort to inform our commissioners and external partners of culturally relevant and important knowledge and understanding of walruses and the environment in which they live.” The third goal is to bring the walrus hunting community together, including hunters, agencies and managers, so they can connect. The fourth objective is advocacy. The EWC aims to provide leadership and nurture the ability of leaders to represent Alaska Native interests and needs, such as food security.
Metcalf concluded his overview with an acknowledgment of the amount of work and effort that goes into subsistence walrus hunting.
“We have many cultural protocols to share or teach to the next generation, which really reinforces the traditional values of a community.,“said Metcalf.
Joel Garlich-Miller, a walrus biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, also spoke about the summit as part of the walrus co-management group.
“We need to create opportunities for young leaders to gain this knowledge and engage in the process. And this Young Hunters Summit is that opportunity. So to the listeners here on this…presentation, I really ask for your help in spreading the word about this summit. We really want to create a great opportunity for good young people to grow,” Garlich-Miller said.
The Young Walrus Hunter Summit will meet in the Great Hall at UAF’s Northwest Campus from October 4-6.