A Bering Strait Indigenous Framework for Resource Management: Respectful Seal and Walrus Hunting

Marte Spangen, Anna-Kaisa Salmi, Tiina Äikäs, Lily Gadamus and Julie Raymond-Yakoubian

Abstract

Western resource management is often contentious in northern indigenous communities, as it is can be poorly matched with local resource-use traditions. Expert seal and walrus hunters in the Bering Strait region of Alaska requested that Kawerak, Inc., a local tribal consortium, document seal and walrus hunting through the lens of the locally preferred framework of respect. We conducted semistructured interviews and focus groups with 84 expert elders and hunters regarding seal and walrus hunting and use. Local respectful hunting and use practices focused on appropriate relationships between humans and between humans and animals; traditional values; knowledge of seals, walruses, and environmental conditions; hunting and processing skills; and avoiding pollution. Experts explained this system was best transmitted through hands-on activities that build youth skills, values, and relationships with elders and adults. The respect framework and positive system of transmission through education differs markedly from Western resource management frameworks based on regulation and enforcement.

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