The oceans are vital to life on this planet. They cover 71% of our planet’s surface and host 95% of the biosphere. We rely on them to support human life and our economic, cultural, social, and environmental wellbeing. But our oceans are under threat from climate change, overfishing, and many other human-caused stressors.
Following invited talks at the IPR last year, a final report featuring several Snowchange issues and knowledge holders, such as Elder Stanton Katchatag from Unalakleet and Indigenous Alaskan author Herbert O. Anungazuk as well as several other keynote statements is now available.
A new Snowchange science article discusses changes in the Bering Sea and Unalakleet from the Indigenous viewpoint.
Widely recognized environmental changes have been negatively impacting communities in the Arctic for decades. The increased prevalence of open water in the Bering Sea during winter months, also known as sea ice loss, has uprooted annual traditional subsistence activities across the Bering Sea region. This article investigates the consequences of sea ice loss on traditional subsistence activities in Unalakleet, Alaska. In conjunction with the loss of sea ice over the past 30 years, the winter season in Unalakleet has shifted from cold and dry weather regimes to warmer and wetter winters. The change in winter weather and the increased prevalence of open water in winter has deeply impacted the people of Unalakleet by affecting environmental conditions and the availability of subsistence of resources, notably influencing winter and spring marine mammals hunts that people in the Unalakleet area have relied on for thousands of years. This article is guided by the perspectives, knowledge, and intuition of people from Unalakleet, and looks specifically at how the increased prevalence of open water in the Bering Sea during wintertime has impacted traditional subsistence rounds (the succession of food resources through the seasons) in Unalakleet, Alaska, in 2022.
Oceans Wide Relief supported dozens of initiatives in 2021-22 across the Arctic and Pacific communities. Now the call is open for 2022 applications.
All in all the 2021-22 support programme enabled community-led responses and actions across the Arctic coasts in Greenland, Siberia, Finland and Norway, Aleuts, Chile, Aoteoroa, Taiwan and many other locations.
For the 2022-2023 season, Snowchange opens the next call of support for the Arctic and Pacific Indigenous communities.
Indigenous and local communities in the Pacific and Arctic are eligible to apply. The guiding principles of the small grants programme will aim to
Restore the collective coastal lands and access and resource rights where applicable
Support community-based protocols for maintaining biocultural systems, food security and gendered ways of knowing the Pacific
Support the sharing-gifting traditions of the region
Support inter-community cohesion and exchanges
Restore and directly reserve a portion of the small grants to support revitalization of traditional navigation and Starlore of the Pacific peoples
Proliferation of technology and solutions to make Indigenous governance and coastal tenure more visible
Implementation of Indigenous/tribal rights through traditional institutions
Knowledge holder from Kosisi.
Knowledge holder from Kosisi.
Ultimately the grants are however assessed as articulated by the community needs.
Grants will be available for 2022-23 as long as funds remain.
Co-funded by LUKE/ACAF, Snowchange-associated Skolt Sámi Pauliina Feodoroff has directed a full documentary of Arctic Indigenous Peoples and the context of climate change.
This documentary film focuses on communities and Indigenous knowledge holders in the Arctic and positions the knowledge from the communities into an international frame.
Containing never-before-seen footage from the communities and produced in part using participatory video methods the documentary highlights critically important, direct observations and messages from the changing North.
The film is based on the Arctic Traditional Knowledge Compendium released in 2013, of the same name.
A bit south from the Arctic seas, a major Snowchange science paper released now that documents Kwakwaka’wakw Elders and their knowledge for over a century in Western British Columbia and adjacent sea areas.
This paper reviews a century of Kwakwaka’wakw knowledge on ecological, climate, and social change. We trace the era of Indigenous governance (about the precolonial period), especially from about 1910 to the devastation of the flood in Dzawada’enuxw First Nation territory in Kingcome, British Columbia, in 2010. This time period has been chosen as the assessment period as this is the lifetime of the 10 Elders that we collaborated with to understand and position change during this tumultuous era. We call the results of this process “a century of knowledge”. Ecological, social, and climate change are positioned with scientific literature for potential divergence/convergence. Almost all aspects of the Kwakwaka’wakw home area have undergone large-scale changes including clear-cut forestry, salmon farms, climate change affecting species ranges, cultural impositions, and colonial processes working to destroy Indigenous governance. Despite these imposed changes, the communities emerge as survivors on their own terms, including using the traditional feast system known as the Potlatch to come to terms with the devastation of the 2010 flood and beyond.
From Alaska Archives: The tiny Pribilof Islands of St. Paul and St. George, located in the Bering Sea off the southwest coast of mainland Alaska, have a rich yet troubling history. During the 1780s, Russian fur traders forcibly relocated native Aleut (Unangax̂) peoples from Siberia, Atka and Unalaska to the Pribilof Islands to hunt fur seals.
When control of the islands transferred from Russia to the United States during the 1867 Alaska Purchase, these Unangax̂ peoples were made wards of the government by the United States, a situation that continued even past the era of WWII. As wards, most aspects of their daily lives were tightly controlled by government authorities. Nonetheless, the spirit and culture of the Unangax̂ people endured.*
These clips come from films shot on the Pribilof Islands during the late 1930s and early 1940s by L.C. McMillin. McMillin is generally regarded as having been sympathetic to the plight of the Unangax̂, despite being employed by the U.S. government to manage the islands and its peoples and to oversee seal harvests. His films reveal the rugged beauty of the islands and the resilience and tenacity of the people who lived there.**
Scenes of Unangax̂ activities include men portaging a boat and digging out a snow-drifted road, a community celebration with foot races and bobbing for apples, men moving rocks for road construction, a wedding ceremony, men and women carrying drinking water, a baseball game, a Russian Orthodox church processional, boys rock-climbing to hunt for eggs, and fur seals on a rocky beach.
To learn more about Unangax̂ culture today, please visit the website of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island - https://tanamawaa.com/
The Clarence McMillin Collection of 16mm films, totaling over three-and-a-half hours of footage, was preserved through a grant in 2020 from the National Film Preservation Foundation (B&W/Color/Silent/16mm film).
This film sequence contains excerpts from AAF-14548 -- AAF-14562 from the Clarence McMillin Collection held by the Alaska Film Archives, a unit of the Alaska & Polar Regions Collections & Archives Department in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
*Source: "Unangax̂: Coastal People of Far Southwestern Alaska," by Douglas W. Veltre, who may be contacted at dwveltre "at" alaska.edu. For additional references and other sources of information, please contact Film Archivist Angela Schmidt of the Alaska Film Archives at University of Alaska Fairbanks: ajschmidt *at* alaska.edu
** McMillin’s first and middle names were Lee Clarence or possibly Lee Carroll. For additional references and other sources of information, please contact Film Archivist Angela Schmidt of the Alaska Film Archives at University of Alaska Fairbanks: ajschmidt *at* alaska.edu
Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association in Alaska has produced "Qaqamiiĝux̂" - a set of eight Indigenous knowledge videos on traditional harvests, including salmon seining in Unalaska. These are important short videos to document the harvesting and handling of catches and the hunt.
Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association is based in Alaska, USA.
Snowchange remembers Chukchi knowledge holder, Elder Alexey Kemlil who knew the shores of the East Siberia Sea and conveyed much of his Indigenous knowledge for the world.
See below for more.
Three early 1900s photos from the Aleuts available and a new Snowchange-related science paper out.
Photos from Atka and Nikolski, from early 1900s from Russian archives, available at
The Nikolski photo:
The two from possibly from Atka:
The new science article:
Proactive and coordinated action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be essential for achieving the healthy, resilient, safe, sustainably harvested and biodiverse ocean that the UN Decade of Ocean Science and sustainable development goals (SDGs) seek. Ocean-based mitigation actions could contribute 12% of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to keep warming to less than 1.5 8C but, because substantial warming is already locked in, extensive adaptation action is also needed. Here, as part of the Future Seas project, we use a ‘‘foresighting/ hindcasting’’ technique to describe two scenarios for 2030 in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation for ocean systems.
20 years of Indigenous knowledge work and science in Alaska, summarized in a new science paper.
This multi-disciplinary science and Indigenous knowledge assessment paper reviews over 20 years of research materials, oral histories and Indigenous views on climate change affect- ing Unalakleet, Alaska, USA and Norton Sound. It brings a historical review, statistical analysis, community-based observations and wisdom from Unalakleet Iñupiaq knowledge holders into a critical reading of the current state of climate change impacts in the region. Through this process, two keystone species, Pacific salmon and caribou, are explored as indicators of change to convey the significance of climate impacts. We rely on this historical context to analyse the root causes of the climate crisis as experienced in Alaska, and as a result we position Indigenous resurgence, restoration and wisdom as answers.