Food for Thought—and So Much More

For Arctic Indigenous People, food is far more than just something to eat. Where most of America drives to grab the same groceries that can be found at supermarkets across the country, folks living in rural Alaskan villages like Kiana and Kotzebue regularly head out onto the land to hunt and forage for traditional foods. These foods are crucial to both the nutritional and cultural health of the communities that have been harvesting in these ways for thousands of years. Yet when you live in a place whose only connection to the outside world is by plane or—in warmer months—by boat or barge, that health becomes a lot more complex. Cyrus Harris—Natural Resource Advocate with the Maniilaq Association and member of SEARCH’s Drivers & Ecological Consequences co-production team—is simplifying those complexities. As head of Maniilaq’s Hunter Support Program, Cyrus has merged the worlds of government support and life in the Arctic to provide his community’s elders with the wild game and other traditional foods they can no longer harvest for themselves. Government health officials recently visited several Northwest Alaskan villages and met with Cyrus and other community members to discuss the importance of traditional Iñupiaq food and the food-based health threats climate change is increasingly bringing to the Arctic. Cyrus spoke about his work with Maniilaq and experience as a lifelong Alaskan on an episode of the SEARCH podcast, so go give that a listen if you would like to learn more!