Subsistence, Sheefish, & Synthesis across Northwest Alaska

In February 2023, principal investigator Brendan Kelly traveled to northwest Alaska, first to Kotzebue where he and SEARCH team member Cyrus Harris discussed the changing environment with representatives of the Native Village of Kotzebue, Maniilaq Corporation, and the Northwest Arctic Borough. After touring a program—co-produced by Cyrus, colleagues from Maniilaq, and a food scientist—that feeds traditional foods to elders, Cyrus delivered Brendan to the airport with two very large sacks of sheefish to be delivered to friends in Nome and Gambell. In Nome, Brendan and the sheefish were joined by SEARCH co-PI, Vera Kingeekuk Metcalf. They traveled to Vera’s home of St. Lawrence Island. In Gambell, another SEARCH team member, Merle Apassingok, led conversations with Gambell’s joint governance group and four elders. Lucy Apatiki facilitated the meeting, at the end of which, she held up a copy of SEARCH’s co-production infographic and declared, “I really like this model!” The sheefish stayed behind when Vera and Brendan departed for Savoonga where SEARCH team member Bryan Rookok, Jr. welcomed them to a meeting with the IRA Council. Bryan led discussions about SEARCH syntheses which were enthusiastically embraced by the council. The next day, Bryan facilitated conversation with seven elders.  That rich and informative conversation  revealed vital cultural memories, environmental observations, and family histories. Brendan returned without sheefish but nourished by hours of recorded contributions to add to SEARCH’s ongoing collaboration.