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Bering Sea Elders Group Supports US-Canada Joint Statement on Arctic Policy

Response to Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership


Villages of the Bering Sea Elders Group. An association of elders from 40 tribes of the Bering Sea coast.

© Bering Sea Elders Group


The Bering Sea Elders Group, an association of elders designated by 40 participating Tribes on the Bering Sea coast, would like to thank the Obama Administration for its U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership. We join those Tribes in the post-announcement phone call who also thanked this Administration for being, in the words of one Tribal leader, "the most open and accessible presidential Administration" that we have experienced.


We especially thank the Administration for the four objectives listed under the "Shared Arctic Leadership Model." That section of the Joint Statement includes a commitment to "incorporate Indigenous knowledge into decision-making" and a commitment to "defining new approaches and exchanging best practices to strengthen the resilience of Arctic communities and continuing to support the well-being of Arctic residents, in particular respecting the rights and territory of Indigenous peoples.” In fact, the word "Indigenous" appears no fewer than 15 times in the statement. This is, in our view, an unprecedented show of respect for Tribes and commitment to real self-determination and we look forward to working with the Administration to share our knowledge and suggestions regarding best practices for working directly with the Tribes in the region.


Contrary to what has been reported in the press, the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement was developed based on direct input from various Tribes and Indigenous residents. During his visit to Alaska last year, the President met with tribal and non-profit Native leaders from around the state. The messages they delivered, such as applying Indigenous science and traditional knowledge in decisions and respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples in policy, are reflected very clearly in the Joint Statement.
Similarly, during "The Alaskan Arctic" meeting on shipping and ports held in Anchorage last August, the very few tribal leaders who learned of this conference and were able to attend, spoke up stating that the development and expansion of shipping was occurring without input from those Tribes who actually live on the Bering Sea coast. "Don't talk about us, without us," one leader said. This was widely reported in the press. Clearly the Administration also heard this and the Tribes' request for "low impact shipping," which also appears in the Joint Statement.


"On behalf of the Bering Sea Elders Group, I would like to say thank you, Mr. President, for listening to our people and respecting the importance of traditional knowledge and our children’s future in your Arctic policy,” said Fred Philip, Coordinator of the Bering Sea Elders Group.


The mission of the Bering Sea Elders Group is to bring together elders as one voice to protect our traditional ways of life, the ocean web of life that supports the resources we rely on, and our children's future. As Elders, we are messengers to our children, our tribal councils and the people who make decisions that affect our marine resources, ecosystem and ways of life.



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