The Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Council met in Nome this week to define food security from an Alaska Native perspective.
Carolina Behe is the ICC Alaska Traditional Knowledge and Science Advisor.
“When we say food security, we’re talking about the entire environment, and there’s so many changes occurring within that,” Behe said.
As those changes occur, Behe says, Alaska Natives want a role in the decision making, but she says their voices are often not being heard and their participation often excluded.
“So if there is a lack of sea ice,” Behe said. “If all of a sudden a new regulation is imposed that limits their accessibility to getting a food resource, they’re not involved in making a decision that caused the impact of the environment or that resulted in the adaptation that people think need to take place for us to control the environment.”
Behe says, creating this definition helps communicate an Inuit understanding to outside bodies like government agencies and development corporations.
Education was also a major focus, particularly in teaching young people about subsistence. Behe says, failing to transfer this knowledge threatens food security by limiting accessibility and altering identity.
“Inuit are part of this ecosystem and their culture has evolved because of this ecosystem and this ecosystem has reacted to that,” Behe said. “It’s not static; it’s continuously changing and there’s continuous adjustments. But at this point, there’s a lot of outside interest, and it’s causing an increase in concern over food security.”
The Alaska ICC is planning another meeting in Bethel later this year. They’ve already held two sessions in Barrow and Kotzebue. The gathered information will be peer reviewed and then distributed to tribal councils, industry and government agencies, and the international Arctic Council.