Nome summit focuses on food sovereignty in Alaska

Salmon drying on a fish rack. Photo: KNOM file.

Last week’s food sovereignty summit, held in Nome, asserted the important role sovereignty plays in ensuring food security. The summit was hosted by the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska (ICC-Alaska), which is in the midst of an ongoing Food Sovereignty Initiative to increase Inuit involvement in decision-making and to advocate for co-management with state and federal entities.

Over the course of three days, ICC members from the North Slope, Northwest Arctic, Bering Strait and Yukon-Kuskokwim regions discussed topics ranging from ICC’s work on wildlife management, to an existing co-management fisheries system in Canada.

During the summit’s opening remarks, ICC Chair Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough emphasized that food sovereignty is more than just a question of regulation, but also of human rights.

“Through this Initiative, it is my hope that we can link arms to stand up for our food sovereignty and work together,” she said.

Jennifer Hooper is the natural resources director for the Administration of Village Council Presidents (AVCP), and she sits on ICC’s Food Sovereignty Initiative Steering Committee. Hooper believes the summit helped remind members from the four regions how much they have in common.

“Obviously, we are very different, but once we got down to the basics and kind of discussing the foundations and the cultural and traditional principles that guide everyone, it was very important how similar everyone really was,” she said.

The presentation on wildlife management was led by Vera Metcalf of the Eskimo Walrus Commission. She articulated how overregulation and a lack of equity between state and local entities can be harmful to subsistence practices. Metcalf decried the existing managerial approach as “single species” and went on to advocate for a holistic ecosystem approach to wildlife management.

These comments were in line with those from ICC’s President Jimmy Stotts who, in his opening remarks, stressed that “our approach is holistic, with an understanding that everything is related, and that we are part of the environment.”

On the second day of the conference, ICC hosted a panel featuring regional youth and their perspectives on the future of food sovereignty. One of the panelists, Jaklou Olemaun from Utqiagvik, shared how his “values come from hunting traditions and how we learn from our experiences, from our elders.”

ICC-Alaska now looks ahead to March and the Initiative’s final meeting in Kotzebue, where steering committee members will take insights from last week’s summit and draft a comprehensive Food Sovereignty Management Action Plan.