Pacific Peoples Engagement
As original and perpetual stewards of the marine ecosystem in Alaska and throughout the Pacific, Alaska Native and Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and leadership are critical to continued protection.
Wherever Indigenous leadership and final decision-making has been severed and removed from Indigenous peoples, there has been a wound that affects the entire ecosystem further amplified through institutions and beneficiaries that causes continued severing. We seek to end that separation and extraction by creating a new pathway for healing the ecosystem driven by Indigenous peoples; one cannot be without the other, one cannot heal without the other. To heal these places and peoples requires a unique partnership, focused on amplifying and backing Indigenous leadership.
We seek to build capacity for Indigenous stewardship efforts to protect and strengthen Indigenous peoples’ authority over oceans throughout Alaska and the Pacific and grow collaboration based on respect and partnership, not on the extractive relationships currently practiced with many government, research, industrial, and environmental organizations working with Indigenous peoples.
In addition to creating an Indigenous model for collaboration, we will examine other Indigenous success models and build a Pacific-wide collective of Indigenous people focused on Indigenous Self-Determination and Governance. This model will include, as a part of this partnership, the well-being of the ocean that can be replicated throughout the world. This work is part of a broader effort at FAI to uplift and advance Indigenous voices within stewardship of the sea and its protection. FAI will ensure that any such efforts are in fact desired by the Indigenous peoples of those areas so that no outside agenda is forced on them. This is a partnership to allow for better relationships and understandings to grow and to create spaces and forums for Indigenous peoples’ leadership to be centered. A space where decision-making over Indigenous homelands (including all within it) will be respected and amplified, even if that means that any outside agendas are not one of their priorities.
Indigenous communities have thrived in our ancestral homelands for thousands of years. Our resilience flows from our deep connection to our lands, air, animals, minerals, and waters (collectively, our homelands). Our ways of life are inextricably tied to our homelands; we are an intrinsic part of and provide care for our environment and it to us - if one is affected, so is the other. The health of a place can be measured by the ability for both to flourish now and into the future. As our planet adapts, ecosystems have been forced to rapidly shift with deep impacts to the vitality of Indigenous communities. Our peoples depend on the lands and waters to provide physical and spiritual sustenance – we’ve inherited an ancestral imperative to protect the health of the environment as an extension of our family. This care, done correctly, will continue to provide in perpetuity.
Despite thousands of years of our stewardship (also called “resource management” by those who only see our homelands as a resource to benefit them), Indigenous voices throughout environmental management and conservation regimes have been, and continue to be, consistently marginalized, ignored, and removed from decision-making positions and authority. The need for a unified Indigenous voice to protect our oceans grows in urgency each year. The rate of disappearance of vital communities will double if Indigenous populations are no longer able to rely on our ways of life to fulfill essential needs, including our spiritual, collective, and continuity needs, leading to further undermining of our ability to live in our homelands, forcing some to move away from their ancestral homelands. No matter where our Indigenous peoples live, they are born with an inherent responsibility to steward our ways of life and our homelands, and most continue to practice this no matter their location.
This collaboration capitalizes on a unique opportunity to advance Indigenous stewardship in Alaska and around the Pacific. This opportunity builds from growing Indigenous observation, monitoring and science programs like the Indigenous Sentinel Network (Bering Sea) and Guardians Program (Southeast), which, among other values, can help lead to Indigenous-led management change. There are already some foundational components in place that show the value of this approach, including the return of the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.
This work is intended to build international support for Indigenous-led efforts and increase both opportunity and capacity for Indigenous stewardship and identify additional areas in which Indigenous-led endeavors like this may be desired by Pacific communities. Our work will include, but is not limited to the goals set out below.
- Create an Indigenous network and advisory body to build a collective of Indigenous peoples who care about the well-being of the ocean and are advisors to Indigenous stewardship and knowledge about protecting our homelands. Some may understand this better using a western construct like “laws of the sea;” however, “law of the sea” is like trying to look through the eye of a needle at the world of Indigenous stewardship.
- Work within our communities to identify, train, and provide educational experiences through cross-collaboration and sharing in order to grow our ability to enact Indigenous stewardship in our homelands.
- Research approaches of other Indigenous groups and engage with them to confront and innovate around similar challenges and identify ways to implement best practices.
- Utilize already existing bodies and/or identify other necessary partners to support management change, including but not limited to: Indigenous led organizations, tribal partners, federal/crown/state partners, international bodies, etc..
- Identify necessary policy changes and pursue initial stages of drafting new policies.
- Research and develop a comprehensive study outlining the significant cultural and economic contributions Indigenous peoples bring to the world, which includes an emphasis on the ecosystem/environmental realm.
- Bring together individuals and entities working on Indigenous policy, observation, monitoring, and science in all Pacific nations.
- Explore potential for more support for Indigenous-led stewardship efforts and from NGOs. Organize support as needed to advance Indigenous stewardship action.
- Research and draft an Indigenous declaration of Native principles that guide the stewardship and protections of our homelands (see Appendix I).
This organization will support and advance Indigenous stewardship of the entire marine ecosystem in the Pacific. We intend to build a network of entities supporting Indigenous-led stewardship and efforts to protect Indigenous homelands as Indigenous peoples see fit.