The Iñupiaq and St. Lawrence Island Yupik peoples of Alaska have important relationships with polar bears that go back thousands of years. As part of the Arctic ecosystem, our people have always co-existed with polar bears and relied on polar bears for survival.
Our co-existence with polar bears is based on reciprocity and respect, expressed through celebrations of song and dance, artistic and spiritual traditions, and by sharing our resources.
The subsistence harvest of polar bears is a cornerstone of our cultures—providing essential nutrition and materials for clothing, shelter, and art. We ensure that our harvest practices are sustainable and that we uphold cultural standards of respect and care for animals and our environment. The health of our people, our cultures, our ecosystems, and polar bears are closely interconnected.
The Alaska Nannut Co-Management Council (ANCC) was established to represent the collective Alaska Native voice in polar bear co-management. ANCC is a tribally authorized organization with membership consisting of the 15 tribes in Alaska that have traditionally harvested polar bears for subsistence.
While our peoples’ subsistence practices have always been managed through our own traditional methods which have successfully maintained healthy populations, the experience of colonization in Alaska has significantly altered how we must engage in our stewardship roles. Since the start of colonization and continuing through the present day, Alaska Native peoples have organized and adapted in response to new impacts to our resources, ecosystems, and communities, as well as the introduction of new forms of governance and management. The formation of ANCC and other similar co-management organizations represents one of the ways in which Alaska Native peoples engage in our stewardship roles over our subsistence resources in a modern context.
In today’s world, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the federal agency designated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to manage polar bears in Alaska. Through guidance from our member tribes and close partnerships with regional Alaska Native organizations, ANCC engages with the USFWS to develop and maintain a co-management relationship with the federal government, bringing tribal voices and authorities to the polar bear management process in the U.S.