The Ice Is Always Changing: Yup’ik Understandings of Sea Ice, Past and Present
This chapter presents a descriptive summary of Yup’ik elders’ observations of sea ice formation and change along the Bering Sea coast of Southwest Alaska. In doing so, hunters modestly describe their efforts to negotiate a dangerous and ever-changing ice environment. While it is sometimes assumed that Bering Strait hunters on Diomede, St. Lawrence Island, and King Island hunt in the most diverse and demanding ice conditions in Alaska, conditions on the lower Bering Sea coast are equally if not more challenging due to the complex interplay between tides, currents, and wind. Moreover, as sea ice conditions change, Yup’ik elders’ experiences at the southern limit of shorefast ice take on special significance.
KeywordsSea ice Bering Sea Yup’ik elders Indigenous knowledge Climate change
First and foremost, we are indebted to the many men and women throughout southwest Alaska who so generously shared their knowledge. We have cited their contributions by name, place of residence, CEC gathering date, and transcript page number. We are also grateful to the Calista Elders Council, especially Mark John and to the CEC’s board of elders, who guided us in this work. We are deeply grateful to the National Science Foundation, both to Polar Programs and to the Bering Ecosystem Study Program, for funding our work. Our heartfelt thanks to Igor Krupnik for inviting us to be part of the larger SIKU project and his, as well as Gita Laidler’s, constant encouragement while preparing this chapter. Moreover, Igor’s work with St. Lawrence Island elders (Oozeva et al. 2004) was an inspiration. And special gratitude to Hajo Eicken of the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute for providing invaluable comments on what Yup’ik elders shared. More than anyone else, Hajo opened our eyes to the role Yup’ik knowledge may play in understanding changes in Arctic sea ice.
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