“This is a crisis for the community. Children and elders are going hungry. Freezers which are usuallyfull this time of year are empty.” – Vi Waghiyi, Native Village of Savoonga tribal member and Environmental Health & Justice Program Director, ACAT

Walrus drying on racks in Gambell in April 2013. This year’s harvest  was less than half of the average yearly harvest over the past 10  years causing a serious food shortage for St. Lawrence Island Communities. Photo by Samarys Seguinot-Medina

Walrus drying on racks in Gambell in April 2013. This year’s harvest was less than half of the average yearly harvest over the past 10 years causing a serious food shortage for St. Lawrence Island Communities. Photo by Samarys Seguinot-Medina

Our friends and families on St. Lawrence Island (SLI), Alaska are facing an urgent food shortage. ACAT has set up a donation fund to provide immediate food assistance.We have worked closely with the communities of Savoonga and Gambell on community-based research and advocacy since our founding in 1997. We are deeply concerned for their health and well-being.

The impacts of climate change are intensified in the Arctic. The size and severity of storms has increased and stable sea ice has decreased, making it much more dangerous to conduct traditional fishing and hunting activities. Adverse spring weather conditions this year led to a disastrous walrus hunt. The walrus harvest is essential to the continued cultural, nutritional, economic, food security, and spiritual well-being of St. Lawrence Island’s Yupik people. This year’s harvest was 64 percent lower than the last 10-year average, prompting the Native villages of Savoonga and Gambell to call for a declaration of economic disaster which Governor Parnell granted onAugust 29, 2013.

Yupik people are facing severe hunger now, with a long cold winter on its way. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to a lack of food. Our Yupik people depend on traditional foods for their survival. For many thousands of years they have been able to live in balance with nature, hunting and fishing for their primary foods which provide physical, spiritual, and cultural sustenance.

Climate change impacts are evident in the declining and shifting sea ice, the melting of permafrost, and severe storm surges. In addition, the global transport of pollutants to the Arctic is compromising the health of fish and wildlife which Yupik people hunt for food. Population declines in these traditional foods are likely due in part to persistent toxic chemicals linked to infertility which drift northward on wind and water.

The people of St. Lawrence Island have asked the state and federal governments for help. Unfortunately, no immediate assistance has been provided. The Yupik people are asking our colleagues in the environmental health and justice communities for help. If we can raise $35,000 by December 1st, we can help most of the families on St. Lawrence Island make it through the worst part of winter. This is our goal for immediate aid. We will keep you updated about any future needs.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics has set up a system to receive money and to make sure that healthy foods are purchased and taken to St. Lawrence Island for direct distribution to families. We are doing this with no overhead costs and we’re also working to secure free shipping to the Island. Please donate to the St. Lawrence Island Food Crisis Fund. It is urgent that we come together to support our Yupik friends and families.

Thank you. Igamsiqayugvikamsii.

Vi Waghiyi, Tribal Member, Native Village of Savoonga and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director, ACAT
Pamela Miller, Executive Director, ACAT

To contribute and help our Yupik friends and families: Click here to donate to the St Lawrence Island Food Crisis Fund using PayPal

or you may send checks to: Alaska Community Action on Toxics, 505 W. Northern Lights Blvd., Ste. 205, Anchorage, AK 99503

St. Lawrence Island Traditional Food Shortage Tribal Village resolutions (pdf)

News Coverage:

No State Aid In Sight For St. Lawrence Island Communities After Disaster Declaration, By Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome | September 17, 2013 – 5:40 pm

Disaster declared for subsistence walrus hunt on St. Lawrence IslandAn economic disaster has been declared after tightly-packed sea ice led to a disastrous walrus hunt for the communities of St. Lawrence island in 2013. Can the true value of subsistence resources ever be determined?” By Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch, September 2, 2013

Low St. Lawrence Island Walrus Harvest Spurs Disaster Declaration, By Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome, September 3, 2013 – 5:28 pm, Alaska Public Media.

Other St. Lawrence Island news stories on Alaska Dispatch:

 

Fall 2013 Newsletter