This Spring brought an unusually early arrival of warm weather and the corresponding return of migratory waterfowl to our Region. It’s the time for Spring hunting of waterfowl, seals and other marine mammals, and king crab harvesting! Because of warmer weather, the formation and thickness of sea ice decreased this past winter and limited access to traditional marine hunting grounds. Despite these challenges, our hunters, both young and old, traveled out from our villages to replenish subsistence food supplies with fresh seal, walrus and oogruk, all kinds of migrating birds and their eggs, and fresh crab. Our villages are busy with Spring harvesting activities!
It has been great seeing photos of our shareholders and descendants showing their successful hunting and harvesting efforts. What is even more gratifying is seeing that our tradition of sharing with Elders, the infirm and others is still as important now as it was hundreds of years ago. Our youth have demonstrated a strong allegiance to this tradition, ensuring that our traditions will survive and continue to be an important part of who we are as Alaska Native people. We are a living culture, and while changes in our environment and lifestyles have occurred, our traditions are what bind us to our past and ensure that our way of life will continue to thrive and survive through our descendants.
Some of our villages are continuing to experience serious impacts from warmer winter weather, which has delayed the formation of shorefast sea ice. In years past when the shorefast ice formed, usually beginning sometime in October, it protected our shorelines from the typical winter storms that occurred starting in November. Now, coastal communities bear the full brunt of these storms, which have increased in frequency and intensity, because of the lack of shorefast ice to protect the shoreline. I was surprised when I visited Unalakleet with Senator Murkowski in November and saw that the Norton Sound was full of white caps, and there was no ice formation on the beach. We have and will continue to advocate for funds for our villages, including Shaktoolik and Shishmaref, as they explore options to protect their homes and villages.
The BSNC Board and staff recently held a shareholder informational meeting in the Seattle area, which was attended by about 200 shareholders, guests and descendants. Staff provided an update on BSNC operations and finances, including reports from me, Chief Financial Officer Laura Edmondson, and Vice President of Lands and Resources Larry Pederson. We were happy to meet with our shareholders and descendants who live in the greater Seattle area, and share some of our traditional foods with several lucky door prize winners. We again had an Inupiat dance group, led by Thomas Octuck, perform for us. And, as before, we had two shareholders who were over ninety years old who attended the meeting.
As May is graduation month, I would like to extend sincere congratulations to our shareholders and descendants who are graduating from high school, college, and graduate school, on behalf of the BSNC Board of Directors and staff. We are all very proud of your accomplishments and wish you well in your future endeavors. We hope everyone has a fruitful, safe and enjoyable Summer!
Gail R. Schubert