• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 6s

Native artisans worry ivory bans in other states could reverberate in Alaska

By Davis Hovey / KNOM 11:05 AM October 29, 2016

In June, the federal government instituted a near-total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory, but many Alaskans are concerned the backlash from this ban is affecting other ivories. St. Lawrence Island resident Susie Silook is the author of a petition to protect walrus ivory and other marine mammal byproducts from various states’ legislation that would see it banned as a response to the federal ban.

With close to 1,000 signatures, Silook sent the petition and a letter to President Barack Obama, which she read from the main stage at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks last week.

“Dear Mr. President,” she said, “I write as a sculptor of walrus ivory and bowhead whale bone from the food sources I was raised on and as founding member of Sikuliiq: Alaska Native artists’ advocacy group…”

At the AFN convention during a field hearing focused on protecting walrus ivory, Sen. Dan Sullivan recognized that this federal ban does not affect Alaska Natives and their ivory work.

However, the senator spoke about how individual states have proposed or passed their own ivory bans that extend beyond the federal one.

“By including walrus, mammoth and whale among the species subject to the ban, states like California and, now, New Jersey, and others are starting to get in line, have gone well beyond the federal standard and created an environment that’s having a chilling effect on the Alaska Native handicraft market that we see is so vibrant just outside the halls of this hearing,” Sullivan stated.

Silook also spoke at the hearing about the differences in markings between walrus and other types of ivory.

“They’re saying that a lot of the illegal elephant ivory is coming in disguised as mammoth ivory, and there might be something to that, because I’ve never seen elephant ivory,” Silook said. “But you have to remove walrus ivory from those descriptions, because it is visually distinguishable, it doesn’t have a crosshatching, it’s got the cracks on it, and when you open it up, there’s a core inside that’s different from other ivories.”

One of the other speakers during the hearing was the president of Sealaska Heritage Institute, Dr. Rosita Worl. She said even though she doesn’t have data to support it, Native artists’ ivory work is valuable to the art world.

“We know that ivory plays a significant role in Alaska small-scale subsistence economies and the annual arts and crafts tourist market that is well over $32 million,”Worl said. “We know that village artisans can make up to $35,000 to $50,000 annually.”

Vera Metcalf, director of Kawerak’s Eskimo Walrus Commission, said the impacts of states banning walrus ivory could affect more than just the ivory handicraft business.

“If walrus is listed on [Endangered Species Act], it will make it much harder to make the case for walrus ivory based on only the artists’ viewpoint,” Metcalf said. “But it includes food security concerns that we have because we are so reliant on marine mammals for our subsistence resource.”

Hawaii is the latest state to enact legislation banning the sale, purchase, and trade of walrus ivory, whale ivory and mammoth ivory, along with other types as well. Their state’s ban will take effect on Jan. 1 of 2017.

This story originates from KNOM Mission Radio and was republished with permission. 

Latest Stories

  • OJ Simpson granted parole in Nevada robbery

    by Associated Press on Jul 20, 11:00

    LOVELOCK, Nev. (AP) – O.J. Simpson will be paroled after serving nine years in prison for a botched bid to retrieve sports memorabilia in Las Vegas. A Nevada parole board decided Thursday that the 70-year-old former football, TV and movie star will be released in October after serving his minimum term for armed robbery and […]

  • House backs King Cove road in remote Alaska wildlife refuge

    by Associated Press on Jul 20, 10:47

    WASHINGTON (AP) – The House has approved legislation allowing a proposed road through a remote national wildlife refuge in Alaska that was rejected by the Obama administration. A bill approved Thursday would grant a land exchange allowing Alaska to build the road between two rural communities, King Cove and Cold Bay. They sit near the […]

  • News

    Research ships find Bering Sea crab boat in sinking with 6 missing

    by Associated Press on Jul 20, 10:19

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Federal research ships have found a crab boat that sank with six men on board in the Bering Sea. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the F/V Destination, a 98-foot crab boat that disappeared Feb. 11, was found upright in 250 feet of water off St. George Island. No bodies […]

  • News

    Safeway drug theft puts focus on delayed reporting issues, DEA says

    by Steffi Lee on Jul 20, 8:25

    Drug Enforcement Administration officials say a recent $3 million settlement paid by the Safeway grocery chain, prompted by opioids missing from an Alaska pharmacy, highlights the need for a documented trail of the supply and distribution chain of all medications from pharmacies. The fine settles allegations by the Department of Justice that Safeway did not […]

  • News

    SUV accidentally stuck on South Anchorage tracks struck by train

    by Chris Klint on Jul 20, 5:37

    A sport-utility vehicle was struck by an Alaska Railroad train early Thursday in South Anchorage, police said. No injuries were reported in the collision involving a Chevrolet Blazer just before 2 a.m., according to police dispatchers. The wreck occurred at a railroad crossing on Arctic Boulevard just north of Arctic Spur Road. Police spokesman MJ […]

  • Lifestyle

    STDs on the rise in Alaska

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jul 19, 20:46

    New numbers from the state show sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Alaska. Alaska already has some of the highest rates in the country. Chlamydia rose half a percent from 2015 to 2016, with about 5,700 new cases reported. Of those cases, 79 percent are from people under the age of 29. Chlamydia […]

  • News

    Assemblyman objects to new shelter downtown

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jul 19, 19:28

    Downtown Assemblyman Christopher Constant said on Wednesday, enough is enough when it comes to putting more services for the homeless downtown. Constant was reacting to a plan to open a new shelter on B Street, also in downtown Anchorage. Anchorage Homeless Coordinator Nancy Burke said the city wants to lease a former halfway house near […]

  • Politics

    Joe Balash gets Federal appointment by Trump administration

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jul 19, 18:50

    President Trump has nominated a key Alaskan to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Land and Mineral management. Wednesday the Trump administration announced the nomination for Joe Balash, chief of staff to Senator Dan Sullivan to take on the job as Secretary of the Interior, Land and Mineral Management. Senator Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) praises […]