Started in 2013 ・ Reasearch & Outreach ・ Aron Crowell, William Fitzhugh, Igor Krupnik, & Stephen Loring
The Arctic has long been known as an area with frequent and dramatic fluctuations of major wildlife species, including those of vital importance to its residents, such as caribou, seals, walrus, whales, salmon, and colonial sea birds. Many of the same species had been exploited commercially by generations of Euro-American whalers, seal hunters, and fishermen. The plight of many northern species was instrumental in setting the early environmentalist and game management agenda for this nation. It triggered the U.S. governmental effort to introduce domesticated reindeer to Alaska in the 1890s, the first multi-national agreement in animal conservation (the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911), and seminal national game management actions, such as Alaska Caribou Game Law of 1903 and the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. Today’s images of polar bears threatened by climate warming and the shrinking Arctic sea ice convey the same story in the modern context of global change.
The key goal of our collaborative study of polar animal fluctuations—human, climate, or habitat-induced—is to explore shifting visions, that is, scientific, cultural, spiritual, and public interpretations of Arctic people-animal interactions. Since the late 1800s, Arctic wildlife changes, both cyclic and abrupt (‘crashes’ or extinctions), have been an arena of competition, if not conflict among four major players: polar indigenous people, biologists and game preservation agencies, commercial hunters and fishermen, and the environmentalist movement. We approach these topics by using new ideas and data from integrative research, primarily in Alaska and Eastern Canada. In this project, anthropologists team with biologists, environmental historians, and indigenous knowledge experts to convey to the public that many voices may come together in collaborative rather than confrontational mode.