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Discussion On Ivory Bans Continues; Nomeites Weigh In During Legislative Committee Meeting

Ivory walrus
An ivory walrus on display at Maruskiya's in Nome. Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM.

Alaska’s Senate Resources Committee heard testimony earlier this week on a resolution to spur the State’s Congressional delegation to introduce bills which would protect walrus, mammoth, and mastodon ivory from other ivory bans.

On Monday, public comments were being solicited on Senate Joint resolution 4, sponsored in part by Senator Donny Olson. Of those who gave testimony were Alice Bioff, Vera Metcalf, and Melanie Bahnke.

Bioff spoke as a member of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, but also as a tribal member of Koyuk. She emphasized the role ivory plays in keeping traditions alive, which is passed on from generation to generation in Native Alaskan culture. Bioff mentioned that it would be a shame to see the culture surrounding ivory carving collapse due to a lack of understanding, so she asked that the legislators help educate those who don’t understand through this ivory resolution.

Metcalf, who is the director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission (EWC), focused on how states’ ivory bans could affect Alaska Natives’ harvest of walrus under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). She questioned if the market for ivory disappears, would Alaska Natives continue to create ivory handicrafts?

Then it was the President and CEO of Kawerak’s turn to speak. Bahnke gave her testimony from the perspective of a daughter of an Alaska native artist. She expressed support of Senate Joint resolution four (SJ 4) and asked that the State do something to protect and promote the unique Alaskan product of ivory.

Seemingly, the Senate Resources committee took all of the testimony to heart, as they passed the resolution onwards to the next committee. It is unclear how long it would take for SJ 4 to go through three readings and be effectively passed as a bill.

Image at top: file photo: an ivory walrus on display at Maruskiya’s in Nome. Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM.

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