780 AM | 96.1 FM 


(907) 443-5221

Savoonga’s Vi Waghiyi Appointed White House Advisor for Environmental Justice

Woman in white vest stands next to Alaska Native painting and shelves of vinyl records.
Vi Waghiyi in KNOM studios. (Photo: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.)

Savoonga’s Viola “Vi” Waghiyi is one of the 26 members chosen by President Biden and Vice-President Harris for the new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. The advisory council will provide advice and recommendations on how to address current and historic environmental injustices across the United States. 

“It is an honor, not only as a Sivuqaq Yupik grandmother and Native Village of Savoonga tribal citizen, but as an Arctic Indigenous person who has been working on environmental health and justice issues going on 19 years.”

– Vi Waghiyi

As the environmental health and justice program director at Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), Waghiyi has advocated for environmental health on her native St. Lawrence Island. Since the end of the Cold War, her tribal community has been trying to hold the US military accountable for toxic contamination resulting from two Cold War bases. This is one way she will exercise her voice.  

“[To] make sure that the priorities – including military toxic contamination and the persistent organic pollutants – are at the forefront with this Administration. These have resulted in health disparities never before seen in our people.” 

Persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, have contaminated the food supply for subsistence diets. St. Lawrence Islanders are experiencing a range of related health issues – including cancer – due to POP contamination. 

“Even though we don’t have manufacturers or chemical plants, we are finding them [POPs] in our backyards, in our lands and waters, in our bodies, and in our most sacred traditional foods that have sustained our people for millennia.”

According to Waghiyi, the Yupik people still feel the benefits of maintaining their traditional diet outweigh the risks.

Her appointment confirms the federal government’s growing geopolitical interest in the Arctic. While different branches of the US military have announced plans for operating, once again, in Alaska and the Arctic, Waghiyi recognizes that a seat at the table in Washington is timely and important.  

“It is so important because a lot of times we are never at the table when decisions are being made for us miles and miles away.  This will ensure that we have a voice at the White House.”

The Council was established to confront longstanding environmental injustices and to ensure that historically marginalized and polluted, overburdened communities have greater input on federal policies and decisions.

The Council members represent a diverse set of geographical regions and will serve in a voluntary capacity offering recommendations in a number of areas including climate change mitigation and resilience, toxics, pesticides, pollution reduction in overburdened communities, and tribal and Indigenous issues.   

Image at Top: Vi Waghiyi in KNOM studios. Photo Credit: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.

Share this story


Recent Posts

KNOM Radio to Host First-Ever Music Fest

KNOM Radio Mission will host its first-ever Music Fest Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15. The event, hosted at KNOM’s Back Yard, will be a great opportunity for the Bering Strait region to gather and celebrate the start of summer. Admission to the event is free.  The two-day Music Fest will feature

Read More »

June 13: Rick Thoman’s Climate Highlight for Western Alaska

The following is a transcript from Rick Thoman’s weekly “Climate Highlight for Western Alaska” provided to KNOM Radio. Thoman is a Climate Specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sea ice has not completely melted out of the Bering Sea, there

Read More »

Teller Man Arrested for Terroristic Threatening

A Teller man has been arrested and transported to Nome’s Anvil Mountain Correctional Center following allegations of threatening to burn down a house, according to an affidavit from Alaska State Troopers. The affidavit reports that Chester Topkok, 26, was reported by his niece, Belinda Smith, who called Troopers on June

Read More »

Charity Lewis Crowned Miss ANB 2024

Charity Lewis was crowned 2024’s Miss Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) at the pageant held on June 12. The event held at Nome’s Mini Convention Center showcased the cultural heritage of two contestants, Victoria Gray and Charity Lewis. Both participated in Miss ANB for the first time.  The pageant began with

Read More »



Work for Us:




(907) 443-5221 


(907) 868-1200 

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.