The Bering Sea

 “This Sea is my experiential history book and a personal link to my ancestors.” – Ilarion Merculieff

1_EW_MEE_BS_Bering Sea Council of Elders_May 2001_AnchorageFor Ilarion and the Aleut people, the Bering Sea is an intimate part of the community, an essential part of life; they have lived together for 10,000 years. The Bering Sea ecosystem is undergoing extensive changes that threaten the health of the ecosystem and the communities that depend on it, including the Aleut. It is Ilarion’s belief that what is happening in the Bering Sea affects neighboring ecosystems and is reflective generally of what is happening around the world. As the Coordinator for the Bering Sea Council of Elders, Merculieff worked with some of the most revered Elders from seven regions throughout Alaska focusing on the health of the Bering Sea ecosystem and the viability and health of the coastal and river cultures dependent on it. In 1996, Merculieff was featured in National Wildlife, a magazine of the National Wildlife Federation as an “American Hero,” having called national and international attention to major adverse changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem, resulting in closure of a major bottom fishery trawl zone in the Bering Sea.  The closure remains intact today.

 “The Bering Sea’s moods and emotions can touch the human being in big ways through the magic of her color, movement, rhythm, sound, and smell. She can mirror our feelings of joy, sadness, playfulness, introspection, awe, and childlike wonder. She brings back memories through experience of the familiar. Her endless mystery fosters a feeling of humility and reverence. Her rhythms teach about cycles and how to create music and dance. She teaches how to be in the present moment: To do otherwise can mean certain death or failure to secure food…”

Ilarion Merculieff

 

More on The Bering Sea

 

Published Articles | Essays | Testimonies | Reports | Interviews 

Published Articles

The Heart of the Halibut: A Rite of Passage of an Aleut Boy By Larry Merculieff

Summary: Merculieff describes a key rite of passage experience—an initiation important to his coming of age as an Aleut youth through internalizing the wisdom of his Elders on subsistence fishing for halibut.

Source: University of Alaska, Anchorage.

National Wildlife Federation names Ilarion Merculeiff as an American Hero

Summary: In 1996, Merculieff was featured in National Wildlife, a magazine of the National Wildlife Federation as an “American Hero,” having called national and international attention to major adverse changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem, resulting in closure of a major bottom fishery trawl zone in the Bering Sea.  The closure remains intact today.

Source: National Wildlife  

Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award Finalist: Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff

Summary: Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff is an honored 2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for his many contributions to increased involvement of Native organizations in scientific research and political efforts to protect Alaska’s environment, subsistence rights, and the Bering Sea.

Source: Ecotrust, 2006.  
 

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Essays

 So What Is the Value of Traditional Ways of Knowing?

by Larry Merculieff

Summary: Merculieff relates the wisdom of Native peoples, their lifeways and ways of knowing and gives voice to the value and necessity of including these perspectives in science, educational fora so we can better understand the rapid decline in species populations in the Bering Sea.

Source: Bristol Bay Times. February 2004.  

Unungan, The Uuloxtaan (meat boat)/Iqyaq (single hatched kayak)/Nixaalaax (large skin boat): The Practical and Spiritual Sides

By Larry (Kuuyux) Merculieff

Summary: The Aleut kayak is widely acknowledged to be one of the most sophisticated high seas kayaks in the world. With such craft, Unungan traveled between the Russian side of the Bering Sea and the U.S. side, throughout the thousand-mile coastline of the Aleutians, up to Tanax Amix and throughout the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska without being able to navigate by the stars and frequently the sun because of the constant overcast skies. Here, Ilarion shares important stories, history and information about the lifeways of his people.

The Bering Sea and Me

By Larry Merculieff

Summary: For at least the last ten thousand years, indigenous peoples connected to the Bering Sea have been partially or wholly dependent on the Bering Sea for their subsistence, cultural, nutritional, medicinal, spiritual, and economic well-being, and it continues to this day. Bering Sea peoples have a worldview substantively different from that of western and industrialized societies. This article is a window in to this worldview and Native ways of knowing.

Source: Presented at a Public Gathering sponsored by the Alaska Oceans Network, circa 2007

Observations of Bering Sea Peoples © 1999

By Larry (Kuuyux) Merculieff

Summary: In the mid-1970s, coastal residents of the Bering Sea first noted unusual physical characteristics, behavior, and activities of the wildlife species on which they depend. Merculieff describes the devastation that has since been discovered, some of the potential causes including human and natural system failures and calls on all of us to create the public, political and financial support to address these issues cooperatively, across cultures.  

Source: Written for the Alaska Oceans Network © 1999
 

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Testimonies  

Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement presented before the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council By Larry Merculieff

Summary: Statement of Larry Merculieff

Testimony Before the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries Subcommittee on Environment an Natural Resources on the Reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act Source: Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries House of Representatives
 

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Reports

Pilot Phase Final Report

Summary: Report provides an overview of the Bering Sea Sub-Network concept, its history and the pilot project results, with Larry Merculieff representing Alaska Native Science Commission.

Source: Bering Sea Sub-Network, 2011. 

 

 

Interviews

Fur Seals’ Disappearing Act a Mystery for Scientists

By Margaret Bauman

Summary: This article, featuring an interview with Ilarion Merculieff, appeared in the Alaska Journal of Commerce in 2007.