FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday, June 6, 2019


Danielle Slingsby, Kawerak Inc. Outreach, (907) 443-4344


Walrus & Our Way of Life – An Educational Event in Washington D.C.

Event:        Ayveq Nangaghneghput

Walrus & Our Way of Life

Date:          June 10, 2019

Time:          4 p.m. EST, 12 p.m. AKST

Location:    188 Russell Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C.



Kawerak Inc. with generous support from the Rasmuson Foundation, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, Bering Straits Native Corporation, and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is hosting a roundtableon June 10 at 4 p.m. (EST), 12 p.m. (AKST) in 188 Russellof the Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.featuring Inuit leaders and artists. The goal is to educate about our Native way of life in the Arctic and our relationship with walrus and ivory carving.  The event will also be live streamed on those who cannot be there in person.

The roundtable will convene agencies and lawmakers with Inuit leaders and cultural bearers to share the Inuit perspective of our way of life and walrus. Inherent to our way of life is the sustainable harvest of walrus. The Bering Strait region is well-known for the diversity in Inuit culture: St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Central Yupik and Inupiaq communities. Our communities are home to Inuit hunters and ivory carvers, our cultural bearers and living Inuit artists. Ivory carving is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation and reflects the customary and traditional use of walrus ivory. Inuit Art provides the economic means for a basic living, and is often the sole source of cash income for many families in and from our region.

Following the roundtable, there will be a reception from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. (EST) in room 485 Russell to allow for further questions, conversation and cross-cultural dialogue.


The purpose of the roundtable is to shed light on the cultural and economic importance of Pacific walrus, of carving walrus ivory through understanding the Inuitway of life and the sustainability; and management of walrus in a vastly changing Arctic. In 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued a ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory. Six states (New York, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington) enacted broad bans on commercial ivory impacting the market for our Inuit artists who utilize walrus ivory. Inuit leaders will share efforts to maintain their way of life and support Inuit ivory carvers.


Roundtable Agenda and Participants:

Protecting Inuit Artists and Advancing Rural Economies

Senator Sullivan, U.S. Senator

Melanie Bahnke, President & CEO, Kawerak Inc.

Perry Pungowiyi, Yupik Artist and Hunter

Sylvester Ayek, Inuit Hunter, Carver and Elder

Ben Payenna, Executive Board Member, Kawerak Inc., Inuit Hunter, and Carver

Inuit Management & Health of the Walrus Population

Vera Metcalf, Director, Eskimo Walrus Commission

Stephen Wackowski, Senior Advisor for Alaska Affairs, United States Department of Interior

Dr. Peter Thomas, Executive Director, Marine Mammal Commission

Audience Questions & Comment



Kawerak Inc.acts in accordance with its mission, to advance the capacity of our people and tribes for the benefit of the region. Kawerak is a nonprofit tribal consortium that provides over 40 different programs to the Inupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Yupik people who reside in 16 communities of western Alaska and represents the 20 federally recognized tribes in the Bering Strait Region.