Hannah Voorhees

Hannah's dissertation research focuses on collaborations between Alaska Native subsistence hunters and governmental biologists conducting marine mammal research in the Bering Strait region amidst accelerating loss of arctic sea ice. The mandates of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act have increased scientific demand for information about the changing Arctic environment. Biologists seek the knowledge, skills, and cooperation of Inupiat and Siberian Yupiit hunters, who are uniquely skilled at locating, capturing, and tagging animals traditionally harvested for subsistence. These skills, along with Traditional Ecological Knowledge and community support, have become valuable resources in a new Arctic "economy of loss." Environmental monitoring is a valuable asset, and increasingly, a subjective mode of being on the land (and sea) for Alaska Natives. Yet hunters, scientists, and bureaucrats continue to negotiate a "fair price" for indigenous contributions, in both economic and political terms. 

Photo caption: As a subsistence hunter brings in his walrus harvest in Gambell on Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska, he is immediately met by a "beach monitoring team," including a federal biologist. The hunter is presented with a knife and sampling kit in the hope that he will submit tissue samples and biological measurements from his harvest.  Behind the hunter, two US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agents scan his boat for any evidence of "wanton waste." Amidst scrutiny by wildlife management agencies, tribal councils have recently formalized traditional rules for walrus hunting into "local ordinances," seeking to regain control over the terms of environmental governance in their backyard. Photo by Hannah Voorhees, May 2011.

Photo caption: Members of the Alaska Nanuuq (polar bear) Commission meet every six months to discuss polar bear research and management with federal biologists. Commissioners are subsistence hunters from coastal villages in Northwest Alaska. Within structures of environmental governance surrounding climate change, hunters have had to become experts in the details of state and federal wildlife laws. Commissioners and tribal councils must now tap into climate change research and wildlife management projects if they are to develop jobs and tangible benefits for their communities. Photo by Rob Hawking, December 2011.