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PAGE 46 ASSERTING NATIVE RESILIENCE: PACIFIC RIM INDIGENOUS NATIONS FACE THE CLIMATE CRISIS than also assessing the human impacts on St. Paul Island. Our people were the first Indigenous people (I don’t know about North America, but certainly in Alaska)— who, in the 1970s, first noted ecosystem-wide changes that were anomalous, that indicated a trend. We knew that something was going wrong in the environment and it was ecosystem-wide in the Bering Sea. Specifically what we noted were adult birds with chest bones sticking out, chest muscles caved in, chicks falling off of cliff ledges in large numbers, and sea lions chasing after seal pups with greater frequency than ever in living memory. The first seal pelts were so thin that we could see light through them after we took the fat off of them. We’d never see that before. Disconnection from Self So the elders were saying something big is happening, not just around the islands but around the whole Bering Sea, and maybe bigger. They understand that everything is connected. This is according to my Aleut elders in the Pribilofs and the elders everywhere throughout Alaska, and elders throughout the world that I have come into contact with. They include Mapuche elders in southern Argentina, the Mayan elders (including Don Alejandro, the keeper of the day calendar and head of the Grand Mayan Council), Lakota elder Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the Cree elders up in Canada, the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee elders, the Yupik elders in Alaska. All of them are saying basically the same thing. They say the root cause is the disconnection that we have from ourselves. When we extrapolate that out, the elders say nothing is created outside until it is created inside first. When we disconnect from ourselves, it’s easy to disconnect from anyone on the outside. We’re trashing the environment outside because we’re trashing the environment inside. We’re in conflict outside because we’re in conflict inside. Nothing is created outside until it’s created inside first. So this dilemma that we’re finding in the human contribution to climate change ultimately is caused by a profound disconnection with self. And no one is looking at that issue. And when you’re looking at what is being proposed for solutions, they’re all external. You know: “Let’s use technology, let’s use hybrid cars, let’s do energy efficiency,” and all these kinds of things. Al Gore had asked me to be part of his team, after An Inconvenient Truth came out. I said sure, as long as I can bring in the Indigenous view. And the response was “no, you’ve got to use our PowerPoint.” Right? I had to say I disagreed with this PowerPoint, because attention to what she’s saying.” While we were watching the TV news, she would talk about the signs, the different things that were happening in the world. Everything happens for a reason, but somehow we have to watch for the signs. DIFFERENT WAYS OF LOOKING AT THINGS Larry Merculieff Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff was born and raised on St. Paul Island, one of the Pribilof Islands off southwestern Alaska in the Bering Sea. His ancient Aleut name, Kuuyux, which means “extension” (like an arm extending out), was passed to him by an Aleut spiritual leader when he was four years old. Editors’ note: This interview was conducted by Zoltán Grossman during an American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group meeting at the Northwest Indian College in the Lummi Nation (Washington ) on November 8, 2010. Where I come from, the elders are always saying look at the root causes for anything. It’s fine to see the symptoms and deal with the symptoms, but you must keep in mind you are going to address the root causes for any issue. My elders say it’s reversed in Western society , where they look at the symptoms and not the root causes at all. For example, on St. Paul Island, we’re called Qawalangin Unangan, which means “People of the Sea Lion.” Sea lion are to us what the bison are to the Plains Indians, or like the bowhead whale are to the Iñupiat. In the past thirty years the sea lions declined in population by 80 percent. What that did effectively was to sever the link between the young men and the older, experienced hunters, who didn’t go out hunting anymore because there were...


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MARC Record
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