Recently, representatives of USDA and other federal agencies held a collaboration meeting with the federally recognized tribes of the Bering Straits/Norton Sound Region in Alaska.
The meeting was the second in a series of Tribal Collaboration Meetings scheduled with federally recognized tribes in Alaska. The venue for the dialogue was the beautifully restored Old Saint Joe’s Church Community Center in Nome. Old Saint Joe’s is situated in Nome’s town center and proved to be a perfect site for this historic meeting between federal officials and tribal leaders.
Tribal representatives and their non-profit partners from the region used the day-long session in late April to discuss issues affecting their villages. Leaders from Rural Development, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Small Business Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Denali Commission were on hand to listen and participate in the dialogue.
Among the items of discussion were: suitable and adequate housing; affordable housing; food production and availability; natural resource management and the cost of energy.
Reindeer herding, always an attention-grabbing topic for people not from the region, is supported through NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) contracts and was an item of importance at the meeting. Reindeer herding is a long-standing activity on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and is suitable for increased and sustained economic development. Reindeer, the same animal as wild caribou except somewhat domesticated and legally owned by herders, are a popular dinner for Alaska families.
Herding creates economic opportunities, and also allows families to obtain a sense of food security and earn money. Rose Fosdick of Kawerak, Inc. said, “I’ve been working with NRCS. Your program has been very easy to communicate with and the end products that we have been able to obtain from the work are valuable. I think our vegetation on the Seward Peninsula is mapped to the finest degree anywhere in the State. That kind of data is valuable to the reindeer herders. I hope that is something the program will continue to work on.”
Everyone agreed teamwork is needed to address the many challenges of living in rural Alaska. Many of the challenges can be successfully addressed by continued communications between tribes and federal agencies, and the Tribal Collaboration Meeting in Nome was an essential first step.
More Tribal Collaboration Meetings will be scheduled throughout the year. On-going meeting information and schedules can be followed here.