To: President Donald Trump, The Alaska State House, The Alaska State Senate, Governor Mike Dunleavy, The United States House of Representatives, and The United States Senate
Protect Alaska Native Artists in Bans on Elephant Ivory
Acknowledge and protect the cultural rights and economic concerns of indigenous Alaskans in their historical and contemporary use of walrus ivory and all other marine mammal by-products of primary food sources, from the current and pending legislation that state governments are implementing in response to a federal ban on African elephant ivory.
Why is this important?
Numerous state governments in the United States, in their important and urgent efforts to protect elephants and rhinoceros from poaching and slaughter, are unknowingly undermining the rights of Alaska Natives and their historical and contemporary use of ivory by adopting state law that "prohibits import, sale, purchase, barter, or possession of ivory".
Alaska Native peoples continue to rely on walruses, seals, whales, etc., as primary food sources, as they have for untold centuries, particularly in remote communities with little alternative food sources, with the tusks, membrane, sinew, bones, and other by-products of hunting used for trade with other indigenous individuals, or converted into artwork, a vital contemporary practice in remote villages with few alternative resources, revenue, or employment opportunity. For centuries, these materials were used in the making of sacred objects, tools, clothing, toys, housing construction, and in trade practices during both pre-contact and post-contact eras.
Unfortunately, in most, if not all of the adopted or pending state law, the term "ivory" is written in a broad fashion:
"'Ivory' means any tooth or tusk composed of ivory from any animal,
including, but not limited to, an elephant, hippopotamus, narwhal,
walrus, or whale, or any piece thereof, whether raw ivory or worked
ivory, or made into, or part of, an ivory product."
Confusion over existing and pending laws will hamper vital sales of Alaska Native artwork and handicraft.
There is an absolute need to recognize and respect cultural rights of Alaska Native peoples and their long-standing use of ivory, as well as its contemporary use and dimensions. Therefore, the undersigned respectfully request that all congressional and state law makers correct any and all actions that undermine the federal exemptions in favor of Native peoples. Such existing and pending laws must acknowledge and make exemptions for Alaska Native use of old and new ivory (and other relevant marine mammal products) consistent with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).