As a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, I work extensively with Indigenous groups in Alaska and Chukotka, Russia. My research focuses on sociocultural characteristics, traditional ecological knowledge and the traditional subsistence of the Chukotkan coastal communities. I advocate for the benefits of shared Indigenous knowledge and observation.
For many years, I was a Chuktotkan Indigenous leader. As the executive secretary of the Chukotka Traditional Marine Mammal Hunting Association, I lobbied for more subsistence quotas, while developing relationships with other leaders and organizations. When I realized that I needed additional training, I chose UAF because the university is located in the Arctic, explores the Arctic, and has many professors and fellow students who have dedicated their lives to Alaska and the Bering Strait region with a sincere respect for its Indigenous communities.
I’ve been involved in joint Alaska-Chukotka research projects involving traditional ecological knowledge as a partner and principal investigator for over 15 years. Since traditional subsistence is a crucial factor for the cultural and food survival of the Chukotka Indigenous people, my priority is to support biological and anthropological research. My fellow researchers and I explore contemporary sociocultural patterns in remote Indigenous communities. An essential part of our research identifies the cultural and nutritional needs of villagers. Adequate models based on many years of meticulously collected data help to protect the rights of the Bering Strait region’s Indigenous peoples to traditional livelihoods and ways of life.
The Chukotkan peoples have faced the consequences of the political games at the International Whaling Commission, which resulted in attempts to stop Indigenous whaling. They were forced to conduct intensive and extensive research in order to protect their right to a traditional way of life and subsistence. Success was achieved by combining the efforts of the Indigenous peoples of Alaska and Chukotka, as well as scientists in the U.S. and Russia.
My research also contributed to the inclusion of the Indigenous peoples of Chukotka in developing polar bear management plans. For 15 years, the Chukotkan organization has conducted several studies of the polar bear. It has researched traditional knowledge and polar bear habitat, and it has conducted sociological studies on bear interactions with Indigenous villagers. The sheer volume of published information has highlighted a great deal of new scientific knowledge and convinced the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission that the Chukotka Indigenous peoples could participate in the polar bear management plan.
My Chukotkan people are few and currently teeter on the delicate edge of maintaining their cultural identity. One of the steps in promoting this movement is to document the changes in the identity of the Chukotka Indigenous people and varying levels of commitment to cultural heritage.
After earning my Ph.D., I plan to continue researching the sociocultural features of the Bering Strait region as a postdoctoral fellow. I recommend that incoming students be consistent and persistent in reading, writing and discussing varied subjects to help master their research topics. The key to success lies in following their professor's recommendations. I credit Vladimir Etylin, Anatoly Kochnev, Rodion Rinetegin, Gennady Inankeuyas and Dr. Sveta Yamin-Pasternak for inspiring me to pursue a Ph.D.