Nome’s Vera Metcalf inducted into Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame
Vera Metcalf has been inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame, an organization honoring Alaskan women who have made a significant contribution influencing the culture of Alaska.
Many fields of endeavor are included. Arts, athletics, education, government, health and Native affairs are just a few of the areas for which women are recognized.
Vera Metcalf is cited by the Hall as an effective advocate for rural, northern Alaska Native people in education and research. “She steadfastly works to protect the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Native people and preservation of their traditions and languages, as well as for the resources that are fundamentally important for the rural, primarily Native communities across the Arctic,” reads the citation from the Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Metcalf has been the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission since 2002 and is also on the executive committee of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. “She represents the two commissions at national and international forums, including the Indigenous People’s Council on Marine Mammals, the Arctic Marine Mammal Coalition, and the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee. She also is a commissioner on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, on an advisory panel of the North Pacific Research Board, a member of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and an advisor on Native affairs for the Marine Mammal Commission.”
She grew up in Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island and began her career as a bilingual educator and continued in that discipline when she moved to Nome after marrying Bob Metcalf. She moved to Kawerak and the Eskimo Walrus Commission in 2002. In this role she coordinates the activities of the 19 member communities in their advocacy for the walrus resource.
“We have a co-management agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the Pacific walrus so it’s available for harvesting and the population is sustainable and healthy and it’s a shared resource between the U.S. and Russia,” she said at an interview in her office at Kawerak. “We manage this resource so it’s available for our communities to harvest.” She says the walrus population is healthy and sustainable between the U.S. and Russia. “As long as the changes in our environment allow us to harvest the animal that’s a good sign,” she said. “Although you hear stories about hunters traveling further to find good ice. That’s a challenge. Climate change is affecting the communities.” The migratory patterns are changing and the walrus are passing by the communities earlier. This means the weather can be too severe for safe hunting. Lack of sea ice, also a problem, means it’s less safe to harvest an animal.
Besides her involvement in the EWC, Metcalf coordinated the repatriation of over 1,000 ancestral remains to the people of St. Lawrence Island from the Smithsonian Institution. In the course of that work, she collaborated with Igor Krupnik of the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History to author Akuzilleput Igaqullghet = Our words put to paper, a sourcebook on St. Lawrence Island heritage and history published in 2002. For this work, she was recognized with a Before Columbus Foundation award in 2003. She again worked with Krupnik to compile and edit Neqamikegkaput / faces we remember: Leuman Waugh’s photography from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 1929-1930, published in 2011.
Mrs. Metcalf was nominated by Alice Green, herself a member of the Hall of Fame, who was a long-time representative of the Presbyterian Church in Savoonga. She is now retired, approaching 102 years of age, and living in Anchorage. The induction took place in Anchorage on April 30. “There were ten of us women that were nominated and selected,” said Metcalf.