Alaska Natives assessing the health of their environment.
The changes in Alaska's ecosystems caused by pollution, contaminants and global climate change are negatively impacting Alaska Natives and rural residents who rely on natural resources for food, culture and community identity. While Alaska commerce has contributed little to these global changes and impacts, Alaska and its resources are nonetheless affected by the changes. While Alaska Natives have historically relied on Alaska's land, water and animals for survival and cultural identity, today their faith in the safety and quality of these resources has decreased. Alaska Natives no longer believe that these wild resources are the best and many are turning to alternative store-bought foods. Such a change in diet and activity may be contributing to a decline in traditional activities and a decline in general health. Contaminants are showing up in the animals, fish and waters that Alaska Natives use. Efforts need to be expanded to empower Alaska Native Tribes to collect and analyze local wild foods for various contaminants. In addition existing information on contaminants and pollution should be made readily available to Alaska residents. Armed with this type of information Alaska Native residents will be better prepared to make informed decisions on using wild foods and materials.