BLM partners with Kawerak, Inc. in groundbreaking cultural resources co-stewardship funding agreement

Providing $230,000 over the next three years to expand social science programming


Bureau of Land Management and Kawerak Inc.

BLM Office:

Alaska State Office

Media Contact:

Sarah Denos, BLM
Danielle Slingsby, Kawerak Inc.
Man and woman at table
BLM Alaska State Director Steve Cohn (left) looks on as Kawerak, Inc. President Melanie Bahnke (right) signs a new agreement that transfers funds and responsibility for cultural resources program activities on federally managed lands in the Bering Straits Region to Kawerak, Inc. The agreement supports shared priorities such as incorporating traditional and ecological knowledge into western science, maintaining resilient landscapes and durable decisions that benefit present and future generations. Photo by Melinda Bolton (BLM) available on Flickr.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Bureau of Land Management Alaska today announce the recent signing of a multi-year, self-governance funding agreement to transfer a portion of the BLM’s cultural resource activities and functions to Kawerak, Inc., a Tribal non-profit consortium representing 20 Tribal governments in the Bering Strait Region. Kawerak represents nearly one-quarter of the federal lands managed by the Anchorage Field Office.

This groundbreaking agreement is the first of its kind between BLM and Tribes in Alaska. It provides annual funding for fiscal years 2023 through 2025 to be used for the Kawerak Social Science Program, led by Dr. Julie Raymond-Yakoubian.

This agreement advances the Department of the Interior’s priority of strengthening the government-to-government relationships with sovereign Tribal Nations and improves the BLM’s ability to support underserved Tribal communities and commitment to the co-stewardship of federal lands. Kawerak’s work will provide integral cultural resource information and inventories to appropriately inform future BLM permit evaluations.

“I am pleased to craft this co-stewardship agreement in cooperation with Kawerak – a transfer of the BLM’s cultural resource function to Tribes in the region to expand on their already extensive local expertise,” said BLM Alaska State Director Steve Cohn. “The BLM looks forward to supporting Kawerak as they continue their efforts to support Social Science Program incorporating Indigenous Knowledge and Science.”

“Kawerak was formed as an act of self-governance by the Tribes in the Bering Strait Region of Alaska and this agreement furthers our Board of Directors’ goal of exercising self-determination. Our Tribal nations are the best authority on cultural resources, and we welcome this transfer of responsibility,” said Kawerak, Inc. President Melanie Bahnke.

This agreement, through authority provided by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (Public Law 93-638), is a significant step forward in the exercise of self-determination for the member Tribes of the Kawerak consortium. The agreement furthers Kawerak’s organizational goal of assisting Alaska Native people and their governing bodies with meaningful partnerships and recognition of Tribal sovereignty by governmental organizations, as well recognizing Indigenous land stewardship as an essential part of land and water conservation. With programs ranging from education to transportation, and natural resource management to economic development, Kawerak seeks to improve social, economic, educational, cultural, and political conditions in the Bering Strait Region.

 “This is an exciting program, and we are looking forward to the opportunities it will provide. Our office manages more than 23 million acres of federal land encompassing a vast scope of regionally unique cultures, history, and resources,” said Jamie Rhoades, acting BLM Anchorage Field Office manager. “Working with Kawerak will ensure the inclusion of their local expertise and traditional knowledge.”

Including Tribes and their extensive traditional and ecological knowledge of the area and resources furthers the BLM’s commitment to create durable decisions for this and future generations.

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Kawerak Inc. acts in accordance with its mission, to advance the capacity of our people and tribes for the benefit of the region. Kawerak is a nonprofit tribal consortium that provides over 40 different programs to the Inupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Yup’ik people who reside in 16 communities of western Alaska and represents the 20 federally recognized tribes in the Bering Strait Region.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.