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Vera K. (Kingeekuk) Metcalf

Photo of Vera K. (Kingeekuk) Metcalf
1951
Biography

Vera K Metcalf is an educator, researcher, and effective advocate for rural, northern Alaska Native people.  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.  Since 2002 Metcalf has been the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission, and since 2011 an executive committee member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.  For both groups, she works with northern Native people to document traditional ecological knowledge and promote research for responsible decision-making.  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.  

Metcalf was born in 1952 and raised in Savoonga (Sivungaq) on St. Lawrence Island in northwestern Alaska.  A good student, she was hired to be the kindergarten teacher’s aide at the then BIA-run school there.  For the early grades at the school, the teacher prepared the lessons, and the aides taught them in the Yu’pik language because that was what the children knew.  Metcalf met her husband Bob when she attended an education conference, and several years later moved to Nome and married him.  They have a son, Matthew, who lives with his family in Anchorage.  Bob moved to Nome from Pennsylvania in 1977 and worked as a pilot.  “It wasn’t long though before I met an amazing person who became my wife, Vera,” he said. “Beyond our life together, the greatest privilege that I have had is being included as part of her incredible family on St. Lawrence Island.”

When she moved to Nome, Metcalf worked in bilingual education and starting in 1994 for the Bering Straits Foundation in Nome.  She also attended college and earned her bachelor’s degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1999.  In 2002, Metcalf became director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission with Kawerak, Inc. and is in that position today.  She facilitates meetings of the 19 commission members.  Metcalf is widely respected among her people, and by state, national and international colleagues and decision-makers for her knowledge of Arctic wildlife resources and national and international wildlife laws and regulations.  Her position papers, letters, and presentations on proposed regulations, legislation, and polices exhibit a depth of knowledge and understanding of issues, and clearly present positions and recommendations.  Currently, the Eskimo Walrus Commission recognizes that poaching of elephants for their tusks has endangered the animal’s survival, but Metcalf is working to ensure Alaska Native people can continue to harvest walrus, carve the ivory, and legally sell the carvings.  The Bering Sea walrus population currently is healthy, but Metcalf works closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists to monitor it as there is less sea ice annually. 

Of special importance to Metcalf is what she has done for the people of St. Lawrence Island. Metcalf coordinated the repatriation of over 1,000 ancestral remains to the people 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.  

Metcalf has received awards from the Bering Straits Foundation in 1997, and a WINGS Women of Discovery Sea Award in 2008.  But to her, the highest honor is having the respect of the people of St. Lawrence Island and their acknowledgement of her dedication and work for them.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/97TXOiC5Vqk

Notes

 

Vera K. Metcalf is an educator, researcher and effective advocate. She steadfastly works to protect the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Native people and preservation of their traditions and languages, plus for the resources that are fundamentally important for the rural Arctic communities.

Since 2002 Metcalf has been the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission and is in that position today. In 2010 she became an executive committee member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. She is widely respected among her people and by state, national and international colleagues and decision-makers for her knowledge of Arctic wildlife resources and national and international wildlife laws and regulations. For both groups, she works with northern Native people to document traditional ecological knowledge and promote research for responsible decision-making. 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 is a former commissioner on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, a former 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.

Born in 1951 and raised in Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island,  she was a good student, and was hired to be the kindergarten teacher’s aide at the school there. For the early grades, the teacher prepared the lessons, and the aides taught the students in Yupik.

Metcalf met her husband Bob while attending an education conference, and several years later moved to Nome and married him. They have a son, Matthew. She earned her bachelor’s degree in rural development from UAF.

Of special importance to Metcalf is what she has done for her people by coordinating the repatriation of over 1,000 ancestral remains.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/97TXOiC5Vqk