'A Woman’s Word Is Evidence.' Bering Sea Elders Group Opposes Kavanaugh's Confirmation

Sep 26, 2018

C-SPAN captured U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh meeting with Sen. Lisa Murkowski at her office in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 23, 2018. After a photo op, they continued meeting behind closed doors.
Credit C-SPAN screen grab

The Bering Sea Elders Group has joined ranks with tribal groups across Alaska and the nation in opposing the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a resolution passed last week, the elders group opposes the Senate voting on the nominee until all of Kavanugh’s records are released and all claims of sexual misconduct are fully investigated. The group also calls on Alaska’s two senators to vote “no” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. 

The resolution states that Kavanaugh’s views on the relationship between federal and tribal governments are “overly narrow and legally incorrect," and claims that his confirmation would endanger the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and other laws related to tribal self-determination. 

The resolution also addresses allegations of sexual assault made against Kavanaugh.

"Violence against our Native women and children in Alaska is not part of our culture, but is unfortunately an epidemic in Alaska," the resolution reads. "It is our way to value every individual and their words, and a woman’s word is evidence."

The Bering Sea Elders Group is comprised of Yup’ik, Cup’ik, and Inupiaq elders from 39 tribes along Alaska’s west coast. “It is our way," the resolution states, "to know a person, their actions, their beliefs, and their way of being before elevating them to an important position in the community.”

The Association of Village Council Presidents and the Alaska Federation of Natives have also come out against confirming Judge Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Bering Sea Elders Group passed three other resolutions last week. One advocates for making permanent or moving further offshore the boundary where bottom trawling can occur in the Northern Bering Sea. Another resolution opposes the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which extends federal authority to include waters to 200 miles off the coast.

The elders group requests that when Congress considers the act’s reauthorization, it require tribal consultation and the use of Indigenous knowledge in decision making. The group also requests that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council include a voting membership seat held by an elected Alaska tribal leader.

A final resolution calls for reinstating the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. The Resilience Area was created in December 2016 in an executive order signed by President Obama. The order required the federal government to consult with Alaska Native tribes on decisions affecting the Northern Bering Sea and to gather traditional knowledge to inform decisions regarding the region. President Trump extinguished that order in April 2017, removing the tribal consultation requirement and potentially opening Arctic waters to off-shore oil and gas leasing.