Bering Strait Messenger Network

A project of the Shared Beringian Heritage Program at the National Park Service

The Institute of the North developed the Bering Strait Messenger Network between Alaska, U.S.A. and Chukotka, Russia. Developing and strengthening effective communication systems was the hallmark of this program, beginning at the community level and growing to incorporate regional and cross-border components. The Bering Strait Messenger Network emphasized a value on traditional indigenous knowledge, respect for elders, and a commitment to youth and emerging leaders, while leveraging interest in the Arctic.

The Bering Strait Messenger Network evaluated and contributed a facilitative framework to the existing communication systems, while fostering inter- and intra-community, as well as cross-border, relationships. This project supported current and future capacity-building for regional collaboration and contributed to existing initiatives working on policy and governance in the Arctic region. At the same time, the Bering Strait Messenger Network provided a helpful structure for accessing and sharing regional priorities, with a positive feedback loop created between local communities, the region and national and international policy makers and researchers.

An increasingly busy Arctic means that communities in the Bering Strait region are faced with new and different challenges – and opportunities. Clearly communicating within the region, learning from one another, and sharing the latest, factual information is a critical component of local decision-making informing broader policy objectives. The Bering Strait Messenger will facilitated this process by inviting interested and active community members to become participants.

The Network acted as an ad hoc working group for the region, hosting monthly teleconferences with:

  • Regular updates about key issues affecting communities on both sides of the border;
  • Communications from key policy makers, including the Alaska Congressional delegation, state and federal agencies, and international partners; and
  • Themed discussions focused on co-management and governance of what some refer to as the Bering Strait “chokepoint” – an inaccurate misnomer for those who live there.

Topics addressed at monthly cross-border calls:

  • Bering Strait Maritime Management
  • Reindeer Herding
  • Climate Change and Environmental Pressures
  • Arctic Mining Exploration and Extraction
  • Sustainable Arctic Energy
  • Arctic Economic Viability and Sustainability
  • Improving Arctic Communications
  • Food Security – Comparing Subsistence Management
  • Food Security – Protecting Shared Animal Resources
  • Increased Arctic Activity
  • Arctic Genealogy
  • Arctic Governance and Service Delivery
  • Education and Health
  • Native Language
  • Bering Strait Youth

By the numbers:

  • Three years
  • Four community visits to Kotzebue, Anadyr, Nome, Unalakleet
  • Twenty teleconferences
  • Average 25 participants, with as many as 158
  • Participants from 38 communities, two Russian regions and three U.S. states
  • Final workshop on environmental protection and waste management with 60 participants