Sen. Murkowski eNewsletter 09/19/2008

Interest in the Arctic Gaining Prominence

Interest in the Arctic has been increasing lately, both among lawmakers and policy experts on the subject. Last month I hosted the eighth Arctic Conference of Parliamentarians in Fairbanks, which brought

At the Council on Foreign Relations Conference.

together lawmakers from all eight Arctic nations. This week, I addressed two major public policy groups on the issue – the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Many of our citizens in the Lower 48 states may not realize that the United States is an Arctic nation, thanks to Alaska’s admission into the Union 50 years ago. There has been a heightened focus on the Arctic in recent years due to the impacts of climate change and the fact that these changes are occurring at an unprecedented rate in this region. The polar ice cap is melting and areas that have never been accessible to shipping have been opening up during the summer months, leading some to predict that one summer soon the Northwest Passage, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, might be a regular shipping route.

At the Center for Strategic International Studies Conference.

A more accessible Arctic Ocean will have huge implications for shipping, tourism, the environment, research, security and oil and gas production in the Arctic, as well as the indigenous people of the region: the Inuit, Inupiat, Yupik and Saami. My message to both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies was that most of the other Arctic nations are rapidly moving forward with policies and actions designed to protect their interests in this increasingly vital region, and that it’s time the United States assume its responsibility as an Arctic nation. A good start would be for the United States Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, which is the existing international law governing the oceans, including the Arctic.

Alaska Comes to New York City

While in New York City for the Arctic conference, I had the pleasure to attend the grand opening of Alaska House, New York (alaskahouseny.org). Located in SoHo, an artists and galleries haven located in lower Manhattan, Alaska House is a new nonprofit cultural center, think tank and native art gallery dedicated to educating the public on Alaska’s artistic and cultural offerings. 

Alaska House in New York City

In fact it is the only arts and cultural center dedicated to promoting Alaska outside the State.

Several hundred guests were on hand for Monday evening’s grand opening and the unveiling of its inaugural exhibition,  “DESTINATION NEW YORK: Works by Alaska Native Artists Arrive at Alaska House.”  I felt such a sense of pride as guests wandered through the exhibition space, viewing paintings, woodcarvings, beadwork, weavings  and stone sculpture of some of the finest artists from Alaska. Included in the exhibit are large and dramatic mixed media paintings of the bears of Kodiak Island by Alvin Amason, Inupiaq sculptor Larry Ahvakana’s marble sculpture and fused glass compositions, as well as traditional art forms made of indigenous materials from across Alaska.

Alaska House Founder Alice Rogoff said she created Alaska House to showcase the hidden beauty of our great state. Said Alice: “Visitors know about the mountains, the glaciers, the whales and the snow but the many native cultures of the state and its long, ancient history remain virtually unknown.” Alice said part of the idea for Alaska House was to support Alaska native artists through the promotion of their art. I thought I would share with you some of the pieces in the inaugural exhibition as well as scenes from the opening night.

A polar bear ice sculpture greeted visitors to Alaska House.

Alaska artist Alvin Amason's "Papa said no, no no".

Artist Perry Eaton of Anchorage with one of his creations.

At the Wall Street Journal

I also used my New York visit to conduct an editorial board meeting with the opinion page editors of the Wall Street Journal. We discussed the increasing importance of the Arctic region as well as energy production in ANWR and along America’s outer continental shelf. To see an interview I did after the editorial board meeting, click Alaska Senator: Let's Fill the Pipeline.