2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award
Finalist: Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff
Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff is an honored 2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for his many contributions to increased involvement of Native organizations in scientific research and political efforts to protect Alaska's environment, subsistence rights, and the Bering Sea. Over the past thirty years, he has also been instrumental in achieving legal, cultural and economic victories for Aleuts and other indigenous peoples. Merculieff (Aleut) was born and raised on the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. He resides in Anchorage, Alaska.
Merculieff is currently the Alaska Native Science Commission's Deputy Director. In this role, he has used his exceptional public education, negotiating and leadership skills to work effectively with a wide variety of interests including scientists, journalists, Alaska's Native tribal officials, the environmental community, federal and state government officials, young people, and the general public.
Merculieff's previous professional work experience includes Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Rural Alaska Community Action Program (2000-2003); Director, Environmental Programs, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (1998); City Manager, City of St. Paul, Alaska (1990-1994); Commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development, State of Alaska (1989-1990); Business Manager, President and CEO, Tanadgusix Corporation (1975-1985) and Chairman of the Board, Aleut Corporation (1980).
Merculieff is a principal co-founder of the Alaska Forum on the Environment, Alaska Oceans Network, International Bering Sea Forum and The Alaska Indigenous Peoples' Council for Marine Mammals. From 1991 to 1995, he served on the Board of Trustees of The Nature Conservancy. In 1994, Merculieff served as chairperson of the Alaska Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
Merculieff's advocacy work at the federal level has helped pass legislation including the 1994 Marine Mammal Protection Act amendments. He served as a principal advocate and negotiator for establishment of the Pribilof Islands National Maritime Wildlife Refuge while protecting Aleut subsistence rights in perpetuity. Merculieff led successful efforts to secure international, federal and state recognition of the rights of Alaska Natives to take halibut for subsistence with the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Merculieff served as the planning committee co-chair and march leader for the largest subsistence rights march in Alaska's history on behalf of Katie John and the rights of Alaska Natives to subsistence fishing they have relied on since time immemorial.
Merculieff has made many presentations on the Bering Sea ecosystem, traditional elder wisdom, and global climate change, including at the 1998 White House Conference on Oceans with Vice President Al Gore in Monterey, California. He has also played a key role in advancing these issues through local, national and international radio shows, TV documentaries, magazines and newspapers. In 2004, Merculieff received the Alaska Native Writers on the Environment Award.
Merculieff has been successful in his environmental work in bridging the traditional knowledge obtained from indigenous elders with the western approach to ecosystem research and management. He has also spent time exchanging cultural wisdom with the Mapuche Elders in Patagonia, Alaska Native Elders, the Stoney Elders in Alberta, the Cree, Sioux, Mayans, Kechua in the Andes, among many others.