College of Liberal Arts & Sciences / Social Science

Visiting Arctic speaker to host several events

Larry Merculieff

Here Larry Merculieff is seated on a bluff above a beach where hundreds of northern fur seals are basking on St. Paul Island in the Pribilof Islands off the west coast of Alaska, north of the Aleutian chain of islands. The photo is courtesy of Ray Corral.

MONMOUTH – A visiting Arctic speaker, Larry Merculieff, will be at Western Oregon University on Feb. 23 and 24. He will present a workshop and several talks on issues from an indigenous perspective and traditional Aleut upbringing. Merculieff is from Saint Paul Island in the Pribolof Islands in the Bering Sea, southwest of Alaska. Saint Paul Island is five miles wide and 12 miles long. On this island, he estimates there are one million northern fur seals, 2.5 million seabirds, one thousand reindeer and five hundred Aleut people. The events are made possible with help from the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs and ARCUS. Here is the event schedule.

Wednesday, Feb. 23

The True Intelligence of the Real Human Being
9 to 11 a.m., Calapooia Room of Werner University Center (WUC) – not open to the public

This is a youth presentation for Grand Ronde and Kings Valley Charter School Students and will focus on the major elements of Merculieff’s traditional upbringing from age 4 to age 13. How it is to be raised in a way where he was never told what to do or how to do something. The responsibility of the adults was to expose him to self-learning experiences where he was expected to watch, listen, and learn, using what they call the “true intelligence of the real human being.” By age 7, he was given his first rifle and shotgun as a rite of passage of a traditional hunter. The traditional hunter is successful because the hunter is totally connected to everything in the environment, including the fish and wildlife. In the traditional way, young people are never given instructions and are always encouraged daily. This is a true story of a people who are profoundly connected to the places they live and how such people learn from all living things.

Indigenous Elder Wisdom for Modern Times: Why It is Needed To Shift Paradigms That Are Pushing Earth’s Life Support Systems to the Edge
3 p.m. in the Oregon Room of WUC

This community forum will focus on the great spiritual and practical wisdom of indigenous elders from Merculieff’s Aleut tradition and the traditions across the world. The speaker is a messenger for wisdomkeepers from many traditions who follow what is commonly known as “The Original Teachings” given to people of all traditions on the planet. There was a time when all humans could speak what is called “The Language of One,” allowing plants, animals, and humans to communicate with each other. It was a time when there was no separation between people and between people and all living things. The indigenous elders from across the world are now stepping forward to share what they know and understand about the world we are living in today and what we need to do to change the course of destruction of Mother Earth. Merculieff will put prophecies in their proper context.

Reception (open to the public)
4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Oregon Room of WUC

Thursday, Feb. 24

Bridging Between Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Cartesian Based Western Science:  Why Is It Needed and What Can Indigenous Ways Offer to Better Understand Nature
9:30 a.m. at the Chemawa Indian School in Salem

Indigenous and western science are fundamentally different in that indigenous science has, as its foundation, what is commonly referred to as spirituality. Merculieff will discuss how the western world is struggling to understand the “Indigenous Mind,” let alone use these ways of knowing to deal with modern day challenges. The indigenous sciences around the world are marginalized because of misunderstandings, misperceptions, and simple ignorance. Merculieff will also talk about the “good” and “not so good” experiences of attending boarding school and how he was able to change a negative experience into a positive one.

Indigenous Elder Wisdom for Modern Times: Why It is Needed To Shift Paradigms That Are Pushing Earth’s Life Support Systems to the Edge
1 p.m. in room 215 of Natural Sciences Building

See description above.
3 p.m. in the Columbia Room of WUC

Generally speaking, modern institutions utilize western concepts of team and team building and place traditional ways in the category of “history” or “the past” with no utility for modern times. Nothing could be further from the truth. This interactive workshop will explore the myriad of ways used by indigenous cultures to unify the “mind” of the group so that everyone’s contribution is valued and used, and how use of connecting and peaceful language of mind, body, and spirit can bring greater results than the use of “majority and minority.” Participants will learn how to express seemingly polarized viewpoints without alienating any participant on the team. Experientially, participants will learn a new way of listening, expressing their thoughts, how one’s truth is as equally valid as another’s truth, and why indigenous ways are so critical in these modern times fraught with conflict, one-upmanship, and competition.

About Merculieff
Merculieff has almost four decades of experience serving his people in a number of capacities. His reach has been broad and varied — a few of the positions he’s held include: City Manager of St. Paul Island, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development, President and CEO of Tanadgusix Corporation, Chairman of the Board of The Aleut Corporation, and General Manager of the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association (one of the six Community Development Quota groups created by Congress to receive fish allocations in Alaska).

In 2007, Merculieff received the Environmental Excellence Award from the Alaska Forum on the Environment for his lifetime achievements on environmental issues, as well as the Buffet Finalist Award for Indigenous Leadership. He is featured in a book published by Second Story Press entitled “Native Men of Courage.” Merculieff also co-authored a book published by Les Intouchables in October 2009, called “Aleut Wisdom: Words of an Aleut Messenger.” The book is written in French.

From 2000–2003, Merculieff served as the Director of the Department of Public Policy and Advocacy in the Rural Alaska Community Action Program. As Director, Merculieff led the largest subsistence rights march in Alaska’s history and emceed the subsistence rally after the march. The march was instrumental in protecting Alaska Native subsistence rights, which were legally contested by the State of Alaska, to fish for salmon along Alaska’s rivers. He also successfully led a four-year effort to gain federal and state recognition of Alaska Native subsistence rights to catch and eat halibut throughout coastal Alaska.

Merculieff is co-founder and former chairman of the Alaska Indigenous Council on Marine Mammals; former chairman of the Nature Conservancy, Alaska chapter; former co-director of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, Alaska chapter; as well as co-founder of the International Bering Sea Forum, the Alaska Forum on the Environment, and the Alaska Oceans Network. He served as chairperson for the Alaska Sanitation Taskforce and co-chair of the Federal/State Taskforce on Rural Sanitation to bring support for running water and flush toilets to over one hundred Alaska Native communities. Merculieff served on the National Research Council Committee on the Bering Sea Ecosystem and was one of four Native Americans to present at the White House Conference on the Oceans during the Clinton administration. Merculieff was selected by Aleut leaders to be part of a one-hour Discovery Channel documentary about the history and spiritual aspects of Aleuts, which aired in 2001. In 2004, he received the Alaska Native Writers on the Environment Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation and, in 2006, he received the Rasmuson Foundation Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Close to Merculieff’s heart are issues related to cultural and community wellness, traditional ways of living, Elder wisdom, and the environment. Having had a traditional upbringing, Merculieff has been, and continues to be, a strong voice advocating the meaningful application of traditional knowledge and wisdom obtained from Elders in Alaska and throughout the world when dealing with modern day challenges. As the Coordinator for the Bering Sea Council of Elders, Merculieff works with some of the most revered Elders from seven regions throughout Alaska focusing on the health of the Bering Sea ecosystem and the viability and health of the coastal and river cultures dependent on it. Merculieff has shared Elder wisdom locally, nationally, and internationally, and his writings and interviews have appeared in such publications as the Winds of Change, YES, Red Ink, Alaska Geographic, Smithsonian, National Geographic, and Kindred Spirits. Merculieff was featured in National Wildlife an “American Hero”, having called national and international attention to major adverse changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem.

Interview contacts:
Robin Smith
Professor of anthropology
503-838-8357 or

Roben Jack Larrison
Curator of the Jensen Arctic Museum
503-838-8468 or

2 thoughts on “Visiting Arctic speaker to host several events

  1. I went to the w.o.u. tv hoping to view this lecture and nothing was available! I was very sadden 😦
    Can someone please insure me that it will be posted, as we were told.
    Thank you,
    Kathy Deeds

  2. Hi Kathy,

    It will be posted on wouTV in its entirety, but it just takes a bit of time to finish the video and get it online. It will happen though, keep checking back! It was a great talk, I hope you enjoy it.


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