Walrus is an important resource for Alaska Native people.
Those who live in the coastal regions of Alaska rely heavily on walrus for food, clothing and cultural traditions. It’s an important part of their subsistence lifestyle, and it’s been this way for centuries.
When walrus are harvested, the entire animal is used, bringing great value to communities. This is at the heart of the culture and customs of the people.
Unfortunately, this way of life is in danger, an unintended consequence of walrus harvests being wrongly associated with illegal poaching of elephants for ivory.
WalrusIvory.org aims to inform visitors, lawmakers and others about the ethical, legal and responsible use of walrus ivory by Alaska Native people. Here you can meet real Alaska Native ivory carvers and hear their stories, gain access to facts and data, download shareable resources and learn more about how to get involved.
- To stop the poaching of African elephants, the United States implemented a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory.
- Numerous U.S. states have passed well-intentioned laws banning the sale, use and possession of all ivory. The way these laws are written unintentionally includes walrus.
- Elephant ivory and walrus ivory are not the same. Elephant poaching and traditional walrus harvesting could not be more different.
- Alaska Native people have been responsibly and respectfully harvesting walrus for centuries. The walrus population remains healthy today.
- Walrus ivory art continues to be a source of tradition and culture sharing, pride, artistic production, expression and income.
Why It Matters
- These blanket bans on all ivory are turning legal, cultural lifestyles that have existed for centuries into illegal activities.
- These broad bans on commercial ivory are causing uncertainty for visitors over whether they are allowed to buy, own or bring home legally acquired walrus ivory from Alaska. This creates confusion and prevents purchases which hurts Alaska Native artists and their small communities.
What Can I Do?
- Visit Alaska and celebrate Alaska Natives’ living tradition.
- Support Alaska Native artists, their communities and their culture by purchasing ivory artwork. Check out the Get Involved section of this website for more information about ivory purchases and transporting it home.
- Learn more about the responsible, traditional and legal use of walrus ivory.