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New scholarship honors walrus conservation leader

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: 907-474-7902


A $50,000 gift to the University of Alaska Fairbanks from the Pacific Walrus Conservation Fund has created the Matthew Iya Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The new scholarship offers financial assistance to UAF students studying or involved in activities related to the Pacific walrus.

Iya was an Alaska Native leader and hunter who was born at a campsite near Savoonga in 1948. He grew up living and learning a subsistence lifestyle and, later in life, his traditional knowledge and efforts to bring people together became a valuable addition to walrus conservation efforts.

Iya recognized that the most effective walrus management would require subsistence users and agencies to collaborate. To that end, he helped establish the Eskimo Walrus Commission in the late 1970s.

"Matthew's unwavering stand for subsistence rights and his fight for co-management were the basis of every walrus commission meeting," said the late Jonah Tokeianna of Wales in a 1994 statement during a plaque dedication ceremony in Nome in Iya's honor.

UAF alumna Gay Sheffield, a marine mammal biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the new scholarship complements one honoring walrus researcher Francis "Bud" Fay.

"It was obvious that both men enjoyed a great understanding of, and a love for, Alaska's unique marine resources and the people who lives are entwined with them," Sheffield said. "Bud Fay is recognized for his dedication to scientific research and it seems right that Matthew finally be recognized for his dedication to the subsistence lifestyle and cooperation between all peoples for the benefit of the Pacific walrus population."

The Pacific Walrus Conservation Fund is a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation partnership with the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The partnership works to benefit Pacific walrus conservation efforts through funding and fundraising opportunities.

"I hope the students follow in Matthew's footsteps and continue to protect the land, the sea and the air--because that is our survival," emphasizes Veronica Iya, Matthew's widow. "He embraced people and saw the beauty in people."

CONTACT: Naomi Horne, development officer, at 907-474-6464 or via e-mail at naomi.horne@uaf.edu.

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