In 1994, a group of Alaskans – concerned about rapid ecological changes unfolding in Cook Inlet – came together to form Cook Inletkeeper, modeled after successful “Waterkeeper” programs across the country. In 1995, local conservation groups (Alaska Center for the Environment, Greenpeace, Trustees for Alaska) negotiated a settlement with Cook Inlet oil & gas producers (Unocal, Shell-Western & Marathon) for over 4,200 violations of the federal Clean Water Act in Cook Inlet. The EPA found the allegations so serious that it joined the litigation, and rather than face huge potential penalties in court, the oil companies chose to direct 3 years of start-up funding to Cook Inletkeeper in a landmark settlement.
Sisitna River
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The “Waterkeeper” concept dates back to the 19th-century English tradition where Riverkeepers were the wardens of private streams, assuring the waters were healthy, well stocked and free of poachers. In the 1980’s, fishermen concerned about pollution in New York’s Hudson River started the first Waterkeeper program in the United States. Today, there are over 300 Waterkeeper programs across the globe, and together they comprise the Waterkeeper Alliance. Each Waterkeeper has a common goal to protect water quality through active stewardship, research, advocacy, and education.

In concert with this organizational history, Cook Inletkeeper acknowledges that the Inlet and surrounding lands have been home to the Dena’ina, Sugpiaq/Alutiiq people of Alaska’s Southcentral region for thousands of years, long before the occupations of settler culture or the “Waterkeeper” concept. Indigenous stewardship and relationships to traditional lands and ways of life are essential matters of any developing environmental or economic solution for Alaska’s future generations.

Now in its 3rd decade, Cook Inletkeeper continues to fight for clean water and healthy habitat.

Sedna Solidarity Logo

Our Logo – Sedna

Cook Inletkeeper has embraced “Sedna” – a goddess figure from Inuit origin stories – as its logo. Maritime cultures throughout the world have mythologies built around a sea goddess whose role it is to protect the ocean’s creatures and assure proper action for successful hunting and gathering resources from the sea. The Inuit peoples of the Arctic describe Sedna as the Mother of Sea Beasts, one of the primal forces of nature. During a dispute she was thrown out of a kayak and while trying to get back in, her fingers were severed. Her fingers then grew into fish, seals, whales, and all of the other sea creatures. She lives eternally on the ocean’s bottom and her tragic story explains the creation of all sea life. As a life-death symbol, she is feared and demanding. Proper action and due respect are required by us humans if we are to live harmoniously with nature and reap the ocean’s bounty. We have chosen the Sedna symbol to convey our program of caring, vigilance, and responsibility.