Alaska Natives Subsistence Issue
email from an Alaskan friend
Here is a letter from an Alaskan friend regarding the
Alaska Subsistence Issue, prompted by my forward of a report on the activities of
the Native American Rights Fund re: 'Katie John v. United States & Kluti Kaah v.
State (Alaska) - Alaska Subsistence' - the report
Thanks for sending,
The subsistence issues are critical to our rural Native heritage and our legislature refuses to take responsibility. It is really unfortunate. It is very confusing, too, because it isn't reported very well in the media.
I think the problem is because racism and sexism are so rampant in Alaska. In order to have subsistence rights the way the feds see it, it could only be in rural areas, for native-born people.
So they say that discriminates against urban people who may want to spend time with their people practicing their heritage. But what never gets said is that some non-Alaska born people live rural, hoping to live off the land, but because they are white or whatever, they would not be permitted for subsistence.
As the Legislature has let things go on this long, I can subsistence fish, even though I live in Anchorage and have a job. I do go fish and bring home about a dozen each year, and I'm allowed to take 55 for my family of four. I would sorely miss the opportunity if it wasn't allowed, but there is one more thing they don't say:
Even though the Fish & Game permits us to go subsistence fish, they also allow the commercial fishing boats out almost the whole time that is alloted for subsistence fishing. The effect is that very few fish get through, and so most people don't bring home their allotment.
The power balance being what it is, if only native Alaska people are allowed subsistence fish, there probably wouldn't be any fish coming in, because the commercial fishers would not be restricted at all!
Anyway, my opinion is that Native Alaska subsistence rights should be Increased, and that rights and privileges should be Decreased for commercial fishers, especially for those people who do not live year-round in Alaska (most permit holders live in other states). A lot of resources are extracted from this state and the value goes to people in Washington and Texas; Alaska does not tax them, or taxes are very low. The effect is they take the wealth & resource of the state and don't gvie anything back for it. I'm not sure why our state government is so afraid to take a stand. Sometimes we are so tough and independent, and sometimes we are fearful.
I dipnet salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers about 3 hours drive south of here. It is great to see people of so many races get out and catch fish and have fun. My little girls sit by the native ladies as they prepare their fish. At least they don't think Mommy is weird for fishing! We camp by the ocean and it seems like Holy Ground, because people have been fishing here for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.
I went to Shemya Island, out at the end of the Aleution chain, about 3 years ago. It was a military trip and I was with the compliance and conservation people. We had to check on the archeological sites. One was over 1,500 years old, it was a midden of sea urchin and clam shells, about 8 feet high that extended another 4 feet under the surface. That meant that people had used that site for intensive food collection for much longer than I could imagine it being sustained. It gives me lots to think about.
Thanks again for your post! It should get more intense, soon, since summer is here and the feds have to take over but aren't being funded to do so. Racism will become an issue, I'm sure. Subsistence is far from 'antique' in Alaska
Hey, I could go onononononon and on.
Happy Full Moon tonight and Bless You!
(Name withheld for privacy)
"Let us continue to honor that which
remains only in our dream memory."
The report forwarded to my friend was in my newsletter: IN THE EWIND, May, 2000
E-mail News from Four Winds Trading Company,
** The Native American Rights Fund (NARF)
This section is devoted to information about the activities of the
Native American Rights Fund. For more detailed information about
NARF please visit their web site at
Katie John v. United States & Kluti Kaah v. State (Alaska) - Alaska Subsistence
To many non-Indian observers, including policymakers, subsistence is
nothing more than a cultural antique -- an increasingly ineffective
holdover from previous times that will inevitably disappear as market
economies take over. However, subsistence is not a relic from the
past. It has and continues to be the foundation of Alaska Native
societies. Today, the subsistence way of life is necessary for the
physical, cultural and economic survival of Alaska Native people.
Most of the 220 small Native villages in Alaska are located on or
near the shores of a river or a lake, or on the coasts of the North
Pacific, Bering Sea, or Arctic Ocean. The proximity to water is no
accident and reflect s the dependence of Alaska Natives on the
harvest of fish stocks for sustenance and the basis of their
traditional way of life. In many Native villages, fresh meat, fish,
and produce are unavailable except through the subsistence harvest.
Yet, as important as hunting and fishing rights are to the physical,
economic, traditional, and cultural existence of Alaska Native
people, the Alaska legislature refuses to recognize the importance of
the subsistence way of life. The State views subsistence as nothing
more than the taking of a natural resource, and as something that all
citizens of the state should be entitled to engage in on an equal
opportunity basis with little distinction between sport and trophy
hunting and subsistence needs.
Under a federal law that protects Alaska Native subsistence rights,
the State's refusal to recognize the subsistence priority requires
the takeover of subsistence fishery management by the federal
government. However, despite a court order mandating that the federal
government implement this priority, Alaska's congressional delegation
and the Department of the Interior have stifled this mandate for
several years in a row, by agreeing to moratoriums which deny funding
for this critical federal takeover.
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