American Culture (BD Shadow)

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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

Received 5/18/2000

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,
as follows:

** 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.

For more on this issue please visit:

Sign up now for the NARF Action Network. You will receive email updates on major case developments, legislative calls to action and other types of information. Send an e-mail with your full name and e-mail address to NARF.

End of NARF report from newsletter: IN THE EWIND.

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