Tag Archives: Subsistence and Climate

The Year is 2020: Climate Change is Real and has Changed Alaska Almost Irreversibly

Hello to all of the old blog followers – this blog began in 2009 as an independent and individual project as a venue for opening up critical dialogue on the state of “being” Alaska Native in Alaska.  The title of the blog was deliberately chosen so as to be inclusive of all involved topics incorporated into what it might mean to be Alaska Native.  The early to late 2010s saw a co-author add a new stream of thought, particularly comparing and contrasting life in Alaska and life in Canada as an indigenous person/people in North America.  The 2010s are over and the authors are older and maybe a little wiser.

Hello to all of the new blog followers – the year is 2020, the blog is over a decade old and will be given a new lease of life as content begins to investigate Alaska climate change and Alaska adaptation practices to climate change as a field of knowledge.  Alaska Native peoples are greatly affected by climate change in regards to subsistence harvesting as a millennia-old livelihood.  Alaska Native villages are greatly affected by coastal and river erosion, and permafrost thaw: several villages have been working for decades on relocation to a safer location from the impacts of erosion and permafrost thaw, and new recent erosion and thaw events in countless other Alaska Native villages are beginning to irreversibly change the face of each village.

The politics of climate change is not a factor in these discussions, because the climate has changed in Alaska, precluding local, state, federal and international political disputes over the issue.  If two individuals somewhere in Alaska are standing on a silty river bank, arguing the particulars of climate change politics, while the warming silty river bank is falling into the quickening river current at the tips of the individuals’ feet, what good is the argument to anyone at all?  Welcome to 2020 and welcome to a counter-impact movement addressing climate change impacts in Alaska.

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Alaska Subsistence Management Chronology 2008

Find a subsistence management chronology under the Publications page within the blog:

https://alaskaindigenous.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/alaska-subsistence-management-chronology-2008-ion-ak.pdf

The chronology begins with the establishment of the Territory of Alaska in 1867, and ends in 2008.

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Alaska Native People and Subsistence

Testimony from village Alaska over 20 years ago:

“The wildlife regulations interfere with daily life, especially in the villages. Wildlife enforcement efforts target the wrong people for punishment and end up causing more problems than they solve. Wildlife agency personnel are, generally, unprepared and untrained for the human setting in northwest Alaska, so these human problems are not identified and not addressed. Much of what hunters do in the field is technically illegal, even though those same hunting practices are perfectably acceptable from the standpoint of conservation.” Greg Moore, Kotzebue

“When we talk about subsistence in the areas, we should be talking about Native culture and their land. I never heard the word subsistence until 1971 under the Native claims act. Before that time, when I was brought up in the culture of my people, it’s always been ‘our culture’ and ‘our land’. You cannot break out subsistence or the meaning of subsistence or try to identify it, and you can’t break it out of the culture. The culture and the life of my Native people are the subsistence way of life. And that’s what we always used, the subsistence way of life. It goes hand in hand with our own culture, our own language, and all our activities.” Johnathon Solomon, Fort Yukon

“I don’t know how anybody…who can place the value on my Nativeness, who can place the value on my thinking, my spirtuality, I don’t think anybody can. Only myself, and I think each and every one of us need to remember that we are Native and that we need to value that and protect it…through protection of our lands and our life-style.” Eleanor McMullen, Port Graham

“Native people are different…Our thinking is totally different. People that are non-Native don’t quite understand our way of thinking and somehow, if we could close those gaps so they can better understand them, I think many good things can happen.” Eleanor McMullen, Port Graham

“The land means everything to us, it brings us food, it provides for our clothing, it provides for our lodging, it brings us water; it means everything to us.” Suzy Erlich, Kotzebue

“One of the most important things to most people is our land. It goes back to our history and culture. That is important. As to the rest of it, who cares?” Kurt Englestad, Seattle

“In order to keep holding on to your customs and cultures, you have got to have land to get by with. If you are out of land, you are nothing. We have to belong to the land and take care of our land.” Art Douglas, Ambler

“I am speaking because I am affected, and where I am affected is from the village. I remember our fathers, our forefathers, how they survived this world, in strong winds, in cold temperatures. Many of them died during the season but they survived through thousands of years because they knew how to survive. They were taught to share, they were taught to help each others for thousands of years. Today, we are in this same situation, but this time we are not surviving against nature…surviving from the land. This time, we are in a time where we are searching, we are fighting to survive among different people, among different races in this Western civilization. What does this Western civilization have to offer? Business.” Bobby Wells, Kotzebue

“When you look through the corporate eye, our relationship to the land is altered. We draw our identity as a people from our relationship to the land and to the sea and to the resources. This is a spiritual relationship, a sacred relationship. It is in danger because, from a corporate standpoint, if we are to pursue profit and growth, and this is why profit organizations exist, we would have to assume a position of control over the land and the resources and exploit these resources to achieve economic gain. This is in conflict with our traditional relationship to the land, we were stewards, we were caretakers and where we had respect for the resources that sustained us.” Mary Miller, Nome

“The great law of culture is to let one become what they were created to be. Let me be Inupiat with the freedom to hunt, to fish, to trap, and to whale as my forefathers did in past centuries.” Delbert Rexford, Barrow

“I believe that if people, if the vast majority of Alaska Natives, were given the opportunity to either kill or die for their land, that most of them would do just that if it was that simple. If you were supposed to shoot soldiers, or protect your land with firearms, there are more Natives than the federal government would like to think about that would be more than willing to do just that. The government does not operate in that clear manner anymore. Now, when they are coming in after the land and they are coming in on these issues, they come not with soldiers but with people carrying briefcases. If you shoot somebody carrying a briefcase, then you are just a criminal, not an act of war. That means that there isn’t any clear way for the people to protect their land.” Paul Ongtooguk, Kotzebue

Village Journey: The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission, Thomas R. Berger. 1985. As funded in part by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

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Yukon River Fishcamp

I do enjoy spending long amounts of time out of doors, whether it is ninety degrees or forty below, rain, ice fog, or shine. In the winter simple walks from Point A to Point B and back again really can refresh my mind fatigued from cabin fever. During the summer I darkly tan while playing tennis and soccer, and cool down hiking at high altitudes on the Chugach Mountains. But my most particular favorite spot to spend time communing with nature is at a fish camp on the Yukon River, located about a forty-minute boat ride upriver from Tanana, Alaska. The first time I hopped ashore as a child from our family friend’s flat-bottom river boat, I saw only a small paradise and quickly set about playing long into the evening with my two younger brothers and our cousins and our family friend’s children. The last time I have visited that wonderful place in the whole of the world was in 1996. That was so long ago, and if I could only go back…
What I first found most entertaining was a pump-action Crossman BB/pellet gun. As a “city-boy” chances for firing any sort of gun were certainly few and far between. My family friend and I, he being a few years younger, spent hours shooting at soda cans and thick tree trunks. My excitement showed when I stored the BB gun on its barrel end in puffy moist soil. My friend was surprised and his father was bothered about pieces of the soil ruining the integrity of the long barrel. He cleaned the inside of the barrel and us kids quickly forgot about our troubles and went off on small adventures.
Next on the bucket list of limitless entertainment was the riverbank itself, in all its muddy and silty splendor. The gritty silt clouding the fast flowing river and caked along the riverbanks brushes clean the myriad driftwood lollygagging along with the currents. Minute branches and twigs light as a feather to freshly felled giant black spruce litter the currents and banks during late May and early June, just around the time my family and I arrived after elementary school ended for the summer. My favorites were searching out weatherly chunks of white spruce bark and paring and carving the edges down, visualizing only fantastically designed river racing boats and pulling them along the bank with strings attached or letting them float free in the gentle currents and ebbs lapping against the silty shore. On the banks were also many insects and spiders going to and fro in grassy brush and pebbly stretches. Watching ants or larger bugs inch along or smashing quick little spiders on the rocks proved satisfying to a child’s curiosity.
Meals were also very different in a home with no running water. What water was used for preparing food, cooking, and drinking had to be packed with five gallon plastic water buckets latched onto a carved wooden shoulder yoke. Packing around ten gallons of water on a wooden yoke with no padding was not easy for a “city-boy”, but I remember acting “tough” and would happily trudge up and down the little hillock from the freshwater stream to the two-story cabin. In the mornings I remember eating hotcake after hotcake, which I had not eaten before. I don’t think we ate anything much distinct for lunch, just sandwiches and crackers and Kraft cheese. Dinners I remember featured salmon freshly caught that afternoon or the late-night before in the nets stretched across parts of the river. Dinner was usually eaten during twilight after many little chores the adults had to carry out, eaten under kerosene lamps in the cabin without electricity. Dinners preceded chats and visiting and card-playing and the occasional cassette tape tune running on D batteries.
The last visit I made there was after seventh grade, so I was somewhat a little more mature than a child, but not yet completely. I’ve always had artistic talent, so when I noticed during my pre-adolescent play that an evening was turning out to be particularly beautiful, I reminded myself to sit on top of the bank later, and take the views in, and memorize them, and sketch the scenes out sometime later on a large blank piece of paper. After dinner and after a short session of play I stepped out from under the tall stands of trees on the high bank directly in front of the cabin and sat on tall, dry grass and scrunched my gangly knees under my elbows and watched a full moon rise and stars blink on and watched the tops of black spruce on the south bank cut jet-black jagged edges torn away from the glare of moon and twinkle of stars. The flowing river made for iridescent gossamer strands, reflecting shimmers of the moon; individual currents and ebbs making themselves known. Cool, dry, soft breezes played along the bank in the westward direction of the river. I knew in my heart of hearts that this one single evening would be incredibly special.

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