Alaska Native Subsistence Rights

Save Bristol Bay

Yéil Ya-Tseen shared a Facebook post. (Screen Capture)
Click link for Herring Rock Water Protectors (Facebook video 2/5/2019)

The herring of Sitka Sound are disappearing. Learn why herring are culturally
and ecologically critical to the people of Southeast Alaska.
Protect the Herring! Donate to Sitka Tribe of Alaska link in FB video discription.

Yéil Ya-Tseen shared a Facebook post by Tommy Gee. (Screen Capture)

"It is a serious issue happening in Sitka this week. I was about to start cast nets in waters less than 50 ft deep when these guys showed up in the bay and pretty much took every available herring right under us, and right over us." Tommy Gee

Nancy Keen, right, Vivian Mork, Marvin Willard and Rosita Worl, left, hold a protest outside the Dimond Courthouse as a court hearing between the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the Department of Fish and Game on herring limits in Sitka Sound takes place inside on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Tribe takes state to court in attempt to protect herring
Tribe of Sitka members hope to change the way fishery is managed
By Alex McCarthy (Juneau Empire Feb 21, 2019)

Alaska Native Subsistence Rights Summer 2012 - Akiak elders told families to fish despite government ban From Kyle Hopkins (Anchorage Daily News, June 22nd, 2012)

Emergency Subsistence Fishing Situation for Alaska's Yup'ik Peoples Continues (Statement from the Akiak Native Community and Akiak IRA Council)

Traditional Alaska Native Fish Harvest Blocked By Government Agencies; Alaska Fish and Game and US Fish and Wildlife Service Confiscating Fishing Nets and Salmon caught; Native elders cite mismanagement and global warming as primary threat to fish population

Akiak - Facing arrest, fines, and seizure of foods and fishing nets by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and US Fish and Wildlife Troopers, Alaska Native people took to their boats this past Wednesday to stave off a food security emergency. Following orders of village elders, boats filled with men, women, and children fished along the Kuskokwim River in Southwest Alaska on the day an original seven-day river closure was to lift.

The conflict began after the Alaska Department of the Fish and Game and US Fish and Wildlife Service went against the nearly unanimous vote by the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, a working group organized by the agency, to immediately open the fishery after an initial agreed upon seven-day closure of the river. The commercial fisheries representative on the working group was the only non-supporting vote of the opener.

"Fish and Game issued citations and fishing nets were cut up, torn and taken away including the fish by enforcement officers," said Mike Williams, a member of the Akiak Native Community and the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group.

Elders and tribal leaders across Alaska called the government decision to extend the river closure by an additional five days a violation of trust and a threat to sovereign fishing rights.

Ivan M. Ivan, Chief of Akiak said that "this enforcement practice toward our tribal citizens is totally inhumane as the Elders have stated. It is violating our basic human rights as first peoples of this land and first protectors of our resources. The Tribal Council will work hard to protect our resources and our land as we have done for over 10,000 years. We have done this because there were many people from the river who stated that they did not have any fish yet hanging for drying on their racks. This is true from the mouth of the river to the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River."

"All of the Alaska Native Peoples must protect their way of life, lands and waters," he continued. "The Elders have directed their fishermen to fish without any fear of breaking laws. They said that putting up fish for their survival is not breaking the law. It is just common sense that they have been taught by the great teachers before others showed up."

Village elders and leadership are pointing to climate change, and lack of respect for thousands of years of management and tribal sovereignty as the leading factors for the face off. Villages from Tuluksak all the way down to Tuntutuliak are involved. The tribes in the area are going to continue to meet to address the restoration of the Chinook salmon for the future.

After a long cold winter, this harvest time is crucial for much needed dried fish and the villages need enough fish stored for the upcoming winter. The Kuskokwim River stretches From Bering Sea, 702 miles through Southwest Alaska to the headwaters of Mt. Denali. It is the ninth largest river in the United States and the longest free flowing river in the Country.



Alaska Native Subsistence Rights 1999 Honoring Wanda Culp, Desi Jacobsson, Jackie Mclean, Renee Culp and Tracy Gonzalez cited for subsistence fishing by Dredge Lake, near the Mendenhall Glacier.  

"We are going fishing again, us women...The canoe rocks, we do not know what will become of us..."

                                                         Wanda Culp, Tlingit
                                                          Chookeneidi Clan from Glacier Bay
                                                          Born and raised in Juneau, Alaska

"We were inspired by the four Tlingit Women who first went under the Glacier and inspired the Tlingit National Anthem.  They did not go under the Glacier so that we would lose our subsistence rights today.  We are artists who cast the subsistence net  for the next six generations forever."   said Desi Jacobsson.

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Internet Resources

Subsistence  by  Alaska Federation of Natives

Alaska Natives Justice & Law Links

Alaska: The Subsistence Lifeway - Alaska subsistence traditions in food gathering,living,and village life on the last frontier where things haven't changed all that much in some ways.

Alaska Natives Subsistence Issue - ... Under a federal law that protects Alaska Native subsistence rights, the State's refusal to recognize the subsistence priority requires the takeover of ...

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 "We the People-- Standing our Ground" Alaska Native Protest Marches. - August 22, 2002 | May 3, 2000 | May 5, 1999 | May 7, 1998 by AlaskaCam

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Honoring Wanda Culp, Desi Jacobsson, Jackie Mclean, Renee Culp and Tracy Gonzalez

Dec 20th , 1999 - Trial starts for five Alaska Native women for catching 5 sockeye with subsistence net  (Wanda Culp, Desi Jacobsson, Jackie Mclean, Renee Culp and Tracy Gonzalez).

The Dec.20 trial did not happen as the State Prosecuter requested and received a 2-1/2 week extension due to the holidays and the comlications of Federal Indian Law.  The extension was done overthe objections of the 5 women.  24 people showed up for the hearing from Klukwan and Hoonah as well as Juneau supporters.  Their attorney instead gave a legal briefing during a meeting in the very court room thehearing was set to be in.  

Jan 07,was the Prosecuters deadline to respond to the defendants motionto dismiss.  Arguments are scheduled for Jan.  26th  3:30 p.m. which only gives the 5 15 minutes so their attorney is hoping to reschedule for Jan. 28th, 3:30 p.m. which will give 2 hours for their witnesses.  If it goes to trial, it is scheduled for Feb. 15 at8:30 a.m.

Chilkat Indian Village, Resolution #99-010 supporting the Juneau Five. Hand carried by Joe Hotch of Klukwan.

Oct 1, 1999.  More then half of Alaska's fish and game resources are now under Federal Control.  Anti Subsistence supporters plan to take issue through legal system.

Sept 30, 1999 Alaska Senate misses by 2 votes.   6:30 pm Subsistence deadline passes.

Sept 28, 1999.  House passes their version of subsistence solution (without putting  the word "rural" in resolution) by a 28-12 vote.    Now moves to the Alaskan Senate.

 Sept 27, 1999 - Trial date set for five Alaska Native women for catching 5 sockeye with subsistence net  (Wanda Culp, Desi Jacobsson, Jackie Mclean, Renee Culp and Tracy Gonzalez). Supporters pack court room.

Sept 22, 1999 - Alaska legislature begins special subsistence session.

Sept 21, 1999 - State to prosecute five Alaska Native women for catching 5 sockeye with subsistence net. Wanda Culp, Desi Jacobsson, Jackie Mclean, Renee Culp and Tracy Gonzalez will be charged for fishing without a permit.

"This isn't going to stop us from pursuing this.  We intend to get kings and cohos (salmon).  If the laws are unjust, all human beings have a responsibility to stand up.  We are not criminal Native women raised by criminal Native parents," said Desi Jacobsson

Four Alaska Native women making history by casting the subsistence net are Wanda Culp, Desi Jacobsson, Jackie Mclean, Tracy Gonzalez.   They were inspired by Southeast Alaska history,  during the last great ice age in North America,  Four Tlingit women went under a Dangerous Glacier for their people and helped found the Southeast Alaska Tlingit Nation ( read The Tlingit National Anthem  retold by Robert Willard Jr.)  

A fifth Alaska Native Woman  Renee Culp was cited for moving the truck making it The Juneau five on trial.

Aug 26, 1999 - Statement of Wanda Culp and Desa Jacobsson

"For the sake of our children and their children a subsistence net will be set on August 28, 1999 at 1:00 P.M in the Juneau area at the sockeye pond near the Mendenall Glacier.


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