Posted by: Aandeiyeen | February 23, 2011

More Precious Than Gold

Tree Hugger.  Leaf licker.  Hippy. Environmentalists are often perceived as militants who preach platforms that value trees and fish over people and their quality of life.  I cannot help but respond to that emotional allegation with a patient smile and an excited proclamation that salmon- among other critters- are mighty tasty.  These critters are an important facet to the cultural identity and well-being of the communities in Southeast Alaska.  Traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering has nourished countless generations of our people.  Our communities depend on the continuation of renewable resources- which are only renewable so long as their habitat is healthy and intact.  I work to try to insure that these resources we depend on continue to thrive.  I do this out of my love for salmon and the culture my ancestors have built and passed onto us.

Nestled between the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean, Yakutat is located in the northern-most part of the Southeast Alaskan panhandle.  This is a land of majestic mountains, old growth forests, sandy beaches, and pristine spawning habitat for five species of wild salmon.  It is also home to the Tlingit who have resided here for thousands of years.  Salmon has been the foundation of our community and cultural identity since time immemorial.  According to a 2001 survey, eighty nine percent of Yakutat’s households harvest salmon for traditional use (“subsistence”).  We continue to depend on salmon today.

Abundant with wildlife and salmon spawning rivers and streams, the Forelands is the heart of our community.  We oppose mining in the Forelands because of the adverse effects mining could have on the salmon habitat in the area.  Mining would erode our community’s sovereignty and cultural identity by destroying our traditional resources.  The benefits simply do not outweigh the risks.

My lineage and cultural ties to Yakutat run deep.  Despite its management by federal agencies, this land is the ancestral land of the Tlingit.  The decisions we make today will affect generations to come.   We do not own the land we live on- we are borrowing it from our children and grandchildren.  Tlingits are a matrilineal culture and we obtain our identities through our mothers.  I am a proud Teikweidi shaawaat– a proud woman from the Brown Bear clan.   I want my future cubs to be able to appreciate the nourishment this land has been providing since the time of our ancestors.  If this makes them tree huggin’, leaf lickin’ hippies like Mama Bear- so be it.

No monetary value can be placed on our cultural heritage and ancestral lands because this land is more precious than gold.

Yakutat Forelands
photo credit: Robert (Bob) Johnson, published in Juneau Empire article.


Responses

  1. You speak of what I refer to as a multi-generational clan/tribal consciousness. Property rights are held by clans in Tlingit society; and the clan is older and will live longer than anyone member. So for a Tlingit to over fish our abuse his clan resources is to threaten the very existence of the clan and its future generations.

    Our existence is tied to this land. I am confident that we as a people will outlast the state and federal governments. Until then, let us build our people and do what we can to protect our sacred homelands!

    • gunalcheesh for your strong words! The YTT council will meet next week to decide which action(s) they will take to protect the Forelands. I will keep everyone updated when I can.

  2. […] More Precious Than Gold Abundant with wildlife and salmon spawning rivers and streams, the Forelands is the heart of our community. We opposed mining in the Forelands because of the adverse effects mining could have on the salmon habitat in the area. Mining would erode our community’s sovereignty and cultural identity by destroying our traditional resources. The benefits simply do not outweigh the risks. […]


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: