Posted by: Aandeiyeen | March 18, 2011

“regulations make us violate our Way of Life”

This spring, I’ll have the opportunity to visit communities in Southeast and learn about the issues they are facing when it comes to traditional and customary use (“subsistence”) management.  I’m interested in learning about the common frustrations we are dealing with throughout the Tongass so please contact me if you want to share your experiences or have people you can network me to!

Here are the three common cultural values I’ve heard over and over again so far:

  • Respect; respect for the land, respect for the clans that manage certain areas, respect for the resources that give themselves to us for nourishment
  • Sharing; share the harvest with family and community; “if we do not share, the food sticks in our throats”
  • No waste; “We do not take more than needed” unlike commercial and sports interests

Regulations target the wrong people when they are crafted without local input or when management decisions do not use traditional knowledge.  Traditional and customary users take the least amount of the resources harvested, yet seem to be the most regulated.  Given the “subsistence priority” in Alaska, it would seem as though there would be more acknowledgment of local community needs and respect for traditional cultural values.  Traditional and customary users would have veto power over any regulatory decisions if “subsistence priority” were the case but we have seen time and time again that commercial and sports interests are catered to more than those who live harmoniously off the land.

If subsistence users were truly “number one” the following examples would not occur:

  • Fish & Game officials wouldn’t threaten Yakutat residents that the agency will “shut down the entire Situk River” if setnet fishers didn’t stop bringing home King Salmon by-catch to feed their families -regardless if the fish was already dead yet allow sports fishermen to “catch-n-release” Kings; a practice that has a high mortality rate on fish.
  • the community of Angoon would not have to voluntarily stop subsistence fishing from Kanalku Lake escapements to let the stock repopulate itself while commercial fishermen (who are not residents of the community and probably not even the state) continue to pillage the waters in the area unquestioningly.
  • traditional and customary users would not have to pay nearly $1,000 on annual fees for a subsistence cabin site on Forest Service land (even if the land had been in their family for generations before the Tongass was established as a National Forest) when commercial/sports interests such as outfitter guides- who have a cash based income- pay the same rate, if not less, for their cabin sites.

Agencies do not appreciate the simplest structure of our cultural foundation, that we’re a community-oriented people who share our harvest with others and that allocation of a permit to a single individual is not to provide food only for that one person but for many others as well.  Under a well-defined system of land management, there were specific boundaries in each tribe’s territory and the clans and house leaders traditionally manage specific areas for hunting, fishing, and gathering.  Land belonged to the clans, not IRA governments or “tribal member shareholders” let alone a U.S. or state government agency that abstractly authors its regulations in an office miles away from the resources and communities the regulations impact.

The subsistence permitting and regulation regime authored by those who are not directly connected to the land does not work and has negative impacts on the people who are (culturally and economically) dependent on the traditional resources the land provides.  Management of resources need to be influenced (if not directly controlled) by the very people who are connected to the land and have a better understand the local ecology and the implications of offsetting its delicate balance.

We should not be required to apply for permits to be Tlingit and live the way Tlingits do.



  1. […] post from Aandeiyeen over at The one who watches over the land. She’ll be visiting southeast Alaska communities to “learn about the issues they are […]

  2. Are you going through Wrangell? I don’t live there but I have a lot of family there.

    Our clans have legitimate claims to these resources. Way to fight the good fight!

    • I did speak with one person from WCA about the idea some time ago and did not hear much feedback or felt like there was a strong interest. However, I would be interested in talking with folks in Wrangell still; gathering this information doesn’t need to be channeled through the IRA governments but I do want to make sure they’re aware of my presence in their community if I get the invite from someone else.

      I am open to whatever format works best for each community to gather this info. Thanks!

  3. […] From “The One Who Watches Over the Land.” Hat tip to Miles Joyner. […]

  4. […] post from Aandeiyeen over at The one who watches over the land. She’ll be visiting southeast Alaska communities to “learn about the issues they are […]

  5. […] Many values are associated with traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering. To repeat from a previous post, below are a few illustrative examples of such […]

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