Customary and Traditional Use
Southeast Alaska Natives have relied on customary and traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering activities (subsistence) for centuries. Even today, more than 80% of the region’s rural households, Native and non-Native, engage in subsistence food gathering. In some rural communities, hunting and fishing provide most of a family’s food. Hunting and fishing are important to city dwellers as well. Staples include the 5 species of salmon, 3 species of trout, and Sitka black-tailed deer. Residents also depend on halibut, clams, crab, birds eggs, seaweed, berries, and beach and forest plants.
The Forest Service announced in its Transition Framework that it is looking for ways to improve the conditions of Southeast communities. Given the economic, social and cultural importance of traditional and customary use, improving management of traditional resources is a key factor in achieving the goals of the transition framework. In 2011, SEACC conducted a series of listening sessions in a number of Southeast native villages to see if there are ways we can help this process.
One issue that was identified as a barrier to customary and traditional practices was the high fees that are charged by the Forest Service for fish camp cabins. In response, we drafted a legal memo on the issue (also see our cover letter for the memo), which argues that such high fees are a barrier to subsistence and counter to the purpose of Title 8 of the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act.