SEACC 2023 Tide Book — Southeast Alaskans on Intersectionality

Written by SEACC

December 15, 2022

Here, Southeast Alaskans describe what intersectionality and interconnectedness mean to them, environmental issues affecting people, and the futures they envision for their communities.

SEACC is grateful to everyone who contributed their experience and knowledge to this tide book. We hope you can get to know your neighbors by reading their stories. Those in the communities of the panhandle, from Yakutat to Metlakatla, rely on the web of life woven through the water and the land to support their lifestyles and livelihoods. Our way of life continues to be threatened by interconnected injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth.

Thank you for picking up the SEACC 2023 Tide Book! We hope this information will assist you in planning your Inside Passage adventures, whether you are harvesting Alaskan seafood, beachcombing rocky shores, or kayaking with humpbacks. If you don’t see your community’s tide pages, please see the tidal corrections. 

Ḵaa Yahaayí Shkalneegi, Muriel Reid

Ḵaa Yahaayí Shkalneegi Muriel Reid is a child of the Kiks.ádi clan and a grandchild of the Kaagwaantaan clan. Their Łingít name means “photo story” and was created by Louise Brady of the Point House. They are a student at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau and are currently interning at the Sustainable Southeast Partnership in their communications team as a storyteller and photographer. As a Herring Protector, they utilize their photography skills to document koo.éex’ and have testified in support of the herring at the Alaska Board of Fish. They believe their primary connection to the land is through their Indigeneity which was complemented by growing up closely with it through berry picking, playing in muskegs, spending time at the beach, and being outside whenever they could.

“I think [intersectionality is] recognizing our true place in the world and innate diversity. When we see ourselves as separate from the environment, or we see ourselves separate from other human beings, that’s a very colonial perspective and that is the opposite of intersectionality … There are connections between each of us and between each of the species that we can’t really ignore. This intersectionality of different genders, races, sexual orientations, and values comes from the idea that people are a part of the environment.”

“We can’t forget that there are other minorities within Southeast Alaska that also have connections to this place … that aren’t Indigenous … We have plenty of people with a lot of heart to give and to just ignore all of these people because Indigenous people have been put on a pedestal, basically telling us to fix everything, that isn’t right … That idea of ‘Indigenous people know what to do,’ and we do, but there are other people that can help and there are other people that have a right to speak their voice.”

Wooshkhindeinda.aat, Lily Hope

Wooshkhindeinda.aat Lily Hope is Raven T’aḵdeintaan from the Snail House in Hoonah. She was born in Juneau and has lived there for most of her life. Hope learned Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving from her mother, the late Clarissa Rizal, and from weaver Kay Parker. She is also the president and co-founder of Spirit Uprising, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and teaching weaving. In addition to working at her studio Wooshkindein Da.áat, Hope is a mother of five, poet, children’s book author, and teacher of career development for artists at the University of Alaska Southeast. She encourages readers to make art that speaks to the issues we are facing as it’s an impactful way to communicate lasting and thought-provoking ideas.

“I think about intersectionality as all of our identities being inseparable. It’s funny because I also described our relationship to land as that, but I think about intersectionality as all of our identities existing in the same space. We can’t unweave them from each other. One of my children is Alaska Native and transgender, and there’s no way to separate their Native identity from their gender identity from their sexual orientation, like all of those things are intertwined.”

“Alaska would do well to listen to Indigenous peoples, and know that we’ve known things far before the educated scientists came and noticed that the science is different …The way that climate change, the rising and falling temperatures, the shift in temperature …is affecting our salmon runs, affecting our harvesting of Indigenous foods, and the land and the ocean. One year to the next we don’t know if we’re gonna have a successful harvest of salmon or not.”

W’ally, Sthaathi, Tá, Tazia Wagner

W’ally, Sthaathi, Tá, Tazia Wagner is of the Ts’msyen, Łingít, and Haida nations and has lived in Southeast Alaska her whole life. She works as the Tribal Relations and Fisheries Data Manager at the Metlakatla Indian Community Department of Fish and Wildlife, and she is pursuing her master’s degree in Indigenous Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks through the Tamamta Program. She is driven toward creating relationships between Tribes in Alaska and helps manage fisheries in Metlakatla. Wagner practices her traditional ways of life through beading, creating jewelry, skin-sewing, weaving cedar, and harvesting year-round. She celebrates her connection to nature by simply being because nature is a part of her and she is a part of it.

“As a Southeast Alaska Native, intersectionality means to me that my knowledge and word may not be as respected as those with degrees from institutional systems. That my experiential and learned knowledge does not hold the same weight in a conversation about our environments and resources … I did not choose to be a Southeast Alaska Native woman, but the ancestors chose me, and I am more than willing to bear that weight to make it easier for my descendants.”

“I envision that Indigenous peoples are able to steward the land once again without economic interference. Whether it be solely tribal or in partnership with management systems already in place. I imagine a future where we are heard rather than silenced, where our Traditional Knowledge is held at the same standard as Western science. Putting prejudices behind us and working together for our descendents’ collective futures, it is no longer about us, it is about them.”

Samara Kasayulie-Kookesh

Samara Kasayulie-Kookesh is a lifelong Angoon resident of the Tlingit, Yup’ik, Athabaskan, and Iñupiaq peoples. She grew up learning Tlingit traditions like Tlingit language, songs, and dances. She is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in justice studies at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and plans to specialize in Tribal law. After finishing school in Arizona, Kasayulie-Kookesh hopes to return to Alaska and attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks to pursue an additional degree in Alaska Native Studies. During the summer of 2022, she interned as the SEACC Climate Program intern through the First Alaskans Institute internship program. Aside from work, Kasayulie-Kookesh loves music, basketball, going to the gym, and reading.

“Ocean acidification is [harming] the marine life we have in our oceans. Most people in Alaska, along with the states in the Lower 48, eat seafood. We depend on the ocean for our food like salmon and halibut. Ocean acidification is happening because the carbon dioxide that is released into the air gets into the ocean, causing organisms like shellfish to be affected first because they don’t have the compounds needed to build their shells along with their skeletons. If this happens, the organisms that depend on these foods will have to adapt and eat something else which will be taken away from other animals who are having to fight for their food.”

“Alaskan Native Peoples such as the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida are affected by [ocean acidification] in Southeast. These groups have depended on and taken care of the land for hundreds of years. We have always respected the animals that we eat along with the nature that is around us, so when one thing goes wrong it affects everything all around us … If our food goes scarce then we will not have anything to live off of.”

Chloey Cavanaugh

Chloey Klawk Shaa Cavanaugh is of the Was’ineidi Tax’Hit, Eagle Wolf clan. She was born in Sitka, but was raised and currently resides in Juneau. Her grandfather is Archie Cavanaugh, her grandmother is Melinda Cavanaugh, and her mother is Tanya Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh feels that the panhandle of Alaska is more than the enchanting beauty it beholds, but also a teacher, a way of life, and a distinct part of her Łingít identity passed down from generation to generation. She believes Indigenous voices belong at the heart of environmental justice and seeks to use her traditional Łingít values to guide her decisions. As an LGBTQ+ woman, Cavanaugh takes pride in dedicating her spare time to various activism groups, exemplified by her seat on the Seattle Pride Board of Directors and the creation of the 2022 Pride Month logo for the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance (SEAGLA).

“The most pressing issue right now is getting big corporations and people to see the impact we are having on this planet and educating others on how to get involved. One voice in a sea of thousands can only reach so far. Still, a sea of voices can bring us all together for a shared vision of making our home a better place before our home is a place without glaciers, without clean water, without subsistence resources — before our home isn’t a home at all.”

“When we don’t have representation at the table, we have a conversation without a complete picture. When we aren’t making sure that our community members have the resources to be at these conversations or have access to learn about the discussions being had, we are missing someone at the table. The issue of getting everyone involved and heard is so necessary, needed, and essential. We are talking about food, jobs, land, and the future of what this world currently is and will be. If something impacts everyone, we must uplift everyone, and everyone needs to be at the table for these issues that Southeast Alaska is facing.”

Grant EchoHawk

Grant EchoHawk is of the Pawnee Nation and the Oklahoma Kítkehahki band. He was born in Fairbanks and raised in Southeast Alaska before he explored the rest of the United States. Although he was able to experience beautiful places and have memorable adventures, the call of Southeast brought him back to Ketchikan. EchoHawk currently works at the domestic violence shelter Women In Safe Homes and was recently elected into the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. As an Indigenous person whose ancestors have lived on the land for more than 20,000 years, he feels his connection to nature is profound and inseparable from who he is. Viewing conservation efforts as both pragmatic and philosophical endeavors, he hopes to help find a way back to equilibrium with our environment as it has sustained Alaska Native Peoples for thousands of years and exemplifies this as vice president of SEACC.

“[Interconnectedness] means that there are deep connections throughout all of our systems. For example, if the wolf-to-deer population becomes unbalanced and there are too many wolves, well then the deer population gets annihilated, which then causes fewer deer to forage or to spread seeds around … Ultimately it is all very much connected, so we have to take a very broad view of the planet and do our best to keep things from getting too unbalanced.”

“I would say the most pressing issue … is specifically climate change, and a couple of reasons are it is clearly throwing many of our ecosystems out of balance. Once these interconnected ecosystems, when the pressure becomes too much on one system, it can have a domino effect … Any time that you have folks that are marginalized and just do not have the resources, then those are the ones that are going to suffer the most and suffer the fastest when the impacts of climate change are starting to be felt.”

Natalie Watson

Natalie Watson grew up in Juneau and left at 18 for art school, seeking urban life and culture in Cleveland, Boston, and France. She subsequently became an active transportation and livable streets advocate in the Chicago area and founded an ongoing open streets initiative called “Evanston Streets Alive!” She served on the board of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, working to make Evanston an environmentally just, sustainable, and resilient community. She also worked at the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit startup focused on increasing the use of shared forms of transportation, in particular ridesharing, carsharing, and bike-sharing. In 2016, she moved back to Juneau for family, nature, and clean air, and has been working at AWARE in primary violence prevention and youth empowerment. As the president of SEACC’s board, Watson feels an increasing urgency to protect Southeast Alaska’s wild places and way of life.

“How we treat the earth is how we treat ourselves and each other. Respect for nature is akin to respect for others. When we understand everything as sacred and see ourselves in all things, we can care for [nature] properly… Both present and future generations need intact ecosystems, a life-giving planet, and a climate similar to the one in which we evolved.

“The relentless urge to gobble up all the earth’s resources in just a few generations has put our planet in a death spiral. It is more imperative than ever to preserve the Tongass as a carbon sink and preserve the life-giving capacity of this ecosystem. I am extremely concerned about the ability of future generations to be able to sustain themselves given the damage that has been and continues to be done to the global and regional environment… Here in Southeast Alaska, we may be safer than most communities from extreme weather events, but extremely vulnerable in that our food systems are overly dependent on a global economy that may come crashing down in our lifetimes.”

“The people that have lived here for hundreds of generations have stewarded the land since time immemorial. We need to learn from traditional ways of life and Indigenous ways of knowing so that we all can take care of this place for the benefit of present and future generations… I believe we can create an amazing future for our children and grandchildren by working together, learning from Indigenous people worldwide how to tread lightly and conserve resources, and using the best of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and science to restore ecological balance and community wellness.”

Melissa Aronson — Donor

Melissa Aronson is a retired professor who has lived in Southeast since 2005 and has been the chairperson of Haines Friends of Recycling for more than a decade. In her free time, Aronson says she enjoys organic gardening and permaculture where she connects to nature by watching and listening to fellow species on Earth. She was inspired to support SEACC as a donor because she believes it’s important for people to show their values through their resources, including time, skills, and funds.

“With any type of ecosystem, diversity is a key to health. Some organizations provide service, some educate, and some kick butt. SEACC provides all those functions … To me, intersectionality is the current term used to describe interrelationships. The health of Southeast can be easily seen in the health of the salmon… Salmon are affected by toxins from mines, habitat destruction, over-consumption, climate change, and other factors … We (and ‘we’ means all living things) need an environment that is sustainable: environmentally healthy, socially just, and economically sane.”

Heather Lende — Donor

Heather Lende is a longtime resident of Southeast Alaska having lived in Haines for 40 years. She is the current Alaska State Writer Laureate and has published several books including If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name and Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs that illustrate the everyday experiences of life in Alaska. She also writes obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News, the local paper in Haines. She was awarded the Alaska Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities in recognition of her literary work. She feels very connected to the natural world and spends much of her time outside walking along the beach or biking along the Chilkat River. Lende and her husband own a lumberyard and hardware store, and they have five grown children and nine grandchildren.

“If we look at everyone and everything as equally deserving of life here in Southeast, I think that’s one way to look at intersectionality in the big picture … I think of the late Walter Soboleff who had a poem where he says ‘Mountains are people. Rivers are people. Lakes are people. Fish are people. Bears are people.’ … one thing that also comes to mind here is deconstructing some of the colonial patterns that are ingrained in much of our history and our stories. For me as a writer and a storyteller, those things are really important, getting it right and understanding that a lot of the contemporary systems that we have … were set up by a colonial culture and it’s harmed people and put us all off balance … it really comes down to how we live in this place, how we share the resources, how we allocate them, how we listen to the stories and the wisdom of the people who have been here a lot longer than I have …”

“I think the absolute overarching pressing issue is the climate crisis, and I think every decision we make on a governmental, social, educational, and economic level should be weighted towards addressing that. What knowledge we use, what values we share, and how we do that is part of listening to the people, but also the animals, plants, rivers, and weather to understand what we need to do and how to go forward.”

“I feel like SEACC as an organization is tough, tenacious, and gives a voice to the voiceless. Speak for the salmon. Speak for the trees. Speak for the bears. We do okay speaking for ourselves, but we’ve also made a real mess of it. I feel like right now [being a donor] is just one of the things I can do when I sometimes feel helpless.”

Aimee Creelman — Donor

Aimee Creelman is a registered nurse currently working at SEARHC Clinic in Haines as well as a labor and delivery nurse in Brattleboro, Vermont. She’s been living between Southeast Alaska and New England for the last three years and holds both places close to her heart. Creelman first came to Southeast in 1984 at 20 to work on a fishing boat for the summer but has since fallen in love with the mountains, waters, and creatures of the sea and land. She also has three grown daughters who share her deep passion for nature through their activism for the environment as well as health and human rights. She became a donor because she believes in supporting organizations that speak to your passions.

“I support SEACC because I recognize the precious resources we have here in Southeast Alaska, and the need to protect and support the unique environment for now and years to come. Living on the east coast of the U.S., [I’ve seen] the impact of modifying and using land for human priority for hundreds of years which has resulted in pollution of the waters and air. This has affected how I look at the purity and vulnerability of Southeast Alaska. On the east coast, we are working to restore what was lost. Here we have the opportunity to prevent that and protect the resources before the fact.”

“Currently, I think the mining laws, and protecting the rivers are the most pressing issues of the times. And of course the protection of the Tongass! [In the future], I envision clean water, abundant healthy wildlife, protected forests, and community working together to make this happen!”

James Taggart — Donor

James Taggart is a general surgeon at Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center in Sitka. Originally from Indiana, he has lived in Southeast for four years and enjoys running, fishing, hiking, and camping with his family. Ever since he can remember, Taggart has spent time outdoors being active. Traveling on road trips with his parents to the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia deepened his love for nature, and he passes on this appreciation by taking his 3-year-old daughter on beach walks and fishing trips. He became a donor because he believes local organizations have the power to create greater change compared to national or global organizations, and conservation issues need our focus now more than ever.

“My understanding of [intersectionality] is that there are multiple societal problems that interlink in certain ways in Southeast Alaska. I think that inequality with the Native population and their rights are certainly closely interlinked with the environmentalism movement… It’s not totally separate from conservation and protecting the environment and the resources that we have.”

“Climate change is the most pressing issue facing the environment in general, particularly in concern with the salmon population and how warming seas are affecting the ecosystem of the salmon. It’s most acutely felt here in Southeast Alaska … The damage has already been done, meaning the sea temperature and the global temperature is going to rise, so we have to mitigate that. I think everything has to be taken in the context of a warming planet … [and] overall our ecosystems are gonna be more fragile than they have been in the past, so we just need to be more careful about how we utilize our resources.”

Tad Kisaka — Donor

Tad Kisaka first visited Southeast in 1998. By 2005, he decided to stay for good and Sitka became his home. He became a freshwater fishing guide and operates the Classic Casting Adventures business with his wife Jill. When he’s not fishing, Kisaka enjoys hunting, foraging, and spending time in nature with his three young sons. Even when it’s pouring rain and blowing sideways, Kisaka says he appreciates the unique beauty of Southeast and has always felt connected with it. He supports SEACC because he believes in utilizing the land and resources we have in a sustainable way that considers future generations to come.

“When I think of interconnectedness … The first thing I think of is a cross-section, and whenever you take a cross-section of everything you get one dimension of the slice… Let’s just say a slice is of the river pink salmon here: an adult and a juvenile coho. Then the volcanic gravel that was laid however many years ago, way up high, and rolls down the stream to now become rock. And the bear’s paw that was right there, and then a human’s foot afterwards.”

“I would say [the most pressing issue is] that natural resources are a public commodity, and everyone feels like they deserve a piece of it. I think every human does deserve a piece, but so does every animal and plant that’s part of the larger ecosystem. Humans are just another component of it. Everyone and everything deserves some of these natural resources… as much as I want to go catch a salmon, a bear is entitled to that salmon as much as I am… and if we just use salmon as an example, will the commercial fishermen want a piece of that out in the ocean? That’s one of the toughest things with natural resources… They’re kind of this thing out there in the atmosphere that everyone feels they deserve. It’s all just intertwined and everyone’s gotta work together to make it right for all humans, animals, and plants.”

Nathan Borson — Donor

Nathan Borson first came to Southeast Alaska to work seasonally at Glacier Bay Lodge in 1981, and he would later move to Gustavus to co-found Spirit Walker Expeditions. Like many people in Southeast, he came for the wilderness and stayed for the community. He now works semi-retired which allows him the freedom to pursue kayaking, camping, and backpacking hobbies. Borson feels that all life is inextricably linked through water, food, places, and shared ancestry, so much so that connection to nature is a basic part of our existence.

“I support SEACC for its tireless, nuanced, grassroots, local, and effective advocacy for wilderness, wildlife, and biological integrity. I know my donations go far to leverage efforts directed by a board whose members are of and for this region. We have the same roots. I first became a donor out of general principles: SEACC seemed to be the leading organization monitoring and defending places I cared about. After the successful fight for the Tongass Timber Reform Act, a battle in which wilderness near and dear to me, and upon which my tourism business depended, was on the chopping block, I was in for life.

“As a Southeast Alaskan, I count among my privileges the beauty and abundance of our public lands and my home and community, all part of the Tlingit Homeland …. Intersectionality means acknowledging my privileges and my debt to ancestors, to the community of life that sustains me, to the places I love, and to future generations.”

You May Also Like…