Juneau residents with ties to two local Native groups showed their support of four subsistence protesters by competing to pay the fines imposed on them Tuesday when they were convicted of illegal fishing.
Defendants Wanda Culp, Desa Jacobsson, Jackie McLean and Tracey Gonzalez were fined $25 each by Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins.
Five Native women - including Renee Culp, who was later dropped from the case - caught five sockeye salmon Aug. 28 near the Mendenhall Glacier. As they caught the salmon, they said they knew they were breaking the law, but wanted to call attention to state and federal laws limiting what they called traditional and customary use.
Their trial ended Tuesday when the judge fined each defendant the minimum for fishing in Dredge Lake/Steep Creek without a personal-use permit.
Wanda Culp said she was encouraged by local support. Ben Coronell, a member of the Taku tribe, paid their fine, and had been ready to pay the maximum amount, $300 each, Culp said. Kitty Miyasato, who has connections to the Auke tribe, vied with Coronell for the privilege of paying the fine, Culp said.
``It was nice to see both local tribes pitching in; it was very heart-rending,'' Culp said.
``(Collins) seemed to empathize with us, but she said we still broke the law,'' Culp said today.
District Attorney Rick Svobodny said the decision was not
``Subsistence is an issue that the Legislature and the governor have been struggling with for a long time, but at the present it's an area where the state needs to enforce the law - especially when it's in a (creek) closed to all fishing,'' he said.
Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka said the protesters made a political statement.
``There are a number of really serious problems in how the management of fish and game impacts peoples' lives, impacts peoples' efforts to preserve their culture and way of life, impacts subsistence,'' Kitka said.
Culp said she wished Collins had addressed traditional use of at least one of the four sockeye fishing areas in the Juneau area so Tlingits might continue ``our contemporary and traditional fishing, which brings us joy and peace and health.''
``Desa and I have been involved in subsistence for 20 years, and it's not getting any better. That's scary,'' Culp said.
Defendant Desa Jacobsson, who expressed her belief in the subsistence cause through a hunger strike lasting nearly a month, was not available for comment because she is working in Dillingham.