Juneau Five challenged federal law, not state

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2000

It is interesting how a story can change. I do not recall any of the Juneau Five saying we knew we were breaking the law. We said over and again that we were challenging a federal law, ANILCA Title 8 ``protections.'' A federal law where both state and federal governments are to provide cultural activities and continued existence protection. ANCSA took our cultural activities rights away, ANILCA Title 8 was to recognize and protect those rights and activities.

The state of Alaska has never examined its youthful management's similarities or differences to customary and traditional methods. The people who are directly affected by these laws have nothing to say in their development. Until that is done, the laws will continue to be culturally biased and therefore unbalanced and unjust.

The state of Alaska does not recognize ANILCA Title 8 protections. That is why the federal government took over management of both fish and game subsistence in Alaska. The Juneau Five challenged a federal law two days before the federal took over. The state stepped in. Why? We were on federal reserved land fishing in a traditionally used area.

A 60-foot beach seine is far from personal use. My family and many others before fished that very spot - before there was a road, before there was a state of Alaska. Tlingit elders remember when the pond was a part of Dredge Lake and, when Dredge Lake spanned to the Back Loop Road. The state closing those waters to our fishing in 1963 was done without thought to its local users. Now it lays dormant, diminishing away under state management. What a waste.

The state has no laws on the books addressing customary and traditional usage. The Juneau Five refused to plead guilty to non-existent laws. That is a fact.

Wanda Culp



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