Subsistence worries run from seaweed to ships

ANB, ANS delegates hash over federal laws that affect subsistence

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2000

The subsistence provisions of ANILCA continue to be a key issue for the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood. But this year's Grand Camp Convention, held in Juneau last week, added halibut, seaweed and cruise ship waste discharges to the list of fisheries concerns.

Delegates to the Southeast-based Native organizations reaffirmed their support for the rural priority provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, said ANB Grand Secretary Dennis Demmert of Juneau.

"We don't think they're perfect, but under the circumstances the ANB and ANS has voted to have them retained," he said.

The 111 delegates also supported recently proposed federal rules to recognize subsistence fishing of halibut. The rules, proposed by the body that regulates fishing in federal waters off Alaska, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, will go to the U.S. secretary of commerce for final approval. They would allow about 90,000 Alaskans, including some Natives who live in cities, to subsistence fish for halibut.

Delegates also were concerned about the commercialization of subsistence foods such as kelp and seaweed, Demmert said.

"Seaweed has from time immemorial been a subsistence resource for Native people," he said. Delegates asked the state to gather more information about the volume of kelp and seaweed in Alaska waters and to strictly regulate harvesting.

Delegates also supported federal laws to regulate strictly the discharge of sewage and kitchen and bathwater from cruise ships.

Among other resolutions, delegates expressed concerns about the incarceration rate of Natives in Alaska's prisons and the state's use of private prisons in Arizona.

Delegates also asked the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage to hire a patient advocate, said health committee chairwoman Ethel Lund.

"Traveling from a village to Anchorage, coming to the Anchorage airport if there's no one there to meet them, is pretty frightening," she said.

They also asked the state to encourage the hire of Alaskans in private businesses and government agencies. "What we're finding is that large numbers, particularly of the higher-paying jobs, are held by people from out of state," Demmert said.

Members of the ANB and ANS also called for the creation of more curriculum materials about Native culture and that its use be required in the schools. Native culture traditionally was passed on orally, but that has been displaced by compulsory education, written information and the traditions of Western society, Demmert said.

"I grew up with knowledge of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but not with knowledge of Sitting Bull or William Paul," he said, referring to the Southeast Native leader.

The theme of the Grand Camp, nowin its 88th year, was caring for elders.

Demmert said his grandmother lived with his family when he was a child. Most families stayed in the communities where they had been born. But now families have scattered, people work 8-to-5 jobs, women work outside the home, and Natives are confronted with the same problems as non-Natives are in caring for the elderly, Demmert said.

"The main thing that we wanted to get across," said ANS Grand President Jackie Martin, "was to make all of the communities throughout Southeast aware what they have available for them from the federal, state and local areas."

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