Save Southeast for future generations

Posted: Sunday, November 29, 2009

I have been fortunate enough to do lots of travelling and each trip served as a reminder that there is truly no place like my Southeast Alaska home. Our surroundings in rural Alaska define our communities and how we live our lives- economically, culturally and socially.

In Yakutat, we are surrounded by the Wrangell-St. Elias mountain range, Glacier Bay National Park, the Tongass National Forest and the Pacific Ocean. The area has made us excellent fishermen, hunters and gatherers. Each year, we have hundreds of visitors who consider Yakutat their own personal fishing mecca - making this area special to locals and visitors alike.

Traditional methods of gathering food (referred to as "subsistence") have fed countless generations. Subsistence is an important and irreplaceable facet in our Tlingit culture. The health and happiness of our community depends on the continuation of these renewable resources, which are only renewable so long as their habitat is intact and healthy.

Since the introduction of mining exploration and potential development in the Yakutat Forelands last year, many community members stand adamantly opposed to mining and any other activity that threatens our subsistence culture and our commercial and sports fishing industries.

The decisions we make today will affect the generations of tomorrow. As a young Southeast Alaskan who will live with the consequences of any action or inaction longer than most elected officials and decision makers, I request that all entities involved (politicians, Native and community leaders, and respective agencies) keep the future generations in mind while deciding how this area is managed. The fight to protect this land from mining development isn't as simple as "industry versus environment." This is industry versus culture and livelihood, including the livelihood of future generations.

Tlingits are a matrilineal culture and it is through our mothers that we obtain our identities as Tlingit people. I possess the ability to create and carry future community members of Yakutat. I want my future children to appreciate the nourishment this land has been providing us since the time of our ancestors. We are rich in cultural heritage, and no monetary amount should take that away from us.

Thank you for your time and for protecting our community's future.

Jennifer Hanlon

Teikweidi (brown bear) clan from Yakutat, daughter of a subsistence and commercial fisherman/hunter


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