Trixie Bennett knows how to find a balance between realism and optimism when it comes to climate change.
"I think we have historical knowledge that is invaluable," she said of Alaska Natives. "We have to understand that climate change adaption can’t be based on a 'the sky is falling' mindset. We have to identify our priorities and then plan for them."
Referring to the current administration, "they could learn 10,000 years of history from us," she said.
That balance has served Trixie well as a mother, an entrepreneur, a tribal council member for the Ketchikan Indian Community, and now a college student at Alaska Pacific University. She thinks rural Alaskans and especially tribal communities have a lot to offer, but they're not being listened to yet.
As a healer and herbalist, Trixie knows how to listen to what the land needs and believes that living for generations on the land gives a critical perspective that more people need to develop.
"When I go out to the woods to harvest, it’s about developing a relationship with those plants, not overharvesting, doing it in a good way. It's so healing and grounding to know who you are and that you belong here. And everyone needs to feel that, not just Native people."
Read the full interview below.Read more
"We have to have all hands on deck": Transboundary challenges lead to unprecedented cooperation
Indigenous communities from across Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington met to discuss transboundary mining in Lummi, October 2019. Photo Courtesy of Tis Peterman
Tis Peterman of Wrangell, who is both Tlingit and Tahltan, can trace her lineage back to an arranged marriage between Chief Shakes the 7th and a Tahltan woman who took a canoe down the Stikine, and even further back on her Tlingit side.
That ancestry took on renewed significance when Tis began serving as the Executive Director for the Southeast Alaskan Indigenous Transboundary Commission, or SEITC, in 2017. SEITC's focus is on building an international indigenous coalition to protect shared watersheds along the Alaskan and British Columbian border. That might not seem very relevant to climate change at first glance, but Tis knows better, she can see how it's all tied together, in part through her relationship with Alaska's favorite fish.
"So many things are affecting salmon, death by a million cuts is how we’ve been talking about it. Climate change is affecting the salmon, but salmon are also affected by transboundary mining. These things overlap and add to the salmon crisis that is affecting Wrangell and all of Southeast," she says of the overlapping challenges faced by her community.
Although it often feels like there are threats on all sides, Tis takes comfort from knowing there are friends and allies on all sides too. Building bridges with First Nations across the border, including with her relatives in the Tahltan Nation, has been a top priority for her. "In my transboundary work in Canada I discovered that my great-grandmother Susie Quock still has relatives on that side of the border," she said.
She sees parallels between her transboundary coalition building and the kind of cooperation that's needed to tackle issues like climate change. After organizing two transboundary summits between tribes in Alaska, Washington, and B.C. First Nations Tis says this is just the beginning, "my hope lies in working together with our relationships in Canada. It lies with the future."
You can read the full interview below.Read more
‘We have to look at the big picture’: Native elder says climate change is latest battle for Indigenous sovereignty
Photo by Colin Arisman
Wanda Culp, of the Chookeneidí clan of Glacier Bay, has battled for the rights of Indigenous people all of her adult life.
For decades, she’s been an outspoken critic of the Alaska Native regional corporations system, borne out of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. She believes the system wrests direct power from Indigenous people, clans and tribes, and places it in the hands of a third-party, for-profit organization, whose interests may not necessarily lie with the peoples’.
“Our battles for sovereignty have been compromised by ANCSA,” she said. “They have turned our land over to these corporations that have nothing to do with tribes and clans. And I’m not shy about talking about it.”
Climate change is a battle for Indigenous sovereignty as well, she said.
“We have to look at the big picture, and Native voices need to be at the table for all land plannings,” she said. “Our knowledge of the land and our historic use of the land need an equal voice of authority.”
“We are tied into the rules of nature as a people,” she said. “We cannot go against the rules of nature. Our cultural existence depends on understanding the rules of nature.”
It will be up to the next generation to fight for sovereignty in climate change, she said, noting she’s now in her 70s.
“The future generations of younger people are more alert than my generation was, about the global situation,” she said. “They are the ones that are going to force change.”
Check out the full interview belowRead more
(Courtesy photo | Christine Davenport)
For Louise Brady, herring are more than just fish that spawn in Sitka Sound each spring.
They are a way of life to the Tlingit people, who have been harvesting herring eggs since time immemorial.
“It's not our job to make money off of herring,” she said. “It is our job to live in harmony, to live with the environment. We have to understand that we are no different, no better than the fish we are eating, the herring eggs I am eating. It's a holistic way of looking at things.”
Brady is Kiks.adi from Sheet’ka (Sitka, Alaska). Women in her lineage are known as “Herring Women” for their relationship with the herring going back thousands of years.
“The western world, western philosophy, history, the whole paradigm, involves separating and putting everything in silos. The people are here, the salmon are over there, herring over there, forest over there. And that is a difference between the indigenous way of looking at the world,” she said. “In this world, we don’t believe we are better than, we don’t believe we are separate from, we believe we are part of.”
Whereas herring runs have historically been plentiful, today they are under serious threat and have been steadily declining for two decades.
“In less than a hundred years, much of it is now gone,” Brady said. “It’s like the buffalo of our coast.”
In response to this crisis, Brady has dedicated herself to fighting for herring stewardship that values herring for its cultural and ecological importance in Tlingit Aani.
She co-founded an activist group called Herring Rock Water Protectors, and has held Herring Koo.eex’ -- a potlatch and community gathering -- the last several years to honor the herring and revitalize the koo.eex’ practice.
“We must start defining success as how respectful we are to the vulnerable, to our children and grandchildren,” she said. “That is what motivates me to work on herring, to dedicate decades to working on social issues.”
Read our full interview with Louise below!Read more
In this 51st year of NEPA, it is particularly egregious that the Trump Administration has chosen to dismantle the nation’s bedrock environmental law.
- You can review all of the agency’s proposed changes on the federal register website.
- To submit a public comment please feel free to use SEACC’s comment tool.
SEACC has identified the following categories of major changes that are the most troubling:Read more
Press Release: Trump Administration Paves Way for Old-growth Clearcutting in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 15, 2019
ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE * AUDUBON ALASKA * CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY * DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE * EARTHJUSTICE * GEOS INSTITUTE * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * SIERRA CLUB * SOUTHEAST ALASKA CONSERVATION COUNCIL * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY * WOMEN’S EARTH AND CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK (WECAN)*
Trump Administration Paves Way for Old-growth Clearcutting in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
Forest Service Proposal Would Gut Protections across 9 Million Acres of America’s Largest National Forest
Recently Senator Lisa Murkowski wrote an Opinion Editorial in the Washington Post praising President Trump's desire to exempt the Tongass National Forest from National Roadless Rule protections.
We asked SEACC's Grassroots Attorney Buck Lindekugel, who has worked to conserve valuable resources on the Tongass since 1988, to fact check Senator Murkowski's editorial paragraph by paragraph. It's wonky but the facts don't lie.
The Toxic Water Crisis Caused by PFAS
WHAT ARE WE FOLLOWING?
State and Local Government Responses to PFAS
Most of the PFAS contamination in Alaska is found in the groundwater near airports that use Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) for firefighting. The state of Alaska tests communities with certified airports where PFAS-containing AFFF was used and likely entered the groundwater. These communities include Fairbanks, North Pole, Eieslon, Utqiagvik, Dillingham, Gustavus, Yakutat, Galena and King Salmon. If your community is not on this list, it doesn’t mean the groundwater isn’t contaminated. The local governments of other communities that have a possibility of contamination, such as Juneau, are also conducting groundwater testing. Juneau’s results are expected in a couple weeks. ADEC has published a list of labs approved for PFAS testing in drinking water for any communities or individuals conducting testing on their own.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) has reduced their standards for PFAS testing and protections. This will leave us at higher risk for PFAS exposure and health impacts, despite increasing knowledge of this widespread, emerging problem.
I’m pleased to share an exciting new partnership for SEACC! This weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) will be announcing that the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is joining the federation as its Alaska affiliate! The National Wildlife Federation is an 83-year-old national conservation organization that for the better part of a century has sought to give wildlife a voice and a vote, while simultaneously working to unite Americans from all walks of life around the common cause of conservation.Read more
Yesterday, American Rivers announced the ten Most Endangered Rivers of 2019. Featured prominently on this list, for the first time, are two iconic and highly important rivers of Southeast Alaska – the Chilkat and the Stikine. Both rivers are facing social, environmental, economic, and health impacts from mining. Yet, both rivers are critical to the communities, salmon, and wildlife that depend on them.