Each year, SEACC proudly produces a tide book that is distributed around Southeast Alaska to assist you in planning your Inside Passage adventures, from beachcombing rocky shores, kayaking with humpback whales, or harvesting wild Alaskan seafood.
This year, SEACC interviewed multiple Southeast Alaskans and featured them in the tide book, in hopes of sharing the relationship that Southeast Alaskans have with the Inside Passage through their lives as fishermen, artists, and lovers of water. Their words expressed their desire for a future with clean water, healthy people, and further preservation of the Tongass and Inside Passage.
Meet the featured Southeast Alaskans here, below! You can read the entire tide book online here, and you can also pick up a print copy at the locations listed at the end of this blog post.
“I like to draw pictures of dragons and play with friends. I like all the cool stuff I find washed up on the beach, and all the strange shapes the ice makes on the beach in winter.”
Zorza is 8 years old and has spent his life enjoying the natural wonders of the Chilkat Valley. His mom, Jessica, is the executive director of Lynn Canal Conservation and his dad is a naturalist, so Zorza has already learned a lot about the living world. In spring, he likes to go dipnetting for eulachon (hooligan) in Chilkoot Inlet. In the fall, their family uses a subsistence river net to catch sockeye and coho salmon. Zorza always looks forward to winter when he can cross-country ski again.
When he is older, Zorza wants the water to be as clean and healthy as it is now and be full of life! Zorza’s name is Polish for “northern lights,” or “the light that comes from the sky.”
Ashlynn Leask, Nłüü k’aay
“I have always gone with my family to harvest seaweed, I started going when I was a baby. I was 6 years old when I went on a seiner with my family to harvest seaweed at Cape Chacon for the first time. I was supposed to keep my great-grandma Ruth Booth company on the boat while my family picked. The boat left at 2 a.m. and I was so excited, I stayed awake the whole time. Then when we got there I finally fell asleep. When I woke up I had missed the whole thing, my great-grandma said she had to talk to herself because I was snoring away. I’ll always remember that.”
Ashlynn Leask is 10 years old and has lived in Metlakatla, Alaska, for her whole life. Her Sm’algyax name, Nłüü k’aay, means under the eagle’s wing because she learns year-round from her grandma Melody Leask and aunty Naomi Leask. Her father is teaching her how to drive their boat, so she can gather seaweed and go for boat rides on her own when she is older. Ashlynn enjoys living in Metlakatla because her family can harvest seafood. Her grandma Melody taught her a lot about gathering and the practice is important to Ashlynn because she wants to keep the traditions that were passed down by her family. In the future, Ashlynn wants the ocean to be healthy, so that she can always harvest and remain healthy herself.
“I always yearned to be more connected and learn more, so I had the opportunity to go over to the Skeena River. I was able to go dip net for ooligans (hooligans) and my boyfriend and I went with the intention of valuing the experience just knowing that our ancestors have done this for thousands of years in this river. Being able to walk out into the crispy, cold river and watch the seagulls swarm all around, eating the ooligan as they do every year. It just really felt right. I didn’t really know what to do. I just dipped my net down and hoped for the best and there were ooligan in my net. My boyfriend looked at me and he said “your body remembers.”
Torah is Tsimshian and was born and raised in Ketchikan. Since her return home from college, Torah has focused on language work and sustainable living. As an anthropology major, she learned about language loss and revitalization, and being away from home helped her realize the importance and value of her heritage. Whenever Torah goes outside, it is a process of rebuilding her relationship with land, but also her language because the two are inseparable. In the past, Torah worked with local youth and experienced the disconnect many young Alaskans have with the environment. She believes we need to give more opportunities for Alaska Native youth and all youth to foster their relationship with the ocean and land because “you take care of what you know.”
Julia Gregory, Káa Kayat.óo
Photo by Carol Lahnum
“Subsistence is something I’ve been enjoying teaching my kids at this age because I didn’t really get that growing up in Juneau. My 4-year-old is learning how to fillet a fish and my 3-year-old is learning how to pack it into jars. I don’t want to see the correlation of increased population and pollution, with decreased fish happen in a town like Hoonah where my kids are growing up. I want them to have the ability to provide for me and their grandparents when we are older. I think for the future of the ocean, we need to work on preserving the waters the best we can.”
Káa Kayat.óo is Julia’s Tlingit name passed down from her maternal great-grandmother’s sister, Johanna Albeyade. She is Kaagwaantaan of the Box House and a child of the Deisheetaan from the End of the Trail House in Angoon. Julia is a full-time student, seeking her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Alaska Southeast, and a full-time mother to her two daughters, teaching them about their relationship with the water and land.
While growing up in Juneau, Julia often spent summers fishing in Hoonah with her grandmother to stock up on sockeye and coho for the winters when resources were more scarce. It was not until she was older and realized how much work fishing and storing could be, that she fully appreciated the labor of love.
Ricky Tagaban, L’éiw Yéil
“The land and the water are inseparable with who we are as Tlingit People and as people who choose to live here. We’ve chosen to live here continually for 14,000 years. All of our crafts reflect our relationship with the land and the intimate history we have. I’m not going to eat a fish I caught myself, I’m going to give away parts of it. I’ll give the best parts to people in my family who aren’t able to go fishing and other people I love, like my chosen family. By taking care of each other in that way, we are also furthering our relationship to this place.”
Ricky is a lifelong Juneau resident and is a traditional Tlingit weaver, using cedar bark and commercial wool. More recently, he has transitioned into using mountain goat wool, because it is the original material used by the Tlingit people. He makes both contemporary and traditional pieces, such as ceremonial garments, accessories, and art. Ricky’s work is decolonized in the sense that he doesn’t work a typical 9-5 schedule. Harvesting food and producing artwork are valued equally for him personally and he reflects that in his schedule. It is one of his favorite parts about being self-employed because when he is not weaving, he’s fishing. With the future of the water in mind, Ricky thinks about his son and hopes the water is even more protected than it is now.
“I grew up fishing on the river, from the dock, on the boat, or however we could! In my estimation, it seems like there were more fish then. I would like to see a return to that perceived abundance. I think it is really scary that our fish numbers seem to be dropping. It’s really important to me to have responsible regulations around water quality as well as fish harvesting, so we are not over-fishing, so that the fish can sustainably return, year after year, to the clean rivers and streams that nurture them.”
Kelly is a fourth generation Southeast Alaskan. She is the owner of the Fireweed Gallery, Coffee and Tea House and focuses on local and sustainable products by supporting Gustavus-based artists and sourcing her food and coffee products from the community. Kelly has a deep love for the water and mountains and is an active member of the Gustavus community. In 2018, she started the Gustavus PFAS Action Coalition (GPAC), which formed out of a need for answers surrounding the community’s contaminated drinking water and the plume that reaches the Salmon River, a tidal river that supports salmon runs. In 2020, GPAC received a grant to collect fish samples to better understand the PFAS content of several species of fish in the Salmon River.
Picture of Louise, right, by Bethany Goodrich
“I really don’t think people can get a sense of the importance of what people call the subsistence lifestyle because I don’t know if many people know the history of how this land was taken, but we were punished through the Presbyterian Church and the government and told we couldn’t speak our language. The herring were central to everything, because they were the first, what western society calls, subsistence foods to come in. The Forest Service burned our smokehouses down and in reality, what they were doing was destroying our economy. What people love about Southeast Alaska — the salmon, plant life, beach asparagus, salmonberries, and seaweed — that’s our way of life.”
Louise is Kiks.adi of Sheet’ká Kwaan (Sitka, Alaska), from the Point House. She was born and raised in Sitka and her family has been there for thousands of years. Since the ʻ90s, Louise has focused on learning the Tlingit and Kiks.adi culture. She is the co-founder of the Sheet’ká Kwaan dance group and is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights. In 2018, she helped organize Sitka’s first Herring Koo.éex’, what people may know as a potlatch.
Louise hopes the water will be teeming with herring again and that her great-grandchildren will have a sense of joy while taking their first bites of herring eggs in the spring. She wants people to understand how healing the water is and learn how to cherish that again.
Vivian Faith & Mitchell Prescott
“Most people made their livings in the 1970s through a combination of fisheries. Living at the mouth of the Stikine River, I probably should have known 30 years ago what I’m learning from my dad now about the river and currents. It would have helped me be a better fisherman.” — Vivian Faith
“When I was younger, everyone fished one fishery. They never branched out to more than one like my daughter in the 1970s, but I worked several fisheries. I started out power trolling because my dad was a power troller and then I branched out to seining and halibut fishing. So, I have a bit of that in my background.” — Mitchell
Vivian and Mitchell live in Wrangell, Alaska, at Mickey’s Fish Camp, named after their family’s four generations of fishermen. Mitchell has spent most of his life fishing in the Inside Passage and is now sharing his knowledge with Vivian. The fish camp is a central location for their family to harvest together and pass down traditions. They are of Sámi and Finnish heritage, among others, and Vivian is adopted into the T’akdeintaan clan, her children’s clan. As an author and poet, Vivian has found herself relying heavily on her relationship with the currents, tides, river, and silt for her work. Vivian and her daughter have a blog, Planet Alaska, where they write about their lives as Alaskan artists and writers, living off the land.
Southeast Alaskans know that in order to ensure a lush and healthy future for the Tongass and Inside Passage Waters, we must come together to support that goal however we can. Members of the SEACC community do so by volunteering, taking online actions, and donating!
Meet a few of our Sustainers, donors who emulate the cumulative power of water itself and allow their steady, monthly donations to build to big impacts. Some give $3 a month, and in a year donate $36. Some give $25, and in a year give $300. SEACC’s Sustaining Donors know that just as every drop of rain fills the surging river, giving every month keeps SEACC’s work swelling and rushing forward.
Love Southeast Alaska? Become a member today! Start with a gift of $35 a year, or consider a monthly donation of $5. You’ll receive our Ravencall twice a year, and be given the tools to make a difference protecting this special place.
“I cannot see my being except as part of this region — maybe like another piece of its vegetation or fauna. I’ve lived and worked in several parts of Southeast Alaska. My family has been here for six generations and I recognize the strong love for it in my father and my son Matt among others. This beloved place — its rain, big tides, waterways, complicated coastlines, the woods, the gorgeous alpine, the glaciers and high mountains. I’m one of many here who have worked to protect its natural character. For a long time the big threat was government subsidized heavy logging that sent so much of our forest to be chewed up by pulp mills. SEACC became essential in joining the efforts of many small individuals, some in tiny Southeast communities, and making them effective in Washington, D.C. There are still threats from timber projects, and newer threats — climate change and all that, so SEACC has broadened its work. I am a sustaining donor because SEACC needs to stay consistently active and effective.”
Hunter grew up in Juneau and spent time on the water with his family, often visiting his grandparents in Elfin Cove and Gustavus. He believes life as a Southeast Alaskan would not be as appealing without the lush, temperate forest. For Hunter, being completely alone in the forest with the sounds of the Tongass is an unparalleled feeling. After learning about the dangers that mining waste presents to traditional food sources for Alaska Native communities, Hunter became a SEACC supporter with a desire to do more for Southeast Alaska. A first step was getting involved with people who care about the same issues he did. He donates monthly to SEACC because it sustains work on the issues he cares about and aids his long-term commitment to the ecological and cultural well-being of Southeast Alaska.
Nicole was first connected with SEACC while she pursued her bachelor’s degree in Juneau. She opposed building the Juneau Road and found SEACC through her shared stance on the issue. Nicole loves everything about Southeast Alaska and being a lover of rain made her a perfect fit for the temperate climate. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Environmental Chemistry in Fairbanks, which has drives her passion for conservation even further. Nicole is a SEACC sustaining donor because of advice she received from a friend. She was told, “If there are things you care about and you don’t want to see them go away, you should do something about it.” That advice prompted Nicole to support SEACC each month in order to ensure the future of the places she holds close to her heart.
Pick up your 2021 Tide Book here:
Forbidden Peak Brewery/Red Spruce
De Hart’s Auke Bay Store
Statter Harbor in Auke Bay
Don Abel Building Supply
Nugget Alaskan Outfitter
AIH Alaska Industrial Hardware
The Plant Studio
Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. (downtown location)
In Bocca Al Lupo
Foggy Mountain Shop