Coastal Voices in Alaska!

 

I feel super fortunate to have just returned from an incredible journey to south-central Alaska to visit two amazing Native communities – Port Graham and Nanwalek – travelling with the Coastal Voices team! We went to hear some different perspectives from people who have been living with sea otters in their territory for 50+ years. In Alaska, there are also different federal regulations around sea otters, and Native people’s are allowed to hunt them along with other marine mammals. These communities also have a different colonial history, along with their own unique identity and culture. As such, we felt like there was a lot the Coastal Voices team could learn from the people here. So at the end of June, we set off with the crew to explore some new perspectives, hear some new stories, and see and learn some new things! Here’s where we were:

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Here’s how we got there! Tiny bush planes from Homer flew us to Port Graham.

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After arriving and getting settled, Anne and I set off to meet with the community leaders to help coordinate the workshop logistics. Anne did her PhD work in these communities, so we were welcomed by many of her old and good friends who showed us around…and even took us fishing (thanks Lydia)!

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Here is the whole crew. Again we were fortunate to have Hereditary Chiefs from the Haida (Skill-Hilans Allan Davidson) and Toquaht (Wii-tsts-koom Anne Mack) Nations with us here to learn.

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Again we were fortunate to have great local people co-host the workshop with us! Tim Malchoff (below) from Port Graham is working on developing education content around traditional hunting practices, and he helped us develop the workshop content and arrange many of the local logistics. He was pleased that we were doing this in the community as it gave him an opportunity to acquire some information and content for the toolkits he is developing.

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Tim smiles as I model an extremely warm sea otter hat.

After talking and meeting with many people in the community, the days of our workshops arrived. Here is the great turn out we had in Port Graham. In the photo below, Chief Pat Norman welcomes the BC Chiefs and the Coastal Voices team to his community and thanks the community for coming.

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After a wonderful workshop in Port Graham and conducting a bunch of surveys and interviews, we made our way over to the nearby community of Nanwalek. Here we hosted another workshop the following day, with an equally great turn out, wonderful stories, great discussion, and of course… DELICIOUS food!

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Following the workshop in Nanwalek, we did a bunch more survey interviews with community members and once again, were fortunate to be toured around and invited to many people’s homes to share tea, stories, and laughs! Although Chief John Kavasnikof was unable to attend our workshop, we had some good meetings, did an interview, and he gave us a ride on his skiff (below, right).

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Time flew and it was soon time to go. We took off again in the tiny busy planes back to Homer, where we conducted a third and final workshop at the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Big shout out to Liz who helped us organize this and arranged for us all to stay a the KBNE Research Reserve during our stay. The next day we made our way back to Vancouver, full of good stories and information. We look forward to sharing this information, along with photos and videos we documented, back with the community in the coming year! Thanks again!