Does One Way of Life Have to Die So Another Can Live?

This report is presented by Yupiktak Bista as a statement on subsistence issues in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region.

Subsistence is often thought of as a certain kind of hunting and fishing where people go out not for the sport of it but to get something to eat. But subsistence is really much more. It is not an isolated thing that can be set out and looked at by itself. It is interwoven into every aspect of our lives.

Subsistence is directly related to and affected by everything that is happening within this region in the way of education, land use, economic development, wildlife management and other areas of public policy. Subsistence is really an entire way of life.

As changes and problems come to our subsistence way of living, they are dispersed through all areas of public planning, throughout the fabric of our lives and our region. So there is no one place that one can look and say, "Ah, this is where the problem lies. This is it. And here is a plan, a program to solve this problem."

Because this process of change in our subsistence way of life is everywhere, it sometimes seems to be nowhere at all. This report seeks to see where changes are taking place, what some of the problems are, what solutions there might be. To focus on the various aspects of subsistence and the public policy issues that relate to them, this report is presented in various areas of policy planning which are all important parts of a comprehensive planning process.

Within each chapter there is discussion of the problems and recommendations on specific public policy issues. The discussion and recommendations have been drawn from the comments, interviews, testimony, resolutions, and proposals of people living in the villages of this region. This report has been prepared by the Yupiktak Bista staff with the editing assistance of Art Davidson. Preparation and publication of this report have been supported by the State of Alaska, Department of Community and Regional Affairs and the Friends of the Earth Foundation.

Many people have made helpful comments and suggestions during the preparation and review of this report. Among those we wish to thank for their assistance are: The Village Council Presidents of this region, David Friday, Nelson Angapak, Susan Murphy, Peter Atchak, Andrew Chikoyak, Lewis Lively, Robert Schenkar, Harold Sparks, Roger Lang, John Shively, Esther Wunnicke, Dr. Lydia Selkregg, Dr. Charles Evans, Dr. Bradford Tuck, Dr. Victor Fischer, Jack Hessian, George Irvin, Richard Hensel, Cynthia Wentworth, Dr. Calvin Lensink, and Malcolm Roberts.

Harold Napoleon
Director, Yupiktak Bista
December, 1974

"Our area is not an economically developed area. We depend on the sea for our food and clothing. There is much sharing in the catches, as we realize the needs of our brothers and they realize our needs. It is not joyful to see our children and grandchildren hungry. . . If the law prohibits hunting of sea mammals at any time, the people will listen to the hunger of their families and hunt even against the law. . . Everyone of us is Eskimo around here. We all have to eat our own native food, and there is no question about it. We cannot possibly go without .... . Please try to fathom our great desire to survive in a way somewhat different from yours. and thus see why the hunters will continue to go out."
The elders of Nightmute, 1973

Manhattan Island is named for a tribe of Indians that once hunted and fished there. Across the continent one finds places like Sioux City, Oglala, Pueblo, Cheyenne and Seattle named for the Native Americans who were once there, living from the land. Their leaders once spoke, as the elders of the village of Nightmute on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are speaking now, of the need to continue their ways of hunting and fishing. But one by one, each in their turn, Native American tribes and nations have lost their way of life.

Some tribes have been reduced to shattered remnants by open warfare of the U.S. Government. Others have been broken and scattered by the unofficial warfare of broken treaties. Some have been seduced away from the life of their people by well intended programs to "save the Indians." Today it is unthinkable that the Federal and State governments would have a policy to extinguish Native American cultures, yet this continues to be the effect of many educational, transportation, economic development, job training, land management, and fish and game policies and programs. One way or another, in every instance, the tie of Native American people to the land has been broken and their way of life destroyed.

Over long stretches of unrecorded time, Native Americans established balances with other life of the earth. They survived over the centuries by living in balance with the fish and birds and animals—in balance with the subsistence resources of the natural world. In no more than a fleeting moment in time, this balance has been torn apart wherever Europeans settled and civilized North America. When the balance, or circle of life as it has been called, is broken, birds and fish and animals begin disappearing from the land. When they are gone, so are the people who depended upon them.

When some resources are depleted. substitutes can be found. In an energy crisis the nation searches for alternative sources of energy. Modern man goes from wood to coal to oil to gas to shale to geothermal to nuclear power in order to keep the wheels of civilization turning. But the Yupik culture, like other Native American cultures, depends upon a subsistence resource base for which there are no alternatives. The relationships are really very simple. If the fish and seal and beaver and birds were to disappear, we could no longer hunt and fish. Our culture would die. Our way of life and our people would disappear.

All precedents predict this will happen to us. In fact, the State and Federal governments are actually, if unwittingly, planning for our cultural extermination by continuing to settle Alaska with the same basic attitudes, policies and practices with which the rest of North America was developed. As former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock acknowledged in 1974 "I think the beginning point of a discussion of (subsistence) is the recognition that whatever we have isn't working.... The inevitable conclusion of letting the status quo continue is the total depletion of the resources and the destruction of the subsistence economy. "2

The fate of the Yupik people and other Native groups in Alaska appears to be the same as the Sioux, Apache, Pima and other North American tribes. But we don't believe it has to be this way. The time has come when our culture has reached its critical turning point. Perhaps the course is set, but we want to believe we still have options for the way in which we survive in the future.

What possible options are there? As individuals and as a people we seem to have three basic choices, three directions in which to move:

  1. We would return to our original ways. We would renounce the cash economy and with it the concepts of competition and property ownership. In short, we would turn completely from the modern world and subsist from the land by hunting and fishing.

  2. We would move steadily away from our culture until we have completely adopted Western civilization. We would seek to be assimilated and become a regular part of a dominant culture. We would live by the rules of a cash economy. In short, we would cease to be Eskimos and become modern Americans.

  3. We would develop a combination or balance of the two cultures. We would live partly by cash and partly by subsistence hunting and fishing. We would seek to find some workable mixing of the values and ways of relating in the Eskimo world with those of the Western world. To one degree or another, we would remain essentially Eskimos who have taken advantage of some of the better things of the modern world or we would become essentially modern men who have retained some traces of our Eskimo heritage.

"Each of us is caught, in his own way, between two worlds."

The first option of completely returning to the past is closed, at least for the foreseeable future. Our people have come to want and depend upon many modern things. We would not want to stop traveling by plane, motorboats, and snow-machines—these ways of traveling have become a part of our way of life. We would not trade our guns for harpoons. We would not want to live just as our ancestors did. Moreover, the conditions of the world today prohibit a complete return to the old ways.

The second option, leaving our culture in order to adopt the Western way of life, is hardly more desirable, but probably more possible than the first. Even though the trend is toward the dominant culture and some of our younger people are taking up the values and ways of the white culture, there are still many things distinctly Eskimo that we truly value. There are ways in which we live that we don't wish to change.

"The only time I really feel I am myself is when I am hunting. Every year I must return to the tundra if only a few days. I have to do this."

The third option, to find some meaningful combination of the two cultures, is the most realistic approach. It is, in fact, the transitional state we find ourselves in today. Each of us is caught in his own way between two worlds. And as each of us grows up we tend to turn more to one world or the other. But always our lives depend upon things in both worlds. The man who lives by hunting and fishing in the area of his village, nevertheless depends on some cash to buy ammunition, fishing gear, gas for his boat, some clothing, some furnishing for his house. On the other hand, people who have become most adapted to Western ways of living and who may be pursuing professional careers far from their village still need their ties to the land and the people. As one young person working away from his home in Chevak puts it, "The only time I really feel I am myself is when I am hunting. Every year I must return to the tundra if for only a few days. I have to do this."

It may seem obvious that our present way of life is a combination of two cultures. It may seem unnecessary to discuss the first two options—of returning to our original ways or becoming completely assimilated. However, virtually all planning and policy-making related to our region is done, knowingly or unknowingly, in the context of the first two extreme options.

When the future of our subsistence way of life is considered in terms of either hunting and fishing or the cash economy, planning and decision making is, naturally, done on the basis of Western civilization's cash economy. Since the thought of returning to ancestral ways and living 100 per cent from hunting and fishing is quickly discarded as impractical, it is assumed that we are in the process of acculturation which will eventually make us completely westernized. Today, public policy decisions are almost invariably made on the assumption that we are going to be drawn into the mainstream and one day—perhaps after a generation or so—become like everyone else. This assumption is made despite the fact that in the foreseeable future our region doesn't have the resources to support a strictly cash economy. And it is made despite the intention of most Yupik people to continue their hunting and fishing way of life.

Does a choice have to be made between the two cultures? Does it have to be one or the other? Does one way of life have to die, so that another can live?

Up the Yukon River from our region, Jimmy Huntington, an Athabascan Indian, State legislator and author of On the Edge of Nowhere, has put the problem and challenge clearly.

"Alaska is unique, here the subsistence and the cash economy are in open conflict with the unique subsistence values of the Indian, Eskimo and Aleut populations.

"Subsistence values are still vital to over 50,000 Alaskan Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts as they have been for countless thousands of years and as they will be for hundreds of years in the future. Unwise expansion of the western country denies these subsistence values. At the present rate, the Indian, Eskimo and Aleut culture soon will be destroyed.

"It must be stopped. Only in Alaska, in the North American history, does the opportunity exist to protect the basic human subsistence rights of all citizens.

"We believe that the Western and traditional Alaskan values can and must live side by side. But just as the Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts have no right to destroy the cultural values of the white man, neither do the white men have the right to destroy the cultural values and life style of the Indian, Eskimo and Aleut."2

"No one purposely, consciously intends to destroy our culture."

There should be room in Alaska for both Western and Native cultures to exist. And within a region such as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta it should be possible for the values and ways of the two cultures to exist and interact. No one purposely, consciously intends to destroy our culture. Yet Western customs, Western laws, Western institutions—the entire system of Western civilization continues to erode our way of life.

It was a similar need to live the way they wanted to live that brought some of the first pilgrims to North America. The colonists founded the United States on the principle of a person's right to maintain his identity; his freedom of speech and religion; his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness—in his own ways.

Relating this principle to the subsistence way of life, Attorney Robert Goldberg once said:

"It seems to me that through the years, if the United States has stood for anything, it is the right of cultures to express themselves as they wish, absent some very compelling State interest to the contrary. My own view is that, far from being the great melting pot, The United States if anything, has allowed many diverse cultures to maintain their cultural identity.

"It seems to me that this is a right that is fundamental, so fundamental that it was one that was not enumerated in the Constitution but was reserved to the people.

If the Native culture is not to be consumed by the white culture that has become dominant in Alaska, some very fundamental changes in public policy and programs will have to be made.

Before any meaningful changes can be made, public policy makers must focus their attention on the foundation of our culture—subsistence hunting and fishing. The perpetuation of subsistence resources and activities must become a top priority of all Federal, State and local government planning relating to our region. Even though everyone may like the idea of subsistence hunting and fishing and the Yupik culture continuing, history shows us that it will be extremely difficult to bring about the necessary changes in time to protect our subsistence way of life.

The problems are numerous and complicated, but there is the basic ground work from which a workable set of policies and programs could be built. Building this structure requires close cooperation between the Federal and State governments and regional organizations. Although the Federal government has many conflicting interests, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act's committee report directs the Secretary of Interior to use whatever powers he has existing in order to protect the Natives in their present life style of subsistence hunting. This would seem to be a mandate and authorization for the Secretary of Interior to take whatever steps may be necessary to provide for the continuance of subsistence hunting and fishing.

Likewise, the Alaska State government which has many conflicting interests of its own, has a constitutional mandate to protect renewable resources such as subsistence resources and also establish preference among users of these resources.

"Far from being the great melting pot...the United States, if anything, has allowed many diverse cultures to maintain their cultural identity."

On the regional level, the village and regional corporations are owners of a very significant portion of the rural resources. In as much as these are organizations of local Native people, it could be expected that they will be able to play a very constructive role in planning and managing resources in ways which support our way of life. Likewise, the formation of local government, such as a borough, would involve local people in the planning decisions that affect their lives.

How do we use these tools of planning, development, fish and game laws, education, etc. to make certain that the hunters will always be able to hunt? How can options be kept open so people can choose between living the Yupik and Western ways of life? How can new ways of living be molded from both cultures? How can conflicts between natural resource development and renewable subsistence resources be minimized? How can a web of subsistence-oriented policies and programs be woven from cooperative efforts of the Native organizations, and local, State and Federal governments? How can policies in areas of land use planning, fish and game regulations, transportation, population planning, economic development, and education relate to the subsistence way of life?

To consider these questions requires reappraising all the policies and programs affecting people in our region. This is a process that takes some time, and it is taking place every day as people are questioning the rules, policies and programs that structure life on the Delta.

In this report we want to begin exploring the policies that are most directly related to subsistence living. We want to suggest some new approaches to subsistence issues. We see some things that must be done, some things that must be changed. Where we don't have answers and solutions, we at least want to raise the questions that must be asked.

"Subsistence is not only a cultural activity, the foundation of several of the Native groups in Alaska, without which their cultures would die. It is also the necessary economic base for their very existence."1
Owen Ivan, Bethel, 1973

Historical Perspective

When economic planners set about to tackle the problems of "poverty" in rural Alaska they usually seem unaware of the role that subsistence plays in the rural economy. With good intentions to relieve the poor of their problems, they often lose track of the fact that poverty has only recently been introduced to Native communities. Up until a hundred years ago people were living in a finely balanced economic relationship with the land.

For thousands of years people subsisted from the land and ocean along the west coast of Alaska. In many ways it was a hard life, but it had none of the frustrations and stigmas of poverty, for the people were not poor. Living from the land sustained life and evolved the Yupik culture, a culture in which wealth was the common wealth of the people as provided by the earth. Whether food was plentiful or scarce, it was shared among the people. This sharing created a bond between people that helped insure survival.

The Yupik language has words for being a poor hunter, for being hungry, sick or cold. But there were no words for being rich or poor in the modern sense. These concepts were introduced when white men first came to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the 1830's and 1840's. With the first Russian traders came the idea of wealth and poverty.

These new people added to the process of living the purpose of accumulating. Whether one was accumulating furs, money, land or the souls of converts, lines were drawn between people on the basis of what they had accumulated. Those with more were wealthy, and those with less were poor. The wealthy were better off, and the poor had a problem. These new relationships were reinforced by the new economic system which began replacing food and furs with cash, cooperation with competition, sharing with accumulating either without regard or at the expense of others. The new system had new rules. Accumulating money, "owning" land and other property and knowing how to drive a good bargain were all important in the new system. Native people had to begin learning new ways.

The introduction of new values and concepts in our region has followed the pattern that spread wherever Europeans settled in North America. Searching for the roots of this process of change, D'Arcy McNickle, of the Flathead Tribe of the Pacific Northwest wrote in an article titled, Indian and European that:

"The men who came out of Europe into what they pleased to call the New World were men with a mission. Their mission might be secondary to their immediate needs of security, but it was never wholly absent and at times it was of dominating interest in the actions of individual settlers. The nature of the mission was variously phrased, but essentially it amounted to an unremitting effort to make Europeans out of the New World inhabitants, in social practices and in value concepts."

This impact came later to Alaska than elsewhere in North America. In fact, of all the regions within Alaaka the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is the last to experience the impact of Western civilization. Even though village people in our region remain close to their original way of life, the forces of change are coming rapidly. And they can be devastating.

It is well known how the coming of white men brought diseases like measles and syphilis which killed thousands of our people and physically crippled many more for the rest of their lives. It is not so well known that the economic impact of Western civilization was every bit as devastating to the well being and spirit of the people as the physical illnesses were to their health. Perhaps it is more difficult to see the effects of the Western economic system because the causes are not infections like measles, but are the fundamental and often subtle differences between the Yupik and Western mind and ways of doing things.

"Poverty has only recently been introduced to Native communities."

These differences, these new ways and systems of doing things can be as disturbing to the life of a person or of a culture as the measles infection is to the life of a body. Fortunately a cure has been found for measles. A cure has not been found for our "poverty." Perhaps the difficulty is in how to approach the problem. The cure for measles involves a vaccination in which a little bit of the infection is introduced so the body can develop the strength to cope with it. For poverty, all the attempted cures have involved ever increased doses of the Western way of life in the hope that the new system will somehow successfully replace the old one. Instead of trying to replace the Yupik way of life, efforts should be directed toward joining the two cultures in meaningful ways.

During this time of great change we are in fact living a combination of two cultures, but at present it is a haphazard and not very satisfactory mixing of two ways of life. Economically, as well as in other ways, we are in an interim period in which, for want of a cure or solution for our "poverty", we are supported by welfare and food stamp programs. We are more or less kept alive while our "problems" are being studied.

"The Yupik language has no words for being rich or poor.

To begin looking for solutions we have to look at the process of change we are caught up in. We have to ask, Where are we? How did we get here?

It may be useful to look at how economist George Rogers has summarized the relationship between Alaska development and the Native Alaskan. He writes:

"Following the first contacts with Western civilization, most of the Native Alaskans were simply by-passed by the course of economic development…. In the process their aboriginal society and culture were destroyed and their numbers drastically cut down. During the American period the coastal Eskimos suffered death from starvation and strange diseases brought in by the whalers who virtually extinguished the walrus and whale resources upon which the Eskimos depended for survival. The Southwest Indians managed to keep the white invaders at arm's length because of their savage and warlike reputation, but their downfall came near the end of the nineteenth century when commercial fishermen and cannery men from California and the Northwest Coast invaded and overtook their fisheries. The turn of the Arctic and Interior Eskimo and Interior Indians came when Alaska shifted from its colonial to its military period. Finally all were embraced by the coming of the welfare state to Alaska in the 1930's when national programs designed to meet the needs of a twentieth century urban industrial society were uniformly applied to a people still far from that condition.

"The results of these contacts between Native Alaska and the mainstream of Alaska's economic development did bring some benefits and opportunities for participation, but on the whole the story was a contradictory one of unconscious or conscious cruelty and unavoidable or needless human misery. During the Colonial period the Natives were treated as part of the environment in which the exploitation was undertaken. If they could be turned to a use in serving the purpose of getting the resource out as easily and cheaply as possible, they might be enslaved as with the Aleuts, or recruited, as were the Southeast Indian fishermen and their women as a local workforce in the harvest and processing of marine resources. If not, they were ruthlessly pushed aside while their traditional resources were exploited to the point of extinction by seasonally imported work forces as was the case with the coastal Eskimo.

"The impact was, on the whole, destructive to traditional ways and to the Native people themselves, and their economic participation was marginal at best. Whether they participated or not, their very survival required adaptation of their traditional ways to the new conditions imposed by the altered environment."7

In recent years this cycle of exploitation has taken a new and unexpected turn. In some instances where the traditional resources have been exploited and the people left impoverished, the government has stepped in to "save" the people with massive welfare programs and injections of dollars. The purpose of such programs is to stimulate a local economy or restore the original resource base, but in reality it has been more like strapping bandages on a dying person.

"Like strapping bandages on a dying person

Bristol Bay is a good example of this process at work. Originally people subsisted from the land and sea; the tremendous salmon runs provided a reliable source of food. Commercial fishing began with an attitude of get what you can. It was only a matter of time before urban politicians and outside economic interests permitted the salmon runs to be exploited nearly to extinction.

The local people, Native and non-Native alike, were left impoverished. Then the government became concerned. Then fishery research was called for. Limited entry demanded. Then food stamps were passed out to people who used to fish.

Somehow or other Native people were expected to adapt their traditional ways to this Western economic system.

On the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta the changes people have undergone might be considered adaptation. And they have more or less survived. There are nearly 13,000 Native people living in the region, about half the number estimated to have lived here before the coming of white people. Life expectancy is a little more than half that of people living in the lower 48. The day to day health of people and the medical care they receive are among the poorest in the nation. The rate of alcoholism is one of the highest in the country. The average cash income of our people is less than $4,000 per family. But our region has one of the highest birth rates in the United States. Most of our children can speak their Native language, and the land can still provide us with most of our basic needs. The question at this time is: How do we move from survival to well-being?

Economic Evaluation of Subsistence Resources

Economic planners must begin looking at the economic values of subsistence living. This is not easily done. Since subsistence is an entire process of living it can not be readily assessed and analyzed by Western methods of cost-benefit and supply and demand analysis.

Dollar values can not be placed on subsistence resources as they can on board feet of timber or barrels of oil because the use of subsistence resources involves many things which can not be translated into cash.

However, if the people on the Delta did not obtain food from the land and waters, they would have to buy it somewhere. This would cost money which would have to come from somewhere. The amount of cash needed to replace subsistence foods has to be considered.

This problem of replacing subsistence foods with store bought food is not unique to our region. Speaking to the problems that a conversion to store food would create on a statewide basis, Roger Lang, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, has said:

"If we buy the fact that subsistence living is an economic reality along with the traditional, cultural and social use of it, then we must treat it that way. Should you remove it, it's tantamount to removing banks from Anchorage, Safeway stores from Fairbanks. That's the simple fact.

"When you talk about that type of removal, when you talk about the significance of the dollar to replace it, I don't find those dollars anywhere in Alaska or the Federal government or in the region or village corporations. There is no immediate substitute to the consequence of removing subsistence living in any degree. There's not enough dollars."2

"If everyone were just looking out for himself, the Yupik culture would have vanished long ago. It has been through sharing and helping each other that people have survived."

On the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta there are not enough dollars to replace even a small portion of the subsistence food upon which the people rely. With most village families obtaining over 75 per cent of their food from the land combined with the average annual cash incomes which are among the lowest in the United States, subsistence is an economic necessity. Emphasizing this imperative to the Land Use Planning Commission, Yupiktak Bista's Director, Harold Napoleon has said:

"The presumption that at this time Native people do not have to subsist is inaccurate. I think they still have to subsist, especially in our area they have to subsist. A young man told me last night that he cannot go a day without eating fish. Now that's true. And this is true of every village. I'm not sure that you'll find one village or one family in that whole area that can go without subsistence hunting. And there is not an economic base right now to support a cash economy type of life. There isn't.

" I think the average family income on the Delta is something like $3714. You try to live on $3714 and see how far it goes. You have to buy clothing. You have to buy food. You have to keep your house warm. Whatever money they do get is going to be spent on gasoline to do this subsistence hunting. It's going to be spent on stove oil to keep their house warm. It's going to be spent on clothes so their kids can go to school. So, there is going to have to be a great increase in cash in the villages if we're going to expect them to go on the cash economy. Especially in the villages where everything costs nearly two times as much as it does out here. The villager needs twice as much money as the city person to live on the cash economy."2

Any villager knows that if he could not get food from the land he would be in serious trouble because the costs of replacing that food from the store would be too high. Although this is a very real cost that would be felt very hard by the village person, it is difficult to appraise the actual dollar cost of replacing subsistence foods. Part of the problem is, as Fish and Wildlife Service economist Cynthia Wentworth has put it:

"The 'worth' of a moose or caribou, or of a fish or duck taken for personal consumption, is a value not currently defined in the market place as it is illegal to sell these commodities. However, this food is still obviously 'worth' a great deal, for if it were not available, the person would have to buy the equivalent in a store. An attempt has to be made to evaluate the gross dollar value of these products in terms of both Anchorage and Bethel service center prices for equivalent items."4

In other words, the value of moose meat to the villager can be equated with the cost of beef in the store and the value of ducks and geese might be related to costs of chicken.

Probably the greatest difficulty in assigning dollar costs to the subsistence food used by a family, village or the entire region is the lack of statistics defining just what quantities of each subsistence food is used. A hunter knows about how much food he needs to get for his family, but he doesn't keep track of how much his neighbor gets, or the whole village, or the other villages in the region. Subsistence resource planning is greatly handicapped by the negligence of the State and Federal government in determining precisely who uses how much of which subsistence foods.

"The question at this time is: How do we move from survival to well-being?"

The limited statistical data available includes the following information which may be useful in setting the rough parameters of the quantities of subsistence foods harvested each year.

  1. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game records show that in 1973 295,000 salmon were caught for subsistence consumption. This figure does not include the fish caught by nine coastal villages.

  2. A 1972 University of Alaska study on the impact of Native-owned stores asked each household in Akiachak (on the Kuskokwim) and Mountain Village (on the Yukon) what proportion of their meat and fish was supplied directly from hunting and fishing. The results were as follows:

    Percentage of Dependency on Subsistence
    Number of Families
    Number of Families
    Mountain Village
    76 - 99%
    51 - 75%
    26 - 50%
    1 - 25%
  3. According to Jack Peterson, the sociologist who conducted the survey, most who listed their percentage of dependency on subsistence as zero were older people who could no longer fish and hunt. These people often receive gifts of subsistence from other members of the community.

  4. In 1964, an area wide waterfowl harvest survey, conducted jointly by the Alaska Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, and based on villagers' memories of average annual harvests, showed that about 48,000 geese and brant were taken in the spring and about 35,000 in the fall; additionally, about 22,000 ducks were taken in the spring and 16,000 in the fall.

  5. As for sea mammals, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that between 1962 and 1971 the estimated annual harvest of seals ranged from 3,000 to 5,000. A 1971 survey shows that in that year about 50 walrus were taken in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region.

Although this information is useful in getting a picture of the quantities of certain species taken it doesn't construct a picture of the per capita, village or regional dollar value of the subsistence foods. To try to obtain at least a rough breakdown of this perspective, several villages cooperated with the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1973 to conduct a village subsistence survey. The village of Tuluksak, along with several others, provided a species breakdown as shown in the accompanying table. To summarize the dollar costs of replacing subsistence foods we find the annual per capita cost at Bethel replacement prices to be:

1973 1975 (40% increase) Tuluksak 2,146

Russian Mission
$ 918

Assuming that these villages are representative of the different parts of the region, the average subsistence substitute cost would be a little over $2,200 per person per year. Multiplying this figure times the number of Native people in the region yields an approximate total dollar value for subsistence foods of more than $30,000,000 per year.


Average Yearly Harvest Estimates and Approximate
Dollar Values of Meat, Fish, Skins, Berries, and Greens1
Species/Food Item
Equivalent $ Value Per Pound of Meat, Fish, Berries, or Greens3
Current $
Value of Skin
$ Value per Animal
Total $ Value
Big Game


Not Determined
Black Bear
Not Determined
Brown Bear
Not Determined
Total Lbs.—Big Game
7975 lbs.
Land Otter
Red Fox
Tree Squirrel
Total Lbs. - Furbearers
14498 lbs.
Not Determined
Total Lbs. - Porcupine
30 lbs.
Waterfowl & Birds
Not Determined
Not Determined
Not Determined
Not Determined
Not Determined
Not Determined
Not Determined
Total Lbs. — Waterfowl & Birds
8830 lbs.
Rainbow Trout
King Salmon
Other Salmon
Total Lbs. - Fish
245520 lbs.
5000 lbs.
50 lbs.
3000 lbs.
Total Lbs. and Dollars
284903 lbs.
Lbs. and Dollars per Capita
1619 lbs.

These values of subsistence foods to the region are generally supported by the first phase of a Nunam Kitlutsisti study to document subsistence use in all villages within the region. In this study a subsistence calendar was distributed to the head of virtually every household within the region. Day by day, the amounts and types of subsistence foods harvested were recorded and returned to Nunam Kitlutsisti. Dollar values were not calculated at the higher cost of commercial replacement foods but at the values these foods were known to have sold for within the region. For the months of January and February, which may be the lowest subsistence harvest months of the year, the following results were obtained.

  1. 534,713.9 pounds of subsistence foods were harvested by 1,125 household heads who returned the calendar.
  2. Based on the calendars returned, the total pounds for the region would be about 817,281.4 which averages out to be about 34 pounds of subsistence foods per person each month.

"Virtually all subsistence foods have a high nutritional value, whereas many commercial foods may be tasty but are low in nutrition."

Obviously it is far beyond the capacity of the region's cash economy to replace this substitute food cost. Since the average per capita income in the region is less than $800, each person would have to earn three times as much money as they are now to pay for just their food. Over ten years about $300,000,000 would have to be spent on substitute foods. This is more than the entire region will receive as a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

More Than Cash

Calculating the amount of money needed to replace subsistence foods is useful in determining the amount of cash that would be needed by a family, village or region if subsistence foods are removed. But however large these cash equivalency values may be, they cannot adequately represent the real value of subsistence foods. In addition to cash replacement values, the following considerations must be made.

First, inflation affects commercial foods which must be purchased with cash. Each year the cost of commercial foods will rise and the amount of effort a village person will have to expend to obtain the needed cash is likely to increase.

Second, the importation of food into a rural area is subject to a variety of factors which can affect the availability and cost of commercial foods. Both shortages of 2 certain food products on the general market and regional transportation problems can cause high prices and unavailability of commercial food items.

Third, the quality of a subsistence diet is probably a great deal higher than the average diet of commercial food for people who have barely enough money to buy food from a store. Although there has not yet been a thorough study of the relative nutritional values of commercial and subsistence foods, there are apparently a number of nutritional advantages to subsistence foods. In a sense, all subsistence foods are "organically" produced; they contain none of the pesticides and chemical additives that most commercial foods contain. Also, virtually all subsistence foods have a high nutritional value, whereas many commercial foods may be tasty but are low in nutrition and some, such as sugar and soda pop, may have an overall harmful effect.

Fourth, fresh food that is not subsistence food can be very hard, if not impossible, to get, no matter what the cost. Village stores carry very little, if any fresh food, and even Bethel does not have a good selection of fresh food. Of course, people with freezers can store some fresh food— both subsistence and non-subsistence. But it is almost impossible to keep fresh produce for any length of time, even if one can pay the high cost of having it flown in. In winter even flying it in presents problems, because it often freezes and spoils during the transportation process.

Cynthia Wentworth has commented that:

"The economic value of subsistence food when there are no fresh-food alternatives is so high it cannot be quantified. In this economic sense, subsistence food cannot be replaced with dollars."8

Subsistence foods are simply preferred over commercial foods by many Native people. Even if a person has the money to buy from the store he may value the subsistence foods he has gotten from the land. With this consideration in mind, Dr. Bradford Tuck, an economist with the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission has cautioned:

"It is important that the equating of dollar cost or dollar equivalent not be interpreted as representing equal value. For example, suppose that a pound of meat at the store costs the purchaser $2.00; then the dollar cost of moose would also be $2.00 per pound of meat. However, the value is the same only if the satisfaction from consuming the pound of store meat is the same as the satisfaction derived from consuming a pound of moose meat. If the moose meat is preferred over store meat, then the substitute value is underestimated by using only the dollar equivalent."8

"If this bill passes in its present form, I will become a criminal. My body is used to seal oil and must have seal oil. I will continue to buy seal oil no matter what."

For many people in our region there simply are no substitutes or replacements for the fish, seal, birds and other subsistence foods. Margaret Nick Cooke is an example of a person who still needs subsistence foods even though she is away from her village and could afford to buy from the store. She has testified that she is opposed to any legislation,

"...that would tell me and many others that we can no longer have seal meat and seal oil which I have been eating since I was my baby's age.. . Our immediate area does not have seals that is why we buy seal meat and seal oil from the coast. And believe me, my body must have seal oil. I eat it almost daily. It is necessary for us like you people have to have salad oil in your salad... I have never been in jail or arrested in my life, but if this bill passes in its present form—I will become a criminal. My body is used to seal oil and must have seal oil, I will continue to buy seal oil no matter what."5

Or as Guy Mann of Hooper Bay described his use of seal oil:

"We Eskimos use seal oil like this. In spring we hunt seals. Then skin dry up. When dry we put oil in seal skins. Then save it for winter. Then after season we fishing. The fish dry. Then smoked. After smoked we put dry fish into the seal skin with seal oil and we save it for winter. And all summer we not seal hunt. And in September we start seal hunt again. Then we seal hunt all winter because we Eskimo like to eat all kind of oil from ocean. Every time when we eat we take a seal oil. Please, please help us. We need help. We don't want to stop seal hunt. And when we eat something without seal oil, our stomachs kind of sick."5

Coordinating Subsistence and Economic Development

So it is that subsistence continues to be both economically necessary and culturally valuable. This implies that economic development projects that propose to create new jobs, more village cash flow or great regional wealth should be planned and coordinated with the existing subsistence economy and lifestyle of the people. The following are ways in which coordination between the subsistence economy and the cash economy can be approached.

  1. One conflict between the cash and subsistence economy is that when a person is earning a paycheck he often does not have the opportunity to go hunting and fishing. Agencies and private enterprises in the region should try to arrange their work programs to allow people to take a leave of absence when they have to hunt and fish at certain times of the year. In some instances some days or weeks of leave might be necessary for a person to obtain the subsistence foods he needs for his family. In other instances, just adjusting the daily work hours of an employee might allow him or her to have time for subsistence activities in off hours.

"Agencies and private enterprises in the region should try to arrange their work programs to allow people to take a leave of absence when they have to hunt and fish at certain times of the year."

  1. Since full-time jobs are scarce in villages, employers should explore the possibilities of splitting one full-time position among several people who would work at different times of the year. If it is a large project in a remote area, the work schedule might allow people to work two weeks on and two weeks off, thus providing work for two shifts of people.

  2. All development within the region must be carefully considered from the position of how it might affect the fish and wildlife populations and habitat. Developments that reduce the subsistence resource base should be avoided or modified to minimize the adverse impacts.

  3. To the extent possible a "self-sufficiency factor" should be considered in developments which affect the ways in which people live. If a person can do or provide something himself, he can be self-sufficient, independent from the need for more cash. The less self-sufficient he is, the more cash he needs, the more work he needs and the less time he has to do other things for himself. Whenever possible, planning for things such as housing and transportation should leave people with options to either pay cash or provide for themselves. For example, if a housing project puts houses in a village that must be heated with fuel oil, then the homeowner has no choice but to pay cash for fuel oil instead of still being able to gather firewood. Likewise, .if expansion or maintenance of a house requires bringing in expensive materials from the outside, it will be more difficult for a person to expand or repair his house than if he could do it with locally available materials.

Energy Use

"We need the assistance of others in the matter of energy, particularly in developing an independent research program that concentrates on the problems of rural Alaska."

David Friday, Chairman Nunam Kitlutsisti to the Federal Energy Administration, September 1974

Behind David Friday's call for assistance lies a problem that could by itself jeopardize subsistence and any other way of living in the villages. Energy problems that may cause inconvenience elsewhere in the United States can cause severe hardships in the rural areas of Alaska.

In the villages, people have come to depend upon modern forms of energy. But the village's energy is used sparingly and only for necessities such as oil to heat homes, electricity for light, and gas for snowmachines and outboard motors that are used to travel when people hunt and fish. As energy becomes harder to get, these people will face losing things that are basic and essential to living in the villages.

Energy problems have already been experienced in our region, as David Friday summarized for the Federal Energy Administration.

"In our region, the fifty-seven member villages have doubled their oil and gasoline consumption since 1969. Our people in the past normally relied on wood, peat, and local coal deposits for heating their sub-surface dwellings. Framed houses, poor insulation, large public buildings, and the internal combustion engine have turned our traditional subsistence villages dependent on local heating sources toward heating and electricity generated from oil.

" When the highly publicized oil shortage occurred in the nation, our villages had already lived with the situation. In 1973, 26 of our villages ran out of oil and gasoline before summer re-supply. In 1974, 34 villages suffered some form of rationing or complete exhaustion of their oils."

To begin minimizing the impact of energy use problems in the villages the following considerations are recommended:

  1. Alternative forms of energy must be developed and made available in the villages. Funds should be invested in research and development of wind, solar and geothermal energy generating facilities that will work in villages.

  2. A primary consideration in all new housing in the region should be conservation of energy used for heating.

  3. The development of regional transportation should be done in ways that promote efficient use of energy.

  4. If sources of energy such as oil and gas are located and produced in our region, consideration should be given to a plan of local utilization on a subsistence basis.

  5. If fuel rationing becomes necessary, villages in remote areas should be given priority on the basis of necessity.

  6. If higher fuel taxes are used to meet the nation's economic problems, such taxes should not apply to low income people who need reasonably priced fuel in order to subsist in the villages. Consideration should be given to providing gasoline, tax cuts for fuel used in subsistence activities, much the same way that farmers have been able to purchase fuel at reduced rates for their farm work.

"As energy prices rise, where will people get the extra money that will be needed? Will they be forced to leave the villages to look for better employment opportunities?"

Energy Development

The development of energy resources within the region could cause some extremely serious problems for subsistence resources. Development of oil and gas on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta can be expected from three directions:

  1. The Federal Government which is advocating rapid development of Outer Continental Shelf resources to meet national energy demands.

  2. The State of Alaska which continues to hold oil and gas lease sales in order to pay the increased costs of a developing state.

  3. Calista which is seeking ways to develop its regional resources.

Severe impact on subsistence resources could easily come from each of these sources and taken together their combined impact could be disasterous. The most serious impact on the subsistence of life-style will result from:

  1. Pollution and disruption of fish and wildlife habitat.

  2. The influx of great numbers of people to the region.

  3. The building of roads and service industries and pipelines.

  4. Rapid growth of villages adjacent to development areas.

To protect subsistence values several considerations must be made by the State and Federal governments and Calista:

  1. Development of oil and gas should be slowed down and paced over many, many years to minimize cultural and social impact.
  2. The most protective environmental controls must be enforced.
  3. Some critical habitat areas should be closed to oil and gas development.
  4. Related development such as roads, service industries, refineries and pipelines should be minimized as much as possible.


Do food stamps and welfare payments provide a substitute for subsistence activities?

Or can various forms of public assistance be a complimentary part of the subsistence way of living?

Such questions arise as various public assistance programs are used more extensively in our region. In recent years, three types of income assistance programs have been available to people in the villages: BIA welfare payments; food stamps; and State welfare payments which include Aid to the Blind, Old Age Assistance, Aid to the Disabled, and Aid to Dependent Children.

The extent to which these programs have been utilized has been summarized in a Department of Interior impact statement.

Judging from recent statistics (available only for the month of October 1972) about 35 percent of the households on the Delta currently receive welfare payments from the State of Alaska. The number of households receiving B.I.A. welfare payments ranged from 20 to 40 percent in recent years. Food stamp records, kept by month, show that an average of about 42 percent of the population was receiving food stamps in 1971, and about 31 percent in 1972. The extent to which these three types of income assistance each serves the same group is unknown. Average annual household income from State welfare payments, judging from October 1972, is about $2,500. Average annual income from food stamps in 1972 was about $1,800 per household, $324 per capita.

"Welfare payments should not be administered as general handouts that would encourage people to become dependent upon a government check and lose their sense of motivation."

The degree to which these programs are used reflects the extent of poverty conditions in the villages. And they illustrate how such assistance has become an important part of the basic livelihood of many families.

However, the flow of public assistance funds into villages does not begin to replace the need to use subsistence resources. It must be kept in mind that welfare payments in the villages buy only about two-thirds of what they would buy in Anchorage and other places where prices are substantially lower. Even if public assistance were doubled or tripled it would not meet all the basic needs now being met with subsistence activities, let alone replace the cultural values of subsistence living.

The funds from the various assistance programs are in most instances meeting real and acute needs. Without them, many people would be in distress—unable to survive solely from subsistence hunting and fishing and finding no opportunities for employment in the region.

Without exploring all the pros and cons of the various assistance programs, the following considerations might be helpful in coordinating these programs with the general subsistence patterns of this region.

  1. Welfare programs should not be administered as general handouts that would encourage people to become dependent upon a government check and lose their sense of motivation. Assistance should be provided on the basis of real needs in instances where there are no other ways for people to meet their basic needs.
  2. Since the traditional subsistence economy has been thrown into chaos since the coming of Western civilization, the State and Federal governments will have a continuing obligation to provide support until a viable synthesis of the subsistence and cash economies is achieved.
  3. Public assistance programs should be used to assist people in becoming economically independent in both the cash and subsistence economies.
  4. Support should be available when it is needed to provide such things as gasoline and ammunition that people need today to support themselves from the land.
  5. Assistance should always be available for nutritional and health care needs.

"When I was growing up, we didn't know any white people, and all the food we had was from the land," recalls Alena Nikolas, thinking about the changes she has seen over the 90 some years she has lived. "We would go out in a canoe and go fishing and never waste any part of it. Everything we used for hunting and fishing was made by the people. The women would go berry picking with their back packs, and their buckets were made from bark. I was raised by my grandfather in the traditions of our cultural background. The land that our ancestors walked on, they were the first ones to walk on it. And they were the first ones who lived quietly.

"Now that we are beginning to hear about the land claims there is a lot of comments going on because we have a lot of questions. In my time there weren't such things as land claims or regulations, or land planning commissions. In my time people lived happily together. There were no problems such as we are putting up with now... People lived together and there weren't such things as planning things. Everybody planned together. Nobody would come around and say this is my land, that is your land. These lands were everybody's. People weren't coming in and saying you do this, you use the land for this, you use the river for this. These little lines and areas drawn up on the map by so and so—there weren't such things as those. People were happy then."1

During the time Alena Nikolas was growing up there was no need for land use planning to protect subsistence resources.

Before the Claims Act, before statehood and the coming of the first Russians, the people who were scattered over the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta followed a natural pattern of land use which did not require any land use planning to avoid problems. Rules, policies and regulations were not necessary because people knew how to work together and take care of the land. The only laws people had to observe were the laws of nature as the hunters followed the migrations of fish and game through changing weather and the passing of seasons.

"The geese and ducks, and salmon, and moose don't check the land office in Anchorage to see whose land they are on."

When the idea of land ownership was introduced the freedom of the Yupik people to use the land became threatened. Because people of Western civilization do not know how to naturally work together and take care of the land they have made many laws to govern what people can do and what they can't do. Imposing these laws and patterns of ownership on the people of the Delta has created great confusion and fear among the people. Many are afraid that they will no longer have the freedom to live from the land and take care of it as their ancestors once did. David Bayayak, Mayor of Togiak, speaks of this danger:

"I'm going to speak for the older generation way before this generation came along. The older generation had used the animal for surviving. They used the carcass for food and the skin for clothing. Anywhere they walked, they stepped on the land, they had respect for the land. They had great honor for the land. As far as we know, this generation has the same thought for the animals and they use it for subsistence... I can see people just like I am right now, young men ranging from age 20 to 35, who will still be hunting beaver unless the beaver pelt is restricted by the warden or the people in Congress, just like they have done to seal, the sea mammals. We use this meat for food. And I believe these things will be taken away from us as the pressure keeps on going high. The younger generation will have respect for the land anywhere they go, just like the older ones. They go up river where people have lived long ago and hunt. I believe if we quit eating this food, fresh food, like fish, moose meat, squirrel, I think this people— Yupiks—are going to get sick. And I believe it—And I see that Eskimo is not used to the way of living with book works and papers. And he can use, a Yupik can use from his place, can use that (land) to release himself from the pressure. I stress that if we're given this freedom to step on this land without any papers to sign... I believe that Congress will really care for us. This is a D2 (land set aside for a wildlife refuge), and by native instinct I think they will still want to walk on it just like the older generations did. And this is our home. I do not mean to be rude. This is our home. Now its like a house for us. My father was a man and there was this house of mine. Then a person from outside, unknown, comes here to my area and he comes in through the door and says ‘come into my house and says, hey man, you cannot do this and that.' And I wonder what this person's reaction would be. It just like that for the Yupik People in this area.

"I do not mean to be rude, (but) this is our home. (And yet) a person from outside, unknown, comes here to say, ‘Hey man, you cannot do this and that.'

"It's just like that to the older generation. It's just like a person coming in and telling us what to do and what not to do. I think it would be nice if we had maybe more years to have freedom to walk on the land, like freedom to walk without any restrictions for a period of time. If these needs are not met, I want to say first that the Yupik people are going to be controlled. They are gonna be controlled by this white man way. Second, our land's gonna be taken away. And last, then we will be like the white man. Our culture will be doomed . If we don't have freedom on this land, our wish and our hope will be in vain."1

Today the village person's ability to subsist from the land and thereby continue the way of life of his ancestors is subject to a complicated patchwork of ownership, laws, regulations and government jurisdiction. Both the Alaska Statehood Act and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act have established a pattern of land ownership in Alaska in which there are three main land owners and managers—the State of Alaska, the Federal government and the Native village and regional corporations. The ownership of the land has been broken into many small pieces that fit together something like a jigsaw puzzle.

"The land that our ancestors walked on, they were the first ones to walk on it. And they were the first ones who lived quietly."

But the land itself is not broken into pieces. And the villagers' use of the land cannot be broken into pieces if his way of life is to continue. The mountains and coast run through the different pieces of ownership. The rivers flow through the various pieces of the ownership puzzle. The fish and game migrate from one area to another. The geese and ducks, and salmon, and moose don't live by the boundaries. They don't check the land office in Anchorage to see whose land they are on. And as the fish and game move through the whole land, so the hunter must be able to move through the whole land if he is to survive.

Speaking to the problems created by boundaries being imposed upon people who have always lived without maps and boundary lines, Fred Notti, a Calista board member, posed these thoughts to the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission in 1973.

"What are the potential effects of new ownership patterns on traditional land uses? How can land and resources be managed so that new ownership patterns accommodate traditional land uses?

"Like the Northern Eskimo, Athabaskan, and Tlingit, I believe that the Yupik will become boundary conscious. They never had to move for their food before; now an overpowering mass of humanity is closing in on them.

"Learning about boundaries and how to cope with them is going to be a difficult thing to teach and even more difficult to learn.

"When people begin posting signs—no hunting, no fishing, no trespassing, no wood cutting, etc. —and begin to find themselves inadvertently hauled before the bench to answer these charges, whom will the blame fall upon?"

Since the land has been broken into little pieces of ownership, it has become important for the different land owners to work together to protect the fish and game and provide the hunter the freedom he needs.

Today it is necessary to use the tools of land use planning. Villagers must testify to planning commissions and Congressional committees. Regional planners and legislators must enact new laws and utilize existing ones to protect land use values. The regional corporation, Calista uses information gathered from satellites in a computerized system of resource analysis in order to assess resource potentials.

But modern land use planning tools are only as useful as the way in which they are used. They can be used carelessly and result in the loss of land values and land use opportunities, as many areas in the United States have vividly illustrated. We need a land use planning process which is oriented to the particular values and needs of this region. This process must be used to re-establish the type of balance and opportunities with the land that existed in former times—before the problems created by drawing lines around pieces of land and calling some mine and others yours.

"The State must make all land use planning decisions with an eye to keeping the options open for the subsistence way of life."

William Tyson has spoken of the basic Yupik relationship to the land and among people which needs to be re-affirmed and re-instituted in the land use planning process:

"To my way of thinking, subsistence is pretty much living off the land as much as we can. That's about all I know because I don't know of any other way of making a living besides living off the land and working together with my neighbors, working side by side.

"To my way of thinking subsistence is living off the land... working together with my neighbors, working side by side."

"If we see somebody to help, we go down and help him. We work side by side and we don't have no conflict with other villages.

"There were some years where some uneasiness was going on, where somebody gets more than I got, I feel kind of cheated, but I just can't help it...

"Sometime back, at home, there was a lot of berries growing around the houses and there used to be some woman coming up and pick berries right outside of our house. My wife would open that door and say, ‘Hey, the coffee is good, won't you come in and have some coffee with me?' The woman who picked berries right outside of my house would come into my house and have coffee with my wife in the house. That was before we got cautious.

"Then, after we were told that we had to have a boundary around our property, then anybody comes and tells us, that one is trespassing and I can do as I please with him. Okay. I'm not helping him no more, just driving him away.

"That is not preserving the land the way it should be.

"The land will provide for us the amount we need. We don't have to bother the land. It's everything growing there as long as we leave it alone. There's a lot of fish in the lakes as long as we leave the other ones, just take enough for the amount that we need. The same way with the birds or anything. All we do is just take the amount we need and leave the rest of them there. Next year we'll have just that much.

"But, if we start fooling around with that, there is going to be something missing next year. A lot of that will be missing.

"That's about the only thing I can say how we live. Subsistence is working side by side and leave the land alone, leave it grow—just let it stay the way it wants to be. So we'll have everything that the land produced in every way."2

If subsistence is going to be able to continue as a way of life, a lot of people will have to be working side by side in managing the land. Villagers must be working side by side with other villages and their regional corporation. And the State and Federal governments will have to find new ways to work side by side with village people in what is now called the land use planning process.

"There's a lot of fish in the lakes as long as we just take enough for the amount that we need. The same way with the birds or anything."

Communication and the Involvement of People

"There was no word or any kind of warning. It seemed like this village was sleeping overnight—one night—and then they woke up next morning and they find out that the musk ox is available here on this island. And they had no idea who was doing it. And when this was realized, the Fish and Wildlife Service said they were doing it and that someday the musk ox are going to help us. And when this was said, it was out of reach of the Natives' minds. Because it was still the practice of not involving us... there was still neglect in it. It seemed like we do not exist. We have no rights.

"...It would be a great help if some of those heads-shot people would come around to see for themselves, to see what it is like to live out here, to see what it is like to carry out their orders."

An unidentified older man speaking to the Federal State Land Use Planning

Commission, Tununak, 1973

This man from Tununak had no college degrees and talked only in Yupik. But he spoke of what so many planners and developers seem to forget or not understand. All the people affected by a land decision should know what is happening, what decisions are being made. The people who live on the land must be involved in deciding what happens to it.

Communication is the first responsibility of land use planning. It is also the element that has been most often lacking in planning for land or anything else in our region.

In the past white men and their governments have never offered to involve the Yupik people in decisions concerning the land that has been theirs since time immemorial. When Russia claimed Alaska as its territory, the Yupik people were not involved. When Alaska became a state, the Yupik people were not involved. When large wildlife refuges were established on the Delta, the Yupik people were not involved. When fish and game regulations were formulated, the Yupik people were not involved. Even when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed, the Yupik people were not involved; many villagers did not even know their land claims were being settled.

When the local village people have not been involved, many mistakes have been made that could have been avoided. And people on the Delta have naturally become suspicious and resentful of those who try to make decisions about the region from far away. As that man in Tununak put it:

"The first time when the land withdrawals were conducted by the Fish and Wildlife, the time when they were marking off land without consent of the people, without asking the people how the land was used within the area. When this was done it was a great mistake on the Fish and Wildlife side. Due to this mistake, there's gonna be a lot of difficulties in the way of fixing this and that so it will be agreeable... Fish and Wildlife neglected the mind of the people. And they put us to a point where we think that they thought there were no people existing in that area. Due to this mistake, a lot of minds are mad today, real mad, because someone tried to take the land that we have used and try to make it into other uses that we don't want. Due to that mistake, we are all working very hard on our part, and on your side. This is the result of that mistake, that so many meetings have to go on from time to time, and so many changes have to be made because of that first mistake."

"When Russia claimed Alaska as its territory, the Yupik people were not involved. When the United States bought Alaska, the Yupik people were not involved. When Alaska became a state, the Yupik people were not involved. When large wildlife refuges were established on the Delta, the Yupik people were not involved. When fish and game regulations were formulated, the Yupik people were not involved. Even when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed, the Yupik people were not involved; many villagers did not even know their land claims were being settled."

To avoid unnecessary mistakes and resentments in land use planning decisions, government policy makers must make greater efforts to involve local people with these thoughts in mind.

  1. Information about a land issue must be well prepared and communicated to the people so they will know the issues. In our region translation is usually necessary to insure that people understand. Information should be presented in the ways that will be most easily grasped by the people in the villages.

  2. When important land decisions are to be made, extensive hearings should be held in the villages to receive the suggestions and feelings of the local people.

  3. Recognizing the difficult communication and transportation situation in this region, agencies dealing with land and resource issues in our region must budget enough funds to get out into the villages to develop two way communication on the issues.

Management Agreement

To begin a process of communication between the people and the Fish and Wildlife Service which could lead to cooperative planning and management, Yupiktak Bista proposed a joint management agreement in 1973. For over a year it was discussed in the villages and in Washington, D.C. Some of the feelings of the village people were expressed by Bartholomew Agathluk speaking to representatives of the Land Use Planning Commission in Emmonak. He said:

"First of all, I'd like to thank the Commission for giving us a chance to express ourselves and say what our ideas are. Now, my concern is a National Wildlife Refuge. That will be my main topic. And under that would be a management agreement. In order for me to start off with my topic, I think I should give a little example. That way I think I will make myself understood and you will be able to understand what I have in mind to say... You know, in every home there's a management. Otherwise, if we don't have a management, there's going to be a conflict. Like, talking about management at home, I as a husband I like to manage everything in the house, you know. But then on the other hand, my wife would like to do some little managing also. So what we do, the only way we can solve the problem is have a management agreement within the house. Now supposing that my wife says she wants to let my little boy eat, you know, lots, and I say to my wife, no I don't like that, he eats too much, I think he's going to have you know, he'll grow chubby. So my wife and I would say, let's make a little compromise, management agreement. Let's say that, you know, we let him eat, you know, not too much and not too little. . . Since we're both managing the house, we would have to make some kind of a management agreement. Well, she would have to tell me her view and I would have to tell her my views, in order to avoid a conflict."

"Okay, now let's talk about this D2, the green stuff here (the land that is being considered for a wildlife refuge), Now, I think. I kind of like this National Wildlife System, for the simple fact that, you know, all of us would like to go out hunting. I like to go out hunting. Now let's take this portion (of the map) here. There is a green, green portion right in between Emmonak and the upriver... I know its mainly for fishing, in summertime for commercial (fishing) and also for the camps, summer camps. Now around this area is a hunting ground, like up the Andreafsky River. Most people go up the river and hunt around for moose, bear, or whatever's up there. I'd kind of like to see this green portion of the map become what is known as the National Wildlife Refuge, with the management agreement. Well supposing this portion is managed by Fish and Wildlife Service, and we don't have any part in it. I don't think we'll be able to hunt. You know, there is going to be conflict there. Well, supposing whoever's managing that refuge says that we cannot hunt or kill moose, but we want moose. Okay, there's going to have to be some kind of agreement there. Well, maybe they're right, maybe we're wrong. In order to find out what the problem is, we have to understand—in order to come to a final agreement. That's what I mean by management agreement, if. this area becomes a national wildlife refuge. And I'd like to see the Native people as part of the management agreement."1

"We think that they thought there were no people existing in that area."

And Axel Johnson, also of Emmonak, has spoken of the need for a management in relation to the lands which are in between village selections. He has said:

"We can select just so much land. But we may not be able to select all this land. And it's that land we cannot select that's within this area. We should tell them how we would like to see.., that handled. This is one big question in our minds. Mountain Village can go down just so far in their selection. And we can go up just so far (from Emmonak). We find that there is going to be a gap. And that is something that is bothering us.

"We would like that land turned over to refuge. But before we do that, we'd like to have some control and management. We'd like to be able to say something (about that land)."1

Even though in the beginning there was great bitterness between the people and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the great need for the people and their village and regional corporations to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service developed in the form of the cooperative management agreement. After long negotiations, the agreement was signed in April 1974 by the Association of Village Council Presidents, Calista Corporation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agreement defines their mutual interests and responsibilities as follows:


THIS COOPERATIVE MANAGEMENT AGREEMENT, made and entered into this twenty-fourth day of April, 1974, by and between the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP), Calista Corporation (CALISTA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Department of the Interior, WITNESSETH:

WHEREAS, AVCP, on behalf of regional Native villages, is vitally concerned with the conservation of fish and wildlife resources and maintenance of all other water and land resources essential to sustaining life and maintaining the culture of Native people.

WHEREAS, the USFWS, as authorized by Section 4 of the Act of October 15, 1966, 80 Stat. 669 (16 USC 668dd) is responsible for administration and management of fish and wildlife habitat, land, and other natural resources of the Clarence Rhode National Wildlife Range and the Cape Newenham, Nunivak, and Hazen Bay National Wildlife Refuges, which includes maintaining good habitat conditions for fish and wildlife and proper use of the land in concert with other recognized uses and users of the land.

WHEREAS, it is the mutual desire of AVCP, the Calista Corporation, and USFWS to recognize their responsibility for lands withdrawn from the range or refuges of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta under provisions of ANCSA and also to recognize their mutual concern but separate responsibilities for managing other regional resources in the best interests of the people of the Delta, State of Alaska, and the United States.

WHEREAS, it is understood by the parties hereto that Calista has conducted hearings preliminarily to drafting a first draft of rules and regulations that will ultimately govern the use and development of Native lands selected by village corporations within the above refuges.


  1. To recognize Native people residing in or adjacent to the above refuges range as being dependent upon animal and plant resources and the need to give high priority to protecting subsistence needs essential to sustaining and maintaining the Native lifestyle and/or culture.
  2. To consult with all Calista, AVCP and village corporations within the region on the formulation of any refuge regulation involving hunting, fishing, trapping, or any other public uses affecting Native people.
  3. To recognize village corporations as being jointly responsible for managing habitat or lands selected and patented from the range or refuges in accordance with provisions of ANCSA.
  4. To make or sanction no plant or animal introduction on refuge or range lands until there has been an investigation of its effect on other resources and a consideration of its desirability as a management measure.
  5. To furnish AVCP and the Calista Corporation with copies of various reports, plans, correspondence, and material prepared by the USFWS pertinent to fish and wildlife management or refuges or the range and relating to this Agreement. These will include special reports, plans, and recommendations for any regulatory changes deemed necessary to protect fish and wildlife habitat.


  1. To establish an advisory council composed of village representatives that will be available to advise, make recommendations and review refuge management plans and proposed regulations governing uses and users of refuge and range lands.
  2. To recognize the USFWS as the agency responsible for the management of all refuge and range lands of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
  3. That with the approval of village corporations, the USFWS will be permitted access to Native lands for the purpose of making studies or investigations designed to improve fish and wildlife management programs on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
  4. To keep the USFWS informed of plans for road construction, reindeer grazing, or other developmental activities affecting the region's fish and wildlife resources.
  5. To cooperate with the USFWS in the development and implementation of conservation programs designed to benefit the regional fish and wildlife resources.


  1. That all questions pertaining to cooperative work of the three parties arising in the field will be first resolved by the Advisory Council and Refuge Manager-in-charge, and matters of disagreement that cannot be resolved at equivalent levels will be referred to the Alaska Area Director of the USFWS and Directors of AVCP and Calista for final decision.
  2. To meet at least once annually or more often, if necessary, to discuss matters of mutual concern relating to subjects relevant to this management agreement.
  3. To enter into supplemental agreements for the development of land-use plans and programs designed to improve the socio-economic status of and to benefit the people of the region and also to improve and develop the fish and wildlife resources of the region.
  4. To take appropriate action in conformity with Federal and State laws which is necessary for the protection of the subsistence needs of the Native people. To consult with one another, to evaluate the supply of fish and animals and needs measured by (a) degree of dependence, (b) residency, and (c) means of taking.
  5. In compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity laws and regulations, education-training programs leading to professional employment of Natives in the wildlife management field will be coordinated with appropriate agencies and implemented as soon as feasible.
  6. That nothing in this Agreement shall make or obligate the USFWS, AVCP or Calista to expend any of their respective funds. USFWS shall not be obligated for future payment of money in excess of appropriations authorized by law.
  7. That this Agreement shall become effective as soon as it is signed by parties hereto and shall continue in force for five years unless either party upon thirty (30) days notice indicates in writing the intention to terminate upon a date indicated.
  8. That six (6) months prior to the termination date of this agreement, all parties will review its provisions so as to mutually develop, if desired, a new agreement with whatever modifications are agreed upon.
  9. That amendments to this Agreement may be proposed by either party and shall become effective upon written approval of the other parties.
  10. That each and every provision of this Agreement and subsidiary agreements developed under its guidelines is subject to the laws of the United States and the State of Alaska.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have executed this Agreement as of the date first written.

Association of Village Council Presidents United States Fish and Wildlife Service
By /s/ Edward Hoffman, Sr. By /s/ Gordon W. Watson
Director, AVCP Alaska Area Director, USFWS

Calista Corporation
By /s/ Raymond C. Christiansen
Its President

The cooperative management agreement is really only a beginning. It simply provides an opportunity for the government, the regional corporation and the village people to participate in the type of land use planning that has become necessary to protect the subsistence resources of the Yukon-Kuskokwin Delta.

As the region develops and the land ownership becomes more complicated with more State and private ownership, management agreements can provide a helpful context for planning. In some cases, a planning authority that would bind the various parties to certain land use agreements could be developed to accomplish the kind of coordinated planning that is becoming necessary.

Environmental Evaluation

Another land use planning tool available to the people through the Federal government is the Environmental Policy Act of 1969 which requires that before any developments are made on public lands a thorough evaluation must be made of all the possible side effects. Studies have to be made to determine if a proposed use of land would have any detrimental effects on the fish and game or on the economy and way of life of the people. For example, many oil companies have expressed interest in exploring for oil on the Delta. If they are to develop oil on Federal Wildlife Refuge lands the Federal government must prepare an environmental impact statement which clearly defines such things as how pollution might affect waterfowl, how increased numbers of people in the region would affect the villages, how the economy would be affected. With such information the people are in a better position to decide whether this kind of development is desired.

Although the Federal lands are protected by this law which enables the people to obtain knowledge of what they are getting into, neither of the other two major land owners—the State and the Native corporations—have such laws or policies to help protect the people.

The State of Alaska should enact a State Environmental Policy Act to avoid unexpected problems from development of State lands. Likewise, village and regional corporations should consider setting up a similar procedure of evaluating potential. They should have a way to require a developer—Native or non-Native—to investigate and clearly state all of the possible effects of the proposed development.

State Land Use Planning Responsibilities

The State of Alaska must assume its responsibility in the cooperative management of land to protect subsistence resources. Although the State has neither an environmental protection act or a wildlife refuge system to manage, the State is a major land owner with broad authority to manage and control the use of land in Alaska. However, this authority has never been used to protect subsistence resources because the State has yet to make a basic commitment to subsistence uses of the land.

Through the years, many legislators and administration officials have spoken of their great concern for protecting the subsistence hunting and fishing of the Native people. But nothing has ever come of it. A policy giving priority to subsistence uses has never been established. Laws establishing subsistence use areas have never been passed. And with all the funds that have been spent on analysis and development of other resources, the State has yet to make an effort to obtain basic subsistence-use information, except for ADF&G summer subsistence fish surveys.

State Senator John Sackett from the Tanana Chiefs Region has come up against this "outward support" for subsistence uses which seems to be a reluctance to take the necessary steps to really protect these activities. After trying for nearly two years to pass a bill that would have established subsistence use priority around villages he said he had heard all kinds of comments of concern about the subsistence problem "and that it was a priority need and they had the support of all the administration in this area. And I'd just like to say that's just a lot of lip service, and that's about it. I spent a year and a half fighting for a method by which to try and take care of this problem and little or no help ever came from the administration, in absolutely no direction whatsoever.. . If we assume that the person who has to live off the land must have the priority need, then the question becomes: How do we solve this problem of prioritizing. I hope people will think.. . about the possible structures in State law that are needed in order to one: give priority to subsistence uses, and two: protect the person once he has that priority."

The first step which the State must take is for the legislature to set out a policy and statutory guidelines that would direct various State Departments to protect subsistence uses. Once this basic commitment has been made, there are several land use approaches that State agencies could take in managing for subsistence uses.

  1. Control of Access and Use of State Lands. The State of Alaska will own 103 million acres of land which it is now in the process of selecting. Much of this land has been used either directly for subsistence hunting and fishing or indirectly by providing habitat for fish and game populations. State land adjacent to villages or which is otherwise important for subsistence resources could be classified for the purpose of protecting fish and game habitat. Developments adverse to these subsistence resources could be discouraged. The sale or leasing of small recreational sites (such as the open to entry program) could be curtailed in areas where extra hunting and fishing would make it more difficult for the local people to subsist from the land. Recreational uses in conflict with subsistence uses could also be minimized by limiting use of motorized vehicles and airplanes, which are used primarily by the recreational hunters and fishermen.

"The sale or leasing of small recreational sites (such as the open to entry program) should be curtailed in areas where extra hunting and fishing would make it more difficult for the local people to subsist from the land."

  1. The State's Zoning Powers for Private Land. The State and regional and municipal governments as well, can zone private lands to prevent any land uses that would disturb habitat through such things as pollution or disruption of a watershed.
  2. The State's Role in Long Range Land Use Planning. The State will play a major role in the sweeping land use planning decisions that will set the patterns of development and population distribution through the State in the future. If the State is going to accept its responsibility to the subsistence users of the rural areas, it must make all land use planning decisions with an eye to keeping the options open for the subsistence way of life. These decisions will involve the placing of roads, the development of public transportation, the sale and leasing of State lands, cooperative management systems with Federal and private land managers.

  3. A State Environmental Policy Act. As already discussed, the State should enact legislation similar to the National Environmental Policy Act which will assure a thorough appraisal of all developments and major actions relating to State lands.

  4. Funding of State Agencies. State agencies which relate to subsistence land uses should receive adequate funding to handle their respective subsistence responsibilities. The Department of Community and Regional Affairs should have the resources to assist regions and villages in the process of planning for subsistence uses. The Department of Fish and Game should have the staff and program arrangements to work closely with the rural people in managing subsistence resources, to undertake subsistence related research, to assist in the reestablishment or introduction of subsistence fish and game populations.
    The Department of Highways should become a Department of Transportation with staff capability to evaluate and plan transportation in relation to subsistence resource use. The Department of Natural Resources should develop a subsistence program; perhaps a Subsistence Division should be established to work with the Division of Lands and Division of Parks and Recreation within the Department.

  5. Subsistence Office. Within State government there should be one centralized office which focuses on subsistence resource planning. In addition to each Department carefully making subsistence considerations, there needs to be one office whose sole responsibility is subsistence planning. This responsibility might best be placed within the Department of Community & Regional Affairs or within the Division of Policy, Development and Planning in the Governor's office.

The Regional Corporation and Land Use Planning

Calista, the regional corporation for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta must play an important and responsible role in land use planning. Calista, like other regional corporations has a financial responsibility to the people through investing of funds and the development of sub-surface resources like oil and gas. This responsibility to make money for the people is very important but a greater responsibility of the corporation is to be responsive to the true needs and wishes of the people.

To remain responsive to the real needs of the people, the regional corporation will have to develop and maintain very close cooperation and communication with the villages. The regional corporation's programs and policies must evolve directly from the goals and objectives of the villages. In relation to land use planning, these programs and policies must be considered in two areas: 1) the regional corporation's role in working with other land managers (i.e. Federal, State and regional governments and private land holders) in cooperative land use planning efforts, and 2) the creation of the regional corporation's own development projects.

An example of how the regional corporation can help involve the needs and interests of the villagers in the regional land use planning was Calista's testimony at the Land Use Planning Commission's D2 land hearing in Bethel, 1973. Speaking for Calista, Mary Gregory clearly set out the type of land use considerations which must be made to protect the subsistence way of life. She said:

"My name is Mary Gregory. I wish to present a statement on D-2 lands and land use planning in this region on behalf of Calista, a non-profit organization of the 52 associated villages of this region. The Native people of this region historically have depended on the utilization of fish, wildlife and plants. These resources are the basis of their economy.

" Although some persons are no longer completely dependent on such use of resources, the overwhelming majority of the Native people depend to a substantial degree on fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering of plant foods. This economy cannot be supported on the land patented to the villages. The continued use of public lands for such subsistence uses would be essential for the welfare of many persons and the viability of the Native culture. We will oppose wildlife refuges or any other classification of public lands in our region which does not recognize and protect the needs of the village people to use all of the land in the region for substantial, subsistence activities. We will support the creation of wildlife refuges on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Deltas and in the Togiak area if the legislation establishing these refuges there is the following: 1) A primary purpose of the refuge would be to provide for the continuance of the subsistence way of life of village people. 2) Subsistence resources on which the people depend will be protected from such things as oil and other pollution and adverse impact of too many visitors. 3) Subsistence activities would be authorized as the basis of the way of the Native people in this region. I will restate that—3) Subsistence activities will be authorized as the basis of the way of life of the Native people of this region. 4) The village people will be actively involved in the planning and management of any refuges created, provisions for their involvement would be included in the legislation creating the refuge. If the foregoing conditions for establishing new refuges can also be guaranteed for existing refuges within this region. We support inclusion into the wildlife refuge system of virtually all public lands in the region which is not selected by either villages or the regional corporations for the D-2 and other public lands in our region we ask the Land Use Planning Commission to support the following consideration. 1) The Land Use Planning Commission will assist and cooperate with the development of a regional land use planning effort. 2). The Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission will encourage the development of regional transportation systems, such as improved air service, hovercraft, and greater use of marine highways, which do not involve overland roads. 3) Extensive public easement between villages or running elsewhere through the region will not be created at this time."1

"We will oppose wildlife refuges or any other classification of public lands in our region which does not recognize and protect the needs of the village people."

In the future, subsistence resources may not appear to be as important as the value of other land uses when they are evaluated by Western methods of dollars and cents—cost and benefit analysis. The cost of replacing the subsistence foods lost as a result of another resource development may not be as great as the amount of cash generated by the development. Is the development then judged more valuable simply because it can be equated with more cash? Are there other values to be considered? If so, how should these considerations be made? Elaborating on these thoughts, Dr. Brad Tuck, economist, for the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission has said:

"I think that an over reliance on subsistence activity in an economic context has fairly serious implications from a policy point of view, if in fact your interest is maintenance of the subsistence way of life. Now, that in turn suggests that subsistence activity needs to be considered in a much broader context than a purely economic one; it is a genuine social and cultural concern.... We can't solve subsistence questions in isolation. The resolution of the subsistence crisis has to take place in the context of development of an overall common philosophy for planning in Alaska... We need to establish fundamental policy parameters for planning that do answer questions such as: Do we have development in an economic sense as you commonly measure it? If so, what kind of development? Where should this development take place? How much of it do we want? To what extent do we have controls over the amount of development that takes place? ... What I am suggesting here is that we do need the development of an overall context of planning, one that treats the issue of subsistence as a major issue, and one that also considers non-subsistence uses."2

The greatest challenge facing the regional corporation is not how greatly financial assets can be increased. The real challenge is in developing its own method of considering questions of resource use so that the real needs of the village people will be served. Since the decisions will involve subtle and complex relationships between subsistence, cultural, and financial factors, the method or process of evaluating will have to relate to both Yupik and Western values. This task will be all the more difficult because people of the Delta are for the most part not familiar with the Western corporate system and methods of resource evaluation.

The complexities of the corporate financial world and resource planning have presented many problems to Native Americans. Most American Indian tribes remain in something of a trust status with the U.S. government. One exception has been the Menominee people, who like Alaska Natives received their land and financial settlement free and clear and took responsibility for the management of these resources. Because of striking similarities between the Menominees termination of tribal status and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, some lessons might be learned from the Menominee experience. The Native American Rights Fund has described the Menominee dilemma in an article titled "Making the White Man's Law Fit the Indian—the Menominee Restoration Act." When the Menominee Termination Act was signed into law on June 17, 1954.

"...the Menominee then were unexpectedly asked to pay the costs for a formidable array of studies, meetings and designs associated with the planning process. The actual (settlement) plan was such a complex and lengthy legal document that few Menominee, government officials, lawyers or experts associated with it comprehended it...

"The tribal assets were turned over to a new corporation, Menominee Enterprises Inc. (MEI), and suddenly Menominee survival was based on knowledge of a complicated, corporate style of living including: par value stocks, voting trusts, income bonds and shareholders rights...

"Subsistence activity needs to be considered in a much broader context than a purely economic one; it is a genuine social and cultural concern."

"The effects of termination and corporate-style management of Menominee assets pitted brother against brother and parents against their children. It increased the poverty of most individual Menominees, created political turmoil, and brought on economic chaos...

" MEI, as well as individual Menominees, were forced to sell corporate shares and land in order to pay county and State taxes. As a result, acres and acres of the heartland of the magnificent Menominee forest were sold to non-Indians and Menominee reservation lands fell into the hands of non-Indian developers who destroyed religious sites and the cultural character of the community.

" Interestingly enough, the corporate structure of MEI did not provide for control by the Menominee. Non-Indian businessmen and so-called experts were given control over the operation to insure its success. The result was collusion with non-Indian interests and the demise of the Menominee assets."

We will not face the taxation problems of the Menominees for some years, but our regional corporation is otherwise in virtually the same position as was the Menominee Enterprises Inc. In the end, the Menominee asked and were given restoration of their tribal status in order to prevent the complete loss of their land and financial assets and cultural identity. If Calista and the Yupik people are to fare any differently, we will have to find ways to

  1. Have the people informed and involved in the decisions affecting our land, financial assets and culture;
  2. Find ways to make the corporate system serve the values and needs of our culture;
  3. Make certain the control of Calista always remains with the people in the villages. Only leaders with a deep sense of commitment of responsibility to the people should be elected to the Board of Directors.

The problems of resolving subsistence and cash resource development problems will be particularly difficult in our region because many of the people living the subsistence lifestyle are not well experienced in dealing with cash. From the family level to the regional corporation ways must be learned to deal with cash and to balance cash economic development with protection and use of subsistence resources. Both for individuals and the corporation there are difficulties in learning how to deal with the cash economy, as John Paul Jones has testified to the Land Use Planning Commission:

"We cannot just become businessmen overnight... you're just pushing us, pushing us."

"We cannot just become businessmen overnight and be a Ford company or GMC company. We can't do that. And you know it. But the way things are now, you're just pushing us, pushing us, pretty soon you take this land and you take that land over there too and say, okay, this is now Federal government land.. . I don't think you can take these people off the land. They have been eating the food off the land for many years now. You have your black fish. You have your tom cods. You have your moose. You have your seal. The land is rich. Gives you food, nourishment. Keeps you alive. Now, I think what you're trying to say is that you are hoping someday we get into your economy, you know, get with it in your economy and live your standards. Have steak on Sundays, every morning have eggs, juice, that is the thing that I feel is being imposed on the people. . . It's just destroying a person, I think. It's destroying our life style."1

If the regional corporation imposes too much of the cash economy too quickly, it runs the risk of destroying the life style of the people it is supposed to serve. The corporate structure and decision making process that were imposed upon us by the Native Claims Settlement Act and our financial and natural resources provide certain opportunities to benefit from the modern ways of life. But the risks of losing our own way of life while learning to deal with the corporate cash economy system are very real. These risks can be minimized in a number of ways.

  1. The regional corporation should always make great efforts to communicate closely with the village people.

  2. The regional corporation should not move to develop resources hastily. There is great danger of mistakes being made when developments and changes come too quickly.

  3. The regional corporation should develop a process of environmental and cultural evaluation similar to the National Environmental Policy Act to help make certain that the bad effects of developments don't outweigh the beneficial effects.

  4. The regional corporation should always be directly controlled by the village people, never by an elite removed from the people or by outside financial interests which probably won't care about the real needs and well being of the people.

"You are hoping someday we get into your economy...have steaks on Sundays... every morning have eggs and juice."

Villages and Land Use Planning

The villages have perhaps the most important role in the land use planning process. They are the closest organization to the land. So they should be most sensitive as to how the land can serve the people and how the land can be protected. Since village corporations own surface rights to land in their area, they will have the primary responsibility to manage the subsistence resources upon which the village people depend. The villages will have to resolve conflicts and problems of competing uses as they arise, between different people in the village, between different villages, and between the village and the regional corporation.

Stanley Waskog of Emmonak has described the type of cooperative spirit he would like to see continue throughout the villages:

(Interpreted by Mr. Martin Moore)

"He says that first of all, he's talking about the future young people of the State. And at this time that is his concern, not particularly himself. Because he's getting old now, he wants the younger generation of the State of Alaska in this area to be protected. He says that he'll probably not be able to hunt too much anymore, but his children, and his son's children will use that land.

" He'd like to now make a stand to protect those children—the future children of this area. He says that now the Federal government and State government are going to be talking about this land for a long time. It's no use stopping them now. We should proceed and help them progress provided we have a partial say-so in the control of that area.

" He says he's changed his residence at least three times in this time. The first one was in Quigmy, one of the old historical sites right about 15, 20 miles from here. He says when he lived there, the only type of income that he had was, that he knew, was subsistence living. He says particularly in wintertime, it's the only thing that really gives him nourishment and helps to bring him up was the black fish and the rabbits and the ptarmigan that were within that area. He says when he was young, when he was in Quigmy, in the summer time he used to catch fish and that's how he make his living in the summer time, and make dry fish and eat dry fish.

" He says as far as he could remember, none of the villages in that surrounding area had ever had any conflict over whose hunting rights and hunting grounds they were. All of the hunting grounds that he knew, were always shared by the nearby villages ever since he knew. Knowing that experience, he wants that experience to continue with the (cooperation) of the Department of Fish and Game in the management of that land. He says he moved, later on to Hamilton, and he made Hamilton his residence. And when he went to Hamilton he made new acquaintances, and knew surrounding villages that was Katlik and the other little surrounding villages that shared the same thing, they shared all the hunting places without ever arguing whose hunting rights those other places were. He says that he knew that these people were helping each other by cooperation.

"No one time has he ever seen a dispute between whose mink a mink is, and whose land otter a land otter is, or whose hunting ground that is."

"He strongly emphasized and wants the Commission to know that he wants full cooperation, a working relationship with the Eskimos of this area for the things that they need in management and in control of different types of species of hunting animals. He says that in his experience, he went up in the mountain hills to go hunting, and many times he met other people that were up from other villages that went up in that country to hunt. Furthermore, he went around the coast and yet met other people that went hunting in that area. And never once did he have an argument over whose hunting place it is or what he should get from that area. He says only if that kind of harmony and working relationship could be established within this new area, then he would agree to that matter.

" He says from Hamilton he moved to Emmonak and makes his residence here. He said when he moved here, he met many more people and covered much more land and he is among many other villages now. He says that he is able to travel with snow machine into places where he never traveled before. He's able to travel with a boat and meet many more people that he never met before.

" He's out traveling around Sheldon's Point, around Katlik, around Mountain Village area, and many areas that he didn't cover when he was in that first place. But he says, strangely that these Eskimos that were traveling to further places and cover more area, their working relationship seems to be in closer harmony than it has ever been before. He says that not one time has he ever seen a dispute between whose mink a mink is, and whose land otter a land otter is, or whose hunting ground that is. With that experience of three different villages, he says that if that could happen, then this is how the arrangements for that particular area should be incorporated into, or worked into, or managed into.

" He says that people now make use of the coast, they make use of the interior, they make use of the hills, and most of all of the people here in this region practically know each other. When he was young, they used to go by rowboats, dog team, but now even though they're mingling with many other people of the Eskimo area, they still find harmony and that's the way it should go".1

One way in which the villages have resolved to continue the open use of the land by village people is an agreement reached between the villages that all Native people in the region could have access to all of the village lands.

"Everyone at Nightmute and along the coast lives with the sea. This winter especially we are short on food. It is an unusually long winter: There is a shortage of food, and since we survive on seafoods we would like to ask if you would please consider our needs before passing the bill taking away our life survival.

If the bill prohibits hunting of sea mammals at any time the people will listen to the hunger of their families and hunt even against the bill. The whole Western Alaska coast-line will be violating the law and the jails will be constantly filled if the law is strongly enforced. The hunters go to the sea to take care of the subsistence needs of their families, and not for sports... We do not want our children to break any laws. We have always tried to follow all the laws of the government... But we will not sit around obeying a law when our families are starving."

Isidore Tulik, Nightmute, l9725

Management Conflicts and Needs for Subsistence Users

Fortunately for Isidore Tulik and every other Native person in the region, when Congress enacted this law it was modified to allow subsistence use of marine mammals. But his feelings are typical of the frustration felt by our people every time a law opposing or limiting subsistence hunting and fishing is proposed, enacted, or enforced.

To the village hunter and fisherman, fish and game regulations have been something handed down from people in Anchorage, Juneau and Washington D.C. who apparently know or care little about the subsistence needs of the village people. After the laws have been passed without the involvement of the village people, the enforcing agencies usually haven't even bothered to discuss the new regulations with the people. This lack of involvement and communication has left people with mixed feelings of fear, guilt and resentfulness. A woman from Emmonak has described the problem like this:

"At this time many of the Eskimo people don't have too much to eat at home.. . One of our biggest problems is understanding the law, the laws that are enforced by the Fish and Game Department. Many of the older people don't read or write. They don't know the regulations and rules and usually are too scared to even help themselves."

"Many of the older people don't read or write. They don't know the regulations and rules and usually are too scared to even help themselves."

When the rules and regulations have not been clearly explained to people, they have been troubled whenever they go out hunting. Mr. Luke Tukaya has put his feelings this way:

"I get a guilty feeling what works inside of me. So I feel limited to what I can get from the land. And every time I go out hunting, survival hunting, I have this guilty feeling that I am stealing behind somebody's back for the food I need for myself and my family in the village."

It has to be emphasized that the bitterness, fear, suspicion and hatred that fish and game regulations have generated among rural people is not because of some basic incompatibility between Native people and regulations. It is because regulations and policies have almost always been enacted arbitrarily and enforced with little or no regard to the needs and feelings of Natives and other rural people.

If regulations are meaningful, if they truly balance protection of the resource with needs of the people, if the rural people understand the regulations, if the regulations are not handed down in a condescending manner—then people in the villages may become the strongest supporters of the regulations and management policies. There is no group which has a greater interest in protecting fish and game resources than village people who depend upon them for subsistence. But unless management agencies make some significant changes in their relationship with the rural subsistence users, these people who should be the most ardent advocates of fish and wildlife management will become ever more bitter and aggressive in their struggle against management agencies and their policies.

"Every time I go out hunting, survival hunting, I have this guilty feeling that I am stealing behind somebody's back for the food I need for myself and my family."

In this chapter we will suggest some specific steps that can be taken on the State, national; international and local levels to develop and implement meaningful fish and game management programs.

State of Alaska Fish and Game Management

In Alaska the primary responsibility for managing fish and game resources falls to the State of Alaska. Whether the birds, animals, or fish are in State, Federal, or private lands, they fall under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Fish and Game. Notable exceptions are the management of migratory waterfowl and most marine mammals which come under the Authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Over the years the policies and actions of both agencies have caused the people of the Delta to regard them with distrust, fear and bitterness. The challenge of the coming years will be for the agency people and the Yupik people to work together in finding ways to protect and enhance the fish and wildlife and the subsistence way of life that depends upon them.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's management responsibilities are tied directly to the constitutional mandate to manage fish and game on a sustained yield basis. To fulfill this mandate the ADF&G has some authority to establish preferential use rights and to take various actions to enforce the fish and game regulations. As a first step to correct long standing problems with subsistence use of fish and game, ADF&G Commissioner Jim Brooks issued the following Subsistence Policy Statement.

"While fish and game resources were once a crucial factor in the survival of all Alaskans, a growing population segment is becoming partially or totally independent of these resources. This change is the result of advanced food production technologies elsewhere, rapidly improving logistics, and a growing immigrant population whose demands mainly involve recreational and non-consumptive resource uses.

" Nevertheless, direct domestic utilization of fish and game is still vital to the maintenance of most rural Alaskans and is an essential supplement to the larders of some urban citizens. Beyond directly satisfying food requirements, home consumption of fish and game tends to preserve indigenous cultures and traditions and gives justification and gratification to a strong desire possessed by many to hunt and fish. The latter functions seem genuinely important to the physical and psychological well-being of a large number of Alaskans.

" The very rapid changes occurring in Alaska now give rise to grave concern that the accustomed contribution of fish and game to subsistence economies will be threatened: By reason of culture, location, economic situation or choice, large numbers of people will find it impossible to abandon or alter their way of life at a pace paralleling changes brought by new shifts in land status and ownership, non-renewable resource developments, road extensions, transportation improvements, and a phenomenal rate of population growth. In recognition of the above facts and of the responsibilities mandated to the board and the Commissioner, the following statements which express the views of these authorities are considered necessary and timely.

" The existing variety of cultures and life styles in Alaska are of great value and should be preserved. While limitations on the productivity of fish and game must discourage continued increases in the numbers of subsistence type resource users, domestic utilization is still of fundamental importance to many Alaskans, and accordingly it is assigned the highest priority among beneficial uses. Within legal and biological constraints, fish and game will be allocated to subsistence users on the basis of need. It is understood that the needs of individuals, families or groups will differ in type and degree and that subjective judgments will unavoidably be necessary in weighing actual need.

" Elements considered in establishing the level of need include culture, custom, economic status, alternative resources, location, and voluntary choice of life style. It is further understood that subsistence requirements will not make equal demands on all resources in all areas, and that recreation, commercial and, non-consumptive uses will continue to be permitted where and to the extent that they do not truly interfere with or jeopardize subsistence use.

" It is the expressed intent of the Board and the Commissioner to be guided by the above stated policies in fulfilling their duties of managing Alaska's fish and game in the face of drastic changes in land status, nonrenewable resource development, and economic and cultural changes."2

This policy statement is a promising step toward the proper management of subsistence fish and game resources, but there can be quite a gap between good intentions and effective action. At the Land Use Planning Commission's 1974 subsistence conference David Jackman, who was later named the Commission's State Co-Chairman, cautioned that, "Over the years the Board of Fish and Game has to some extent made ad hoc provision for protecting subsistence use where necessary in the way it chose to regulate seasons, bag limits, and the methods and means of taking. However, the Board has no clear statutory authority to explicitly recognize priorities among uses in the regulations it adopts. If the direct regulatory authority of the State over the use of fish and game resources on all lands is to be used as a means of protecting subsistence use, such an additional statutory authority would be essential."2In other words, ADF&G's proclaimed interest in subsistence resource management needs to be supported by a formal resolution of the Governor or the legislature declaring subsistence use of fish and game the priority use.

Subsistence priority use does not need to be defined on racial grounds which raise constitutional as well as ethical conflicts between Native and Non-Native. Rather, priorities should be established along lines of necessity. A meaningful and practical breakdown of priority use based on necessity is as follows:

  1. Local subsistence users would have the first priority. In other words, people living in a rural region who need subsistence foods would have the first priority use of fish and game resources in that region.
  2. Commercial use of fish and wildlife resources would have second priority, and would, of course, be closely related to other uses.
  3. Alaskan resident subsistence users would have the priority use of fish and game resources in a given region. This means that an urban subsistence user or a subsistence user from another rural region would follow the regional or local subsistence user in priority.
  4. Sport use of fish and game by Alaska residents would follow subsistence users in priority.
  5. Lowest priority would be given to out-of-state hunters and fishermen who want to use Alaska's fish and game resources for sport or commercial purposes.

"Subsistence priority use does not need to be defined on racial grounds which raise constitutional as well as ethical conflicts between Native and non-Native."

To implement successfully such a system of priority use the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would have to carefully and consistently monitor the fish and wildlife populations and then relate the availability of fish and game in a certain region at a certain time to the needs of the different user groups. In many instances all four user groups would be able to use the fish and wildlife resources. But if demands on a certain wildlife population began to be greater than the availability of the resource, then priority use would be designated for one or more of the user groups.

It might be that local and Alaskan residents would have priority use of most species in a region but that in some specific areas some species of great sport value, such as trophy trout or mountain goats, would still be available to sport hunters. If a certain wildlife resource became severely limited, only the local resident subsistence user would be allowed to utilize it. Should that certain resource become truly threatened, then even the local subsistence user would have to be limited in order to protect the productivity of that certain endangered population. Likewise, if a declining wildlife population is revitalized, its use might be expanded from the local subsistence user to all user groups.

In managing fish and game populations on a priority user basis it is important that the different user groups not become polarized. The use of the fish and wildlife resources should not become an issue between Native and non-Native or between local residents and residents of other regions, or between subsistence and sport users.

If properly planned and carried out, a priority use system should provide more fish and game for more people. But, if the user of these resources are not carefully considered and managed with a sense of cooperation between the various user groups and the managing agencies, the conflicts will become intensely bitter and, in the end, destructive to the fish and wildlife resources.

Once the ADF&G's intentions are bolstered by a direct subsistence priority policy, there are two basic administrative approaches that the Department could use in subsistence resource planning. One would be a "limited entry" or permit type system to select subsistence from non-subsistence users. If a true limited entry approach became too much of an administration nightmare, the State might administer a licensing system on a case by case base within areas officially declard as subsistence zones.

The second approach would be to make it difficult for non-subsistence users to obtain game in important subsistence use areas. This method would consist of setting bag limits, defining the means by which game could be taken, establishing times during which it may be taken, and limiting the types of vehicles that could be used. One advantage of this approach is that it could be flexible; regulations could vary from one part of the State to another and could change with fluctuations of fish and game abundance and needs of subsistence users.

In addition to the limited entry and restriction of access approaches that the Department of Fish and Game can use for subsistence planning, there are a number of specific steps it could take to improve its program in rural areas.

  1. Establish a Subsistence Division with the Department.
  2. Shift some of its efforts in wildlife research and management from the big game animals to species of fish and game like the black fish which is not as glamorous as a mountain goat or grizzly bear but nevertheless more important to the rural subsistence user.
  3. Seek new ways to involve rural subsistence users in the policy making and management process.
  4. Develop educational materials and programs that will promote the wise use of fish and game for subsistence purposes.
  5. Develop a program of replenishing depleted subsistence fish and game populations—this would include restocking salmon spawning streams, reintroducing beaver or rabbits in certain areas and similar efforts.
  6. After careful consideration of possible adverse effects, introduce species such as caribou which have a great subsistence value.
  7. Study proposed developments for their effects upon subsistence resources.

By far the most important goal for the State of Alaska to help perpetuate the subsistence resource base is to protect the State's fisheries from deteriorating any further. This will require a number of specific actions:

  1. International Treaties must be made to prevent foreign fishing operations from depleting Alaskan fisheries.
  2. Effective limited entry programs must be enforced to limit outside enterprises exploiting the fisheries in Alaskan waters.
  3. The State must initiate substantial fishery research and rehabilitation programs.
  4. The State must prohibit any activities that threaten to pollute spawning and rearing grounds of Alaskan fisheries.
  5. If a fishery becomes so depleted that several limits must be set on the catch, subsistence fishing must have priority over sport and commercial fishing.

Federal Wildlife Management:
Marine Mammals and Migratory Waterfowl

Marine Mammals

Although the State Department of Fish and Game has the primary responsibility for fish and game management within Alaska the Federal Government has management~ authority through the Departments of Interior and Commerce for several species which are vital to subsistence living on the Delta. These species are the migratory waterfowl that receive protection under international treaty and marine mammals which are protected by the Marine Mammal Act.

The Marine Mammal Act evolved out of a well intended concern of many Americans to end the commercial exploitation that was rapidly depleting some marine mammal species such as the great whales, polar bears and seals. In the rush to protect these species, legislation was nearly passed with language that would have prevented Native people from utilizing marine mammals like the seals and walrus which are in no danger of extinction and which are essential to the well being and very existence of Yupik and other Native people in Alaska. When the Marine Mammal Act was finally signed into law it prohibited the hunting of marine mammals except by Alaska Natives who need to do so in the course of their subsistence living. Further provisions of the Act allowed limited commercial use of marine mammals and gave the Secretary of the Interior the right to impose limits or a moratorium on Native use of certain marine mammal populations if such action is necessary to preserve the populations.

Can the Marine Mammal Act really protect both the productivity of marine mammal populations and the subsistence needs of the village people?

Two years after the Marine Mammal Act of 1972 was enacted, the U.S. House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries held hearings to evaluate the effectiveness of this law. Testifying for Yupiktak Bista, Harold Napoleon outlined how the act relates to current subsistence use of marine mammals in this region.

"Because the people directly concerned and involved and affected by the Sea Mammal Act were unable to come themselves and testify, I was sent here to testify in their behalf and give you their thoughts on the sea mammal legislation. Now there is no real problem as far as they are concerned with the Sea Mammal Act itself—there are several points they feel should be changed and I will get to that later in my testimony.

" I think before I go into that I'd like to talk a little bit about the use of the sea mammals by those villages on the coast and also those villages away from the coast. The primary mammal used by the people on our coast is the hair seal. The hair seal is used en toto, in other words, everything is used that is a part of the hair seal. The skin is used, the fat is used, the meat is used, the intestines are used—except for the bones which are inedible—those are not used. The fat is sent up the two rivers to those Eskimos further up the river and also carried to those villages in the interior further away from the coast—and also the villages on the coast. There is not that much walrus being caught on the coast of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. There are some taken at Nunivak Island and also on Nelson Island and further down toward the Kuskokwim, but very little walrus is caught on the Yukon Delta. Whenever walrus is caught, it is then used en toto.

" Walrus hides have never been used for dog food—that has always been consumed by the people that caught the walrus themselves. They don't eat the walrus hides the day they get it but they cook it and put it in barrels where it is stored for the rest of the year. The blubber they also use, along with the meat and the intestines and the fat. So you see, the walrus is used en toto.

" The Beluga, which is another mammal, is becoming rare in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. There was a time when there were a lot of Beluga going through our area, but not at this point. I think there's only one village that I know of this summer that has caught any Beluga—which is the white whale, they were plentiful at one time but now they are scarce; the reasons, I don't know.

"Now as far as the Sea Mammal Act is concerned, a regular family will average out about six hair seals each year—that's how much a family is going to use in a year—the meat they are going to dry or eat at that time. The fat they are going to store and the skins are going to be dried and used for mukluks, coats and whatever. However, the sea mammal legislation says that the people in the villages cannot sell unfinished skins.

" I think this was in part done to discourage the large taking of hair seal just to sell the skins but I think the opposite is true now. Say there is a village of 50 families and each of these families were to get six seals you'd have about 300 seal pelts in the village. Now in two years that would be 1,200 seal pelts in the village. Now it is true that the use of the pelts is not as widespread as it used to be, the people are not making their umiaks out of seal skins any more. They now have regular skiffs. They are not using seal skins to make their kayaks anymore. They're using canvas instead because it's a lot easier to work with.

" They are not able to manufacture a great number of seal skin products because they can't do that. Also, they can't get rid of these seal skins because they are not allowed to do so by the Act. Previously, in Kodiak, they did sell their raw skins to furriers in Seattle and other points. What they would like to see changed is that the take of the seals remain open as long as the family will use all the parts of that seal. In other words, if a family takes ten seals in one year it will take those seals with the knowledge that it is going to use those ten seals. But at the same time they should be able to make the best use of the pelts they are going to be getting from these seals. If it means making mukluks that's what they are going to do. But if it means selling them to furriers, that should also be open. Because if the people don't use these pelts they are going to waste in the village.

" This is their main point of objection. They are not saying the seals should be killed for the pelt, they are saying they should be allowed to take any number of seals they need and then make the best use of the pelts that they can.

" Also, as far as the State getting jurisdiction of the sea mammals, I don't know what the consensus is about the State taking over the control of the sea mammals, but for the most part I think that such a move would be beneficial not only to the people in the villages but also for the whole management of these species."6

In discussion after his testimony, Napoleon was questioned about wastefulness. Congressman John D. Dingell of Michigan said:

"Well the statute specifically says, Mr. Napoleon,... in each case is not accomplished in a wasteful manner. We expect that the Natives under that exemption will first of all, utilize for subsistence or for the very narrow craft purposes any animals under the exemption. We expect them not to be wasteful. We operate under the assumption that when they are going to go in business that they will then be bound by the same rules everybody else is bound by. I don't consider that to be unfair."6

To this Napoleon replied:

"As far as we know there has been no waste of the animals in the area that we come from. Maybe in the years when there was a bounty placed on the hair seal there might have been some waste because at this point they were actually encouraging people to go and kill a seal and they would pay $3 for fins. They automatically reversed from that stand to another stand which said you just couldn't do it unless you (avoided waste)—which is a reasonable change."

" ...Our people advocate the continued use of the seal for subsistence purposes. That is what they are mainly interested in. This is something I want to make clear that the majority of the people out there like sea mammal legislation because it does prohibit the wasteful use of seal. They don't like the selling of the seal skin—just to sell it to somebody else. They want to continue use of the sea mammal, and there is no waste on their part."6

Congressman John D. Dingell also asked what Yupiktak Bista thought of restrictions being placed upon Native taking of marine mammals that are endangered. To this Napoleon replied:

"...Such a policy would be good if that species was in fact endangered. But then again keeping open the possibility—well I think its always open—the possibility that a hungry man will kill whatever he can get his hands on. As far as the sea otter and the polar bear are concerned, I think if they are endangered, they should be protected."6

In summary, in this region at least, the Marine Mammal Act of 1972 provides a basic management approach which accomplishes two important things.

  1. It prohibits overexploitation and wasteful use of marine mammals by anyone, and in this way protects the subsistence resource.
  2. It allows subsistence use by people who truly depend upon the use of marine mammals.

The problems the Federal government and Native people have with the management of migratory waterfowl could be greatly reduced if policies similar to the Marine Mammal Act of 1972 were enacted to both protect the waterfowl and provide for the traditional, legitimate and non-wasteful use of these birds by village people.

Migratory Waterfowl

"As far as I can remember, my forefathers have lived off the land and they must live off the land now. In the springtime of the year we take goose eggs and duck eggs and geese. And all the year we do the same thing because we don't have money to buy white people's grub. We have to live off the land."
Joseph Albritez

Waterfowl have been important to Eskimo and Indian people for a long time.

"We can only surmise man's first encounter with the snow goose," writes Paul Johnsgard in Song of the North Wind... . It might have occurred as recently as 10,000 years, or perhaps as early as 25,000 B.C. For a period of about 10,000 years, or until about 13,000 years ago, a broad causeway was open to land travel between Asia and Northwestern North America in the form of the Bering land bridge. . . Along this causeway came a variety of land mammals, including the first humans ever to set foot on the North American continent... Both groups of immigrants (Indians and Eskimos) would live in peace and harmony with the snow goose."

The snow goose, canadian, emperor, white-fronted and brant geese, the ducks and swans, cranes and sea birds—all have been used for subsistence since the North American continent was first settled.

Over the thousands of years that people have lived on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta the relationship between the people and birds has been part of the balance of nature. The birds were hunted, used for clothing, depended upon for food. Each spring the people looked forward to the return of the ducks, geese and swans, and each year these birds returned in great numbers.

This relationship is much older than Western civilization. But does it have a place in the modern world?

A lot of people in this region think it should. As Ray Jenkins has said, "At Chafogtalik its hard to live in the winter. We catch only needle fish, besides that we have flour and tea. That's all we have to eat in the winter. When spring comes we are glad to see the birds come to their places, because we got something more to eat besides needlefish, flour and sugar."

Today this traditional use of waterfowl in our region, and by Native people elsewhere in Alaska, is threatened by two factors:

  1. State, Federal and international regulations and treaties are in conflict with traditional use of waterfowl.
  2. The populations of birds themselves are becoming threatened by such things as increased hunting pressures outside Alaska, pollution and the loss of habitat.

These problems have created an extremely emotional and desperate controversy which raises a number of questions.

Do Native people still need waterfowl?
Can existing rules and regulations permit subsistence use of waterfowl?
Is subsistence use of waterfowl compatible with sound waterfowl management?
How can conflicts between subsistence and sports use of waterfowl be resolved?

The problem of management and subsistence use of waterfowl is not a local problem. It is a problem that spreads over every river, lake, marsh, plain, grain field, and sea coast that the birds which nest on the Delta visit during their migrations. As the world has become heavily populated and industrialized the waterfowl populations have felt the pressure in their nesting, migrating and wintering areas. And the birds that nest on the Delta are particularly wide ranging, as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study summanzes:

"A total of 170 species of birds have been observed on the Yukon Delta. Of these, 136 probably nest there, and many are common migrants. A few visitors from Asia have been recorded infrequently. Only 13 species are year-round residents. During migration, some birds from the Yukon Delta probably reach most provinces of Canada, every state in the United States, every state of Mexico, all countries in Central and South America, Antarctica, virtually all of the Pacific Islands, all Asian countries bordering the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand."

Roughly speaking, that is the extent of the problem. In these different parts of the world the problems of subsistence use of migratory waterfowl on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta surfaces in two forms: The ever-increasing hunting pressures pollution and loss of habitat on one hand; and the formulation and enforcement of treaties and regulations, which often disregard Indian and Eskimo subsistence needs, on the other.

A fairly objective summary of Native subsistence use of migratory waterfowl, management objectives and the string of legislation and treaties that relate to subsistence use of waterfowl has been made by Albert Day in a report to the Director of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. Titled Northern Natives, Migratory Birds and international Treaties, the report was prepared in 1969, but has been classified confidential and never made available to the public. Day's report begins:

"Since the beginning of time, the Eskimos and Indians of the Far North have looked with longing anticipation to the return of spring, when great flocks of geese, ducks, and shorebirds return from their ancestral southern wintering grounds, build their nests on the tundra, and provide eggs and fresh meat for Natives. Winter diets of seal, whale, dried salmon and shee fish, with occasional caribou and moose meat for the lucky ones, are forgotten as fresh flesh and blood arrive once again. Although white-man's foods have replaced some of the ancient primitive diet, the return of migrant waterfowl is a gala occasion as long Arctic winters lose their grip on the Northland.

" Historically, the Alaska Native has been totally dependent upon the resources of the land for his livelihood and existence. Meat of various mammalian species taken on land or sea, or of birds, migratory and resident, or of fish, remains to this day the basic diet. Prior to the arrival of the white man, meat was consumed to the exclusion of all other food items except occasional native plants. The Eskimo food quest was thus centered wholly in the wildlife of the region. It is this, in its various manifestations, which underlies his adjustments in ecology and culture.

"Spring celebrations attracted several groups or villages together for 'drives' on molting waterfowl where hundreds and even thousands of birds could be obtained easily."

"Because food gathering is the foremost motivation, and mammals, birds and fish form the basic source of livelihood, the hunter is the leader of the community. A man's standing within his group or community is directly related to his success as a good food gatherer.
" In bird hunting, the Alaska Native tends to be selective. Fowl that form an important part of the Native diet are principally ducks and geese, and their capture becomes the chief preoccupation for that part of the year when they are abundant and available—principally during the spring nesting season and the later flightless molts.

" Prior to the introduction of firearms, waterfowl were harvested by primitive, ingenious means. Baleen nets were stretched in narrow passes or at headlands where birds flew low during migration. Bolas were thrown, nets were placed in lakes to enmesh diving ducks; spears and clubs were used on flightless, molting waterfowl; and snares were used for ptarmigan, owls and gulls.

" Women and children participated in harvesting this wealth from the tundra by gathering eggs. In some areas, sled dogs were turned loose to fend for themselves during the summer, subsisting mainly on flightless birds and eggs. Village location, in some cases, was dictated by the closeness to nesting concentrations or to lakes where large numbers of ducks or geese molted. Spring celebrations attracted several groups or villages together for drives on molting waterfowl where hundreds and even thousands of birds could be obtained easily. Colonial nesting sea birds were hunted for meat, eggs and skins.

"Traditionally, Eskimos move their villages to 'spring-camp' by dog team in early spring—locations where migratory waterfowl are easily taken and fishing through the ice and after breakup is good. The first ducks are eaten with gusto— usually raw—for, in some areas, this is the first fresh meat consumed since the previous fall. Fish, dried or fresh, has been the mainstay dish during the long winter months.

"Besides providing meat for food and skins for clothing, Waterfowl have always been deeply involved in Native folklore and mythology. Bird beaks, bones and feathers adorn ceremonial dress and masks, and the lore of birds is prominent in stories of Eskimo ancestors. The computation of time is on a lunar basis consisting of 13 months. The Eskimo word for May is 'Tonmeretutkeraat' meaning 'Geese Come' for August 'Ecerreat' meaning 'Ducks Lack Feathers.'

" King remarks that the prohibition against the Natives taking waterfowl in spring and summer months is to an Eskimo youngster more tragic than telling white kids in the States that they must stop hunting colored eggs at Eastertime, or forego Christmas trees during Yule celebrations.

" Hunting methods have changed with the passage of time and the introduction of white man's culture. Bolas, spears and baleen webs have been replaced by high-powered shotguns and nylon nets. In most areas, dog teams have given way to mechanical marsh buggies, snow machines, fast-shallow draft boats with high-powered outboards, and even airplanes on skis and floats. Yet, these modern devices require hard cash—a commodity in very short supply among Native hunters — so traditional practices persist over most areas of the Eskimo country. The Native dependence on fish and game remains the same in the smaller, remote villages.

" During recent years, important changes have gradually occurred. Official Federal and State agencies have increased their observations of the extent and importance of Alaskan waterfowl breeding grounds. Aerial transect surveys of the principal concentrations were initiated in 1957, ten years later than those established for the Prairie Provinces of Canada, for for the Dakotas, Minnesota and other important more southernly nesting grounds. These observations revealed the great importance of Alaska as a nursery ground for many species important to other State and Canadian sportsmen.

" Management of the total continental population, and some species in particular has become increasingly significant as drainage of pot holes and marshes in Canada and the northern States has proceeded unabated, as hunting demands have intensified and as periodic drouths have exerted greater pressure on the nesting marshes that have so far escaped the plow, the ditcher, the new highways, and other inroads of an expanding economy.

"The prohibition against the Natives taking waterfowl in spring and summer months is to an Eskimo youngster more tragic than telling white kids they must forego Christmas trees."

"Furthermore, the legitimate demands of the Eskimos are changing. Around some towns and villages having a good economic base, such as Barrow, Fairbanks, Anchorage and to a lesser degree, Bethel, there is much less need for Natives to hunt for food than in the hinterlands.

" Central to the current problem is the Migratory Birds Treaty, negotiated with Great Britain, pertaining to Canada, in December 1916. A similar treaty between the United States and the United Mexican States was negotiated in March 1937. Thus, Federal responsibilities have long given protection and management to migratory birds over the entire North American Continent, from the Caribbean Sea to the Arctic Ocean.

" Both treaties provide for closed seasons and prohibit sale and traffic in wild birds. Of particular importance to the Alaska problem, they

  1. Limit the season for hunting in the Treaty with Great Britain to three and one-half months.
  2. Establish firm closed seasons between March 10 and September 1, in both treaties.
  3. The Treaty with Great Britain provides that Eskimo and Indians may take at any season auks, auklets; guillemots, murres and puffins and their eggs for food and their skins for clothing, but prohibits sale. Indians are permitted to take scoters at any time for food.

None of these restrictions recognize the actual needs of the Alaska Natives in 1916, nor do they now.

"The legislative history of waterfowl management in Alaska is discussed in detail elsewhere in this report, but a brief resume here will demonstrate the legal inconsistencies and contradictions which are, in large part, responsible for the present conflict.


  1. The first effective Federal law was enacted in 1902, largely to halt commerce in wild game. It specified that game could be killed for food at any time by Eskimos, Indians, miners, explorers or travelers when in need of food. Significantly, the great Alaska gold rush occurred in 1898.

"If you don't think it's hard to live off the land, why don't you guys leave your money behind and go out there?"

  1. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916 with Great Britain, contains no special provision for Native take except as specified above; i.e.— murres, puffins, etc., and seasons other than March 10 to September 1, and for Indians, scoters at any time.
  2. The Federal Alaska Game Law of 1925 made provision for Indians, Eskimos, prospectors or travelers to take animals or birds when there was "absolute need of food and other food is not available." It was under this authority that the Secretary, through the Alaska Game Commission, took care of the Native problem.
  3. The Alaska Statehood Act of 1958 repealed all Federal authority in the waterfowl field except research, administration of refuges, and enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty provisions.

    " The State Fish and Game Code, adopted following Statehood, permits the taking of game except migratory birds (italics supplied) during any season in case of dire emergency. It provides that the taking of migratory birds shall be in accordance with the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Federal regulations.

    " The new Alaska Constitution provides that 'All persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities and protection under the law,' and that; 'all persons have corresponding obligations to the people of the State."
  4. Federal authority in Alaska since Statehood is limited to the provisions of the Treaty which outlaw all hunting between March 10 and September 1, each year, and to a season which cannot exceed three and one half months. Thus, legally the situation is now in worse shape than it has ever been in the entire history of Alaska.

    " The gradual changes in conditions which had occurred during the past decade, the new knowledge of the importance of Alaska breeding grounds to the Continental population of waterfowl, the improvement in Native living conditions around such towns as Bethel, Barrow, Anchorage and Fairbanks, and the changed legal requirements brought about by Statehood and the Alaska Game Code—all pointed to a need for stricter enforcement of the Treaty provisions.

    " With these things in mind, the Bureau in May 1960, issued an enforcement guideline that considered the varying degrees of progress, cultural changes and dependence on waterfowl for food among the Native peoples of the State. No heavy-handed enforcement effort was contemplated, but rather an attempt was to be made to gradually increase the emphasis on protection as required by the Treaty.

    " Educational effort was to be stressed to encourage awareness of the conservation needs as a necessary step to compliance. Meetings were held in all of the major Native villages of the State during the next 12 months, 57 in number....

    " Enforcement in the spring of 1961 following the series of meetings met organized resistance in the "progressive" areas. Bureau personnel at. . . (Bethel) were fired upon—something that no law enforcement officer can take lightly. At Barrow, after such an incident and arrests of three violators were made, another 138 Eskimos deliberately turned themselves in with one eider duck each in their possession. At a subsequent meeting 300 Barrow Natives signed a petition asking President Kennedy to issue emergency regulations permitting them to hunt migratory waterfowl for food at any time of the year, and if enforcement against them to prevent this was to take place thereafter, to seek a change in the convention."

The convention was not changed. The regulations persuant to the Treaty have not been modified to permit subsistence use of waterfowl. However, the need to make provisions for legitimate subsistence use of migratory waterfowl has been clearly stated many times by village people.

When the Bureau of Land Management held hearings in Bethel in 1956 on the Kuskokwim Withdrawal Area (which became the Clarence Rhodes National Wildlife Refuge) the following statements were among those made by village people. Their intent remains as true today as it was then.

JOE FRIDAY: (Mr. Romer's interpretation)—"Out at Chevak where he came from, they don't have any money or any way of earning money. They have to live off the land, so it doesn't matter whether the season is closed or open, they still have to live off the land. If you don't think it's hard to live off the land, why don't you guys leave your money behind and go out there and see if you can live off the land?"3

JOSHUA PHILLIP: (Mr. Romer's interpretation)—"He says in the spring of the year when they go out to their hunting ground they are short of food and when the geese come they have to kill the geese in order to live until they start catching muskrats and other animals they can eat.., they just kill enough geese for their own use in the spring of the year."3

MAXIE ALSTIK: (Mr. Romer's interpretation)—"When the Natives go hunting in the fall they live off the land. In the spring of the year when they run short of grub or food, they go out there and kill anything so their kids won't go hungry, He says if you people came here to make a refuge or try to take the land away from these people—it's like taking food away from their children. It is like taking food away from somebody that is going to eat."3

MR. MICHAEL: "I have a personal distrust of the Fish and Wildlife Service. I don't want any promises made to me or to my people unless I can see them in the game book. We have a game book, but I distrust the Fish and Wildlife agents on the reason that we are promised right tonight at this meeting that come what may, next year whoever take eggs, you go to jail, and I have to survive on that. My kids and I have to survive on that. I'm speaking for myself and countless other men, all people. We don't want to break the law. We don't want to make so many laws here that we can break them so easily that we can get in jail. No, we don't want that, but the people here during the springtime have a very tough type of life."3

The strong feelings of village people and the reasons for providing for their subsistence needs in regulations were reinforced by a Report to the Secretary of the Interior by the Task Force on Alaska Native Affairs in December 1962. The Task Force made the following comments and recommendations about migratory waterfowl.

"We don't want to make so many laws here that we can break them so easily that we can get in jail"

"Judging from the comments made by some non-Natives, there is a feeling that because Eskimos and Indians now hunt birds with shotguns rather than with nets and snares, because their fish hooks are of steel rather than bone and wood, and because they hunt whales with explosive devices instead of harpoons with bone heads, that hunting and fishing are noncommercial pursuits or sport rather than subsistence activities upon which the Natives depend in order to secure raw materials for their food and clothing. Although modern technology has indeed improved the efficiency of the Native fisherman and hunter, this technology has not necessarily made him less dependent on wild game and fish.

" In all of the Eskimo and Athabascan villages visited by members of the Task Force, comment was made to the effect that the season on migratory birds should be open during the spring.

"Many Eskimos stated that simply winking at law violations is not the way to solve the problem, for this, in essence, makes the Natives and the Fish and Wildlife Service parties to violation of an international agreement."

"Early in 1961, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service turned its attention to stricter enforcement of the Treaty, arresting some Natives for illegal possession of ducks and geese. The result was near panic in several villages. In May of 1961, Governor Egan directed a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, pointing out that the relatively few Alaskan Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts were not a threat to the preservation of migratory birds. He emphasized that the slaughter of birds by sportsmen far south of Alaska breeding grounds had resulted in the original treaty, the enforcement of which would threaten the very existence of Natives in some of the villages...

" After receiving this letter (Governor Egan's) and studying the matter further, the Department of the Interior abandoned its program of aggressive enforcement against Native subsistence hunters."

" However.., many Eskimos stated that simply winking at law violations is not the way to solve the problem, for this, in essence, makes the Natives and the Fish and Wildlife Service parties to violation of an international agreement."

"Although modern technology has indeed improved the efficiency of the Native fisherman and hunter, this technology has not necessarily made him less dependent on wild game and fish."

"Task Force Recommendations

" No. 2 The urgent need for a reexamination of the terms of the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty to determine whether relief for the Alaska Natives can be obtained administratively, or whether the Department of the Interior should seek to have the treaty amended."

No modifications to provide for subsistence use of migratory waterfowl were made in the regulations or the Treaty as a result of this Task Force study in 1961. Nor did any of the needed modifications come from the 1969 Day Report.

It is now 1975. It is still illegal for Yupik people to use migratory waterfowl as their ancestors did. The law still forces village people to either stop using these birds as their forefathers did or to break the law. In this way the Treaty and its regulations continue to promote cultural extermination.

The law may not be rigorously enforced in the rural areas, but as one Fish and Wildlife Service official has put it, "The day will come when we will have to enforce these regulations." Should an attempt be made at this time to amend the Treaty? Albert Day concluded his report with a discussion of this question which remains relevant today.

The Answer— The Evidence

It seems abundantly clear that the Migratory Bird Treaty negotiated with Great Britain and signed in 1916—more than fifty years ago—was lacking then as it is now in its provisions for meeting the needs of the aboriginal peoples of the Far North.

Search of the literature reveals that practically no thought was given to the Native Indians and Eskimos who for untold generations have relied heavily on fish and wildlife for their food, clothing, heat, and other requirements of human life in an exceedingly hostile environment.

The only logical conclusion is that little was known in those days of the distribution of nesting waterfowl nor the dependence of the Natives on them for food and clothing.

Neither Canada nor the United States in Alaska has ever enforced the strict provisions of the Treaty in areas where the Native Indians and Eskimos actually need waterfowl for food. Such arrests that have been made were either for waste or around centers of population where there is no longer a need due to changes in living conditions such as Bethel and Barrow in Alaska and a few similar places in Canada. The administrative agencies have always been most tolerant and sensible in enforcement policies where need exists. The evidence demonstrates quite clearly that there is still a real need for a continuancy of this liberal policy where need exists...

The numerous citations and comments compiled earlier in this report gives substantial evidence that the Eskimo spring and summer harvest of migratory birds in Western Alaska has had little effect on the continental supply of birds of interest to sportsmen elsewhere in the United States and Canada.

Later, on August 28, 1925, the Secretary of Interior issued Regulation 8 which states: "An Indian, Eskimo, or half-breed who has not severed his tribal relations by adopting a civilized mode of living or by exercising the right of franchise, and an explorer, prospector or traveler may take animals or birds in any part of the Territory at any time for food when in absolute need of food and other food is not available, but he shall not ship or sell any animal or part thereof so taken." This regulation stood without challenge from 1925 until it was repealed by the Alaska Statehood Act of 1958, when it was supplanted by a new regulation, almost identical, in the State of Alaska Statutes.

"The Migratory Treaty was enacted to protect birds... but that does not imply the starvation of human beings in the process."

The Office of the Assistant Solicitor feels that the principles enunciated in Regulation 8 are basic. They express the Law of Nature or the Law of Survival and that, no court would hold to the contrary, regardless of the restrictive provisions dealing with the length and dates of the closed seasons.

They comment, "The Migratory Treaty was enacted to protect birds—but that does not imply the starvation of human beings in the process."

They also point out that Section 3 of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 grants wide authority to regulate.

There is the same basic authority now that was there in 1925 to legally recognize the legitimate needs of the Eskimos and Indians of the Far North.

Amend the Treaty?

Amending the Migratory Bird Treaty poses some real problems. Canadian officials point out that the actual process of such a procedure has not even been explored. The 1916 Treaty was made between the United States and Great Britain, and Canada was not granted treaty-making powers until 1932.

Also in Canada the separatist movement in Quebec might cause serious difficulties and lead to the possibility of Quebec demanding a separate treaty between that Province and the United States. Also, the Indian situation in Canada is in ferment as it is elsewhere, and tampering with the Treaty might well be risky. Dr. Munro sums the matter up succinctly when he comments that the idea is, "not appealing."

Also on the U.S. side, there are other serious complications. Should the strict prohibitions against open seasons be changed in the 1916 Treaty, the Mexican Treaty of 1937, containing similar restrictions would still be in force. Any attempt to alter this Treaty would be fraught with danger.

"The Convention Between the United States of America and Other American Republics," signed in 1940 for this government by President Franklin D. Roosevelt does not appear to apply, but should be examined by legal experts if consideration is given to amending the Migratory Bird Treaty with Great Britain. It involves the countries of Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela.

Amend the Regulations?

The logical course to resolve the present dilemma would appear to be a simple amendment to the Federal Regulations, based on the authority contained in Section 3 of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

This might take the form of:

  1. An administrative finding by the Secretary that Alaska Native populations north of the Alaska Range are in dire need of migratory waterfowl for food for their survival and well-being except near centers of population and industry.
  2. Areas where such need does not exist could be delineated, subject to change from time to time as conditions warrant. Such areas would be designated within a predetermined radius near such settlements as Bethel, Nome, Barrow and Fairbanks.
  3. Restrictions against the taking of endangered species or those in short supply would be promulgated in addition to the area restrictions. This would take care of such species as the Whitefronted geese, presently reaching a critical stage.
  4. Elsewhere, the old Regulation 8 of the Alaska Game Law would be reinstated providing, "Eskimos, Indians, and those of mixed blood who have not adopted a civilized mode of living, explorers, prospectors or travelers, may take migratory birds at any time for food when in absolute need of food and other food is not available, but shall not ship or sell any animal or part thereof so taken.

Such a regulation would restore the same authority that was in effect between 1925 and 1958, it would recognize the situation as it exists today and would legally grant a return to sensible recognition of the legitimate needs of the Alaska Eskimos.

Should the Treaty and regulations be amended? Or should the status quo continue with everyone more or less turning their back on the traditional subsistence uses of waterfowl? This may appear to be practical, but is it right that people should have to worry about when a new directive from Washington D.C. might bring a renewed crackdown on subsistence waterfowl hunting on the Delta? Should people have to live in fear of being arrested, losing their guns, being fined, or sent to jail if they continue traditional spring hunting of migratory waterfowl? In the past, many people have been forced to become stealthy and evasive in order to continue this subsistence activity. People have lost respect for wildlife management regulations and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yupiktak Bista proposes that migratory waterfowl be managed in a way that can be respected by everyone.

A well planned effort to either modify the regulations or amend the Treaty should be developed to accomplish these things.

  1. Traditional uses of migratory waterfowl should be permitted when there is a legitimate subsistence need.
  2. Neither subsistence or sport hunting of migratory waterfowl should be permitted to deplete the populations of birds.

If regulations would assure village people the right to subsistence hunt waterfowl with the possibility of limits if the bird populations begin to decline, people would be able to understand and respect the waterfowl laws. It is likely that many village people would want to become more involved in the wise management of migratory waterfowl.

What if there is no way to amend the Treaty or modify the regulations?

Even though there is an overwhelming argument for changing the legal status of subsistence hunting of migratory waterfowl which many Fish and Wildlife Service officials support, it simply may not be possible to amend the Treaty in the foreseeable future. The primary reason is the difficulty in obtaining ratification of a new treaty by all parties which would include Mexico and all the Canadian provinces. When the Department of Interior recently asked the State Department to assist in arranging changes to the Treaty regulations, the Canadian government refused to agree to changes that appeared to be in conflict with the Treaty. As for amending the Treaty itself, it became apparent that some Candian provinces which view migratory waterfowl as predators to grain crops would probably not agree to ratify a new treaty which provided adequate protection for the migrating waterfowl.

If the Treaty and regulations can not be modified, then other ways must be found to manage migratory waterfowl on sound conservation principles while not foreclosing on legitimate, traditional uses of migratory waterfowl.

Some have suggested that there are aboriginal hunting and fishing rights that come from times long before the Treaty. Others argue that any such rights that may have existed were apparently extinguished by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

"Isn't there a basic right to subsist, to live as one has to, which goes beyond the intent and authority of all the layers of treaties, laws and regulations?"

But, isn't there a basic right to subsist, to live as one has to, which goes beyond the intent and authority of all the layers of treaties, laws and regulations that have been piled upon the Native people who simply want to continue hunting waterfowl as their ancestors did?

"The lawyers are at it again."

In speaking of legal mechanisms that might be attached to a subsistence open to entry program, Anchorage lawyer, Robert Goldberg raised some considerations to the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission which are pertinent to the discussion of waterfowl management. He said in part:

"We have taken what has basically been an activity which has survived for thousands of years and burdened it with all the best devices that the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence and common law can impose, and that is to say, the lawyers are at it again.

"If you look at this kind of framework of regulation involving an activity so clearly vital to such a large group of people, you see that we are placing a real layer of legal activity, definitional activity, and administrative activity on top of a human activity. Subsistence hunting and fishing, which is a rather simple activity perhaps simply cannot support this legal definition and administrative burden.

" I can foresee, if we elect some sort of process of this type of definition, of this type of management scheme, great investments made by all parties concerned. In technical expertise, in legal expertise, I can see arguments before commissions, I can see very high costs in monitoring, and I can see somewhere along the way losing a sense of what this is all about and what we were trying to do as we approached this whole question of subsistence use.

" ... I think it is important to recognize that a case can be made, notwithstanding the language of the Native Claims Act, that a strong case, I believe, can be made to constitutionally support subsistence hunting.

" At the very least, it seems to me, if this is the only alternative that is open to a person to meet his daily needs of protein, to support him physically, then there can be no question that he is entitled constitutionally...

" ...If subsistence means more than merely everyday providing all the basic protein of food sources for people, it may also still be protected. Subsistence is a means of cultural expression, as we have heard it described and we all recognize. This is also still constitutionally protected."

Assuming that subsistence hunting of migratory waterfowl will remain wrapped in legal controversy for some time, there are nevertheless a number of management actions which might be taken to help relieve the problem.

"There are many people in the villages who are capable and well-qualified in ways other than college degrees to handle wildlife refuge responsibilities."

  1. The Fish and Wildlife Service should seek new ways to involve Native people in the policy making of the wildlife refuges. The village people could begin assuming the responsibility of making certain the waterfowl populations were not overhunted. Such involvement of village people in waterfowl management could develop from the Joint Management Agreement (discussed in detail in the Land Use Planning Chapter). A management contract with villages or a regional organization such as Nunam Kitlutsisti, (The Protectors of the Land) might be developed to assure that migratory waterfowl are taken only in cases of true need and that the productivity of the waterfowl populations is never eroded by subsistence hunting. An example of the caution village people could contribute to waterfowl management is an incident in the spring of 1974 in which one village contacted Nunam Kitlutsisti with a complaint that Native people from Bethel who were wealthy enough to fly out to goose hunt obviously didn't have to in order to live and should not be allowed to if such hunting might deplete the number of birds.
  2. The Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort possible to recruit, train and employ local people for refuge research and operations. There are many people in the villages who are capable and well-qualified in ways other than college degrees to handle wildlife refuge responsibilities.
  3. The Fish and Wildlife Service must continually monitor the various waterfowl populations so that if a certain population begins to decline this problem can be caught and remedied in time.
  4. If the population of certain waterfowl species begins to decline, the Fish and Wildlife Service should carefully examine the effects of sports hunting outside Alaska on this population. If the hunting for sport rather than subsistence is contributing to the decline of a certain population of waterfowl, this sports hunting should be restricted.
  5. Care should be taken by the State and Federal governments not to permit activities and developments along the migratory pathways which would endanger the waterfowl populations. Such activities would include hydroelectric projects that might eliminate habitat and off shore oil production and transportation that could create damaging pollution.
  6. In places where additional critical habitat is needed to protect the waterfowl along the migratory routes the Federal government should move to purchase the needed habitat for inclusion within the Refuge system.
  7. Educational programs should be initiated to develop a better understanding of the relationship between Native people and waterfowl. Film, video tape, and printed material could be utilized to show how Native subsistence use of waterfowl is compatible with wildlife refuge objectives in protecting waterfowl population and habitat. Educational and informational presentations could also help communicate wildlife management objectives and policies in the villages.
  8. Educational programs should be developed for use in villages to communicate some of the wildlife conservation practices that have become necessary in modern times. Village people have a great concern that the land and wildlife populations always be productive. To protect this productivity they must be aware of modern conservation practices that can be used to avoid modern environmental problems.

International Management of Subsistence Resources

Unlike the more civilized people of the earth, fish, birds and animals don't check the lines and boundaries of maps to know where they are and where they are going. They generally wander about as they please, and as they must to survive. Their wanderings usually follow patterns of seasonal migration that have evolved over thousands of years. And these migrations take many kinds of birds, animals and fish to different continents and oceans, through the territory of many countries and out over the no-man's-land of the open sea.

Each year seals and walrus follow the breaking up of forming of the ice pack as they travel north and south with ocean currents that pass through U.S. territory, Russian territory and the international territory of the high seas. Many fish, such as salmon, herring, and whitefish live both in the open ocean and in the rivers streams and lakes of Alaska where they spawn. Waterfowl that nest on the Delta are particularly wide-ranged. As these birds, animals and fish pass through the territory of different countries they become subject to both the management regulations and the exploitation of the areas they pass through.

Some species, such as the migratory waterfowl and seals, are carefully protected from over exploitation by international treaty. But the great marine mammals—the walrus and whales—and the ocean traveling fish are often subject to the most ruthless kind of exploitation: first come, first served, take as much as you can. As worldwide demands for more food from the sea become more extreme, the exploitation of the seas will become more acute. Along with the need for more food from the sea will come more industrialization which produces more waste materials which eventually end up in the sea, often polluting the ocean waters with materials very destructive to life. Oceanographer Jacques Costeau estimated in 1972 that commercial exploitation and pollution of the seas had already destroyed over 50 per cent of the life in the oceans. This loss of the life and productivity of the sea is almost certain to increase in the future.

If the living things of the sea continue to disappear, our people will also disappear. The Yupik culture is tied to the sea. Like our ancestors, we depend upon the sea for seals., walrus, and whales, for salmon, herring and whitefish. Thousands of years before Christ was born we were living with the sea, getting our oil from seals, drying salmon in summer to have food in winter. People say that we lived in harmony with nature, in balance with what the earth could provide, but we did not think of it that way because this was just the natural way to live. We could not conceive of destroying the life of the sea and land. But now Western civilization, which apparently can not live without laying waste to the natural world, has become dominant. Everyday we hear and see and feel the Western world grinding away at the earth's web of life, steadily killing off the life of the rivers, tundra, forests, rivers, lakes and sea. We are particularly vulnerable to the exploitation and pollution of the sea. As a part of the life of the sea dies, a part of ourselves dies.

"If the living things of the sea continue to disappear, our people will also disappear."

We do not want to believe what history shows us. The large numbers of spawning salmon that once went up the Rhine are gone forever from this great river that flows now like an open sewage canal through Europe. Japan, an island in the sea that has always been closely tied to the sea, now has some coastal waters that are so polluted that eating fish and other foods from these waters can cause people to be stricken with fatal diseases and babies to be born deformed. The great whales are nearly gone, hunted to extinction. The Atlantic salmon is gone. And just to the south of us the great Bristol Bay salmon fishery has collapsed because of over fishing. All experience shows us that Western civilization will eventually destroy the life of the sea and rivers in our region. But we cannot accept this as inevitable, even though there is no rational reason to believe otherwise.

"Thousands of years before Christ was born we were living with the sea, getting our oil from seals, drying salmon in summer to have food in winter."

Is there any way at all to alter this course of events? We don't care to change the world, we just want to bend the course of history a little bit; just enough to allow life to continue in our region. To do this we will have to communicate and seek agreements with other countries of the world. But if we are frustrated in communicating the needs and problems of our region to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, how can we hope to communicate and bring about change on the international level? If it is all but impossible to get some empathy and meaningful responses to our problems from Juneau and Anchorage, how can we hope to find the response in Seoul; Tokyo, and Moscow that is needed to stop the destruction of the seas?

Perhaps there is no way to halt the world wide destruction of fish and wildlife.

If there is a way, it will be found in increased research and careful management. In addition to waterfowl management efforts already discussed, the following considerations should be made regarding marine mammals fisheries and pollution.

Marine Mammals

The Marine Mammal Act protects the animals of the sea from exploitation by U.S. commercial interests, but carries no restriction on the activities of foreign interests. Fur seals are covered by international treaty. Otherwise, there is no international protection of marine mammals.

In the spring, walrus travel north with the currents of the Bering Sea. As the ice pack breaks up, men in some of the coastal villages take to the opening sea in skiffs to hunt walrus for the meat, skin and ivory. This hunting is strictly subsistence. Except for some ivory carvings, which may be sold in keeping with the Marine Mammal Act, a captured walrus is usually used entirely within the village. At one time, the walrus population declined severely as a result of overhunting by commercial interests coming from outside Alaska. Today, the walrus population has nearly reached its former size. However, since there is no international law or treaty limiting the harvesting of walrus by other countries, walrus could once again become endangered if seafaring countries like Japan and Russia began taking more of these animals. An international treaty should be formulated and adopted to protect walrus populations from a resurgence of commercial harvesting.

Whales have also always been of great importance to Eskimo people. In the north, the great bowhead whales are hunted each spring by Inupiat Eskimos. In our region, it is the smaller beluga whales that are of greater importance to the subsistence way of life. Presently there is no effective international protection for any whales, and some countries, Japan in particular, have extremely modern and effective commercial whaling operations which have brought some species of whales to the verge of extinction. This exploitation must be stopped. And it can be stopped only by adopting and enforcing a strong international treaty. Even though the United Nations World Environmental Conference adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on commercial whaling, the International Whaling Commission has refused to adopt a moratorium or any effective research and management policy for whales. This is due not only to the resistance of countries like Japan to limit commercial whaling but also to the reluctance of countries like the United States to forcibly negotiate the issue. Nevertheless, an international treaty must be adopted and it must be adopted before the world's whale populations have declined beyond the point of no return.

"We don't care to change the world, we just want to bend the course of history... enough to allow life to continue in our region."

To develop international treaties that would protect walrus and whales will take some time and effort. The following are some practical steps that could lead to such treaties:

  1. The State of Alaska should fund a study and a film as communication tools to define and relate both the importance of walrus and whales to Alaskans and the need for international protection.
  2. The Alaska State Legislature could resolve to promote such treaties.
  3. The Alaskan congressional delegation should pursue the formulation of such treaties with Congress and the State Department.
  4. The State of Alaska should consider economic sanctions against any country which commercially exploits marine mammals that are important for Native subsistence use.


Although pollution sometimes strikes in dramatic and obviously destructive blows, such as the wrecking of an oil tanker, it is the chronic, gradual, day by day, year by year, build up of wastes in the world's oceans that is the most lethal. On the State level, Alaska must be extremely careful and often restrictive to prevent offshore oil drilling and the transport of oil over the seas from polluting the ocean. This responsibility is naturally shared by the Federal government which should become more effective in curtailing marine pollution. On the international level, there are several steps that Alaska can take to ward off pollution in the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

  1. Alaska should work toward careful regulation of oil and gas exploration, development and transportation in both the Canadian and Russian Arctic.
  2. A process of carefully monitoring chronic oceanic pollution should be established for all waters off the coast of Alaska.
  3. The State of Alaska and the Federal government should join with other circumpolar and North Pacific nations in cooperative research and regulatory efforts that will eliminate pollution of the seas.


Overfishing is the greatest danger facing the productivity of Alaskan waters today. And the potential loss of subsistence fisheries is probably the greatest threat to the subsistence way of life today. The experience of Bristol Bay should be a well-heeded warning. In 1974 the once great Bristol Bay fishery was at first closed to commercial fishing and strict limits were even set on subsistence fishing. Although a short commercial season was finally opened in Bristol Bay in 1974, this fishery has been reduced by over exploitation to a fraction of its original proportions. There is much that the State of Alaska must do in the way of limited entry laws and fishery research and rehabilitation. There is also much the State and Federal governments must do to limit the commercial fishing of foreign fleets that pose an extremely serious threat to the North Pacific fisheries.

  1. International treaties must be vigorously pursued with countries such as Japan, North and South Korea and Russia which place excessive demands on these fisheries.

"Native regional corporations and fishing enterprises should consider refusing to do business of any sort with Japan until that country adopts responsible fishery policies."

  1. To encourage needed treaties and agreements and to otherwise halt the over-exploitation of these fisheries, the State of Alaska and the Federal government should employ economic sanctions against countries that are depleting these fisheries. Since Alaska is seen as a source of raw materials such as wood, oil, and hard rock minerals by Japan and other countries, the availability of these natural resources might be restricted when nations allow their fishing industries to exploit the seas. Alaska is in a good position to wield economic power much as Arab countries are wielding the economic power of their oil exports.
  2. Individuals and private enterprises should explore the effectiveness of boycotting imports and exports to and from nations which exploit the fisheries. For example, since the Japanese fishing industry is apparently responsible for much of the over-harvesting of North Pacific fisheries, Native regional corporations and fishing enterprises should consider refusing to do business of any sort with Japan until that country adopts responsible fishery policies. If only one or two enterprises refused to sell raw products to Japan, this type of effort would not succeed. However, a well organized effort that prohibited the exportation of oil, wood products and fish to Japan until responsible policies were adopted might well succeed.
  3. Foreign contributions to fishery research and rehabilitation programs. Countries which utilize high seas fisheries should invest in the sound management and development of the fisheries. This might be accomplished through the United Nations or by independent arrangements.

Local Management of Subsistence Resources

The people in the villages who depend upon fish and wildlife for subsistence have the most direct and perhaps most important role in managing these resources on a sustained yield basis. Traditionally, there was no need for special fish and game management efforts, but with the introduction of the Western way of life has come the need for local people to carefully protect the fish, birds and animals and their habitat. As new things such as roads, dams, industrial development, come to our area village people must learn to anticipate the effects these things may have upon the subsistence resource base. Knowledge of the effects of new developments must then be coupled with our traditional sense of avoiding waste, overharvesting, and disruption of the habitat. To protect our land from problems brought by Western civilization, village people must be aware of modern conservation practices and know how to use the various tools of environmental protection.

To cope with the problems of managing subsistence resources in the modern world we have begun a number of efforts which should be expanded and intensified in the future. Among the steps that have already been taken and those that should be taken on the local level are the following?

  1. The Association of Village Council Presidents has formed Nunam Kitlutsisti (The Protectors of the Land) to anticipate and avoid environmental and other subsistence related problems in our region. Through his village every Native person in our region is a member of Nunam Kitlutsisti which is directly governed by a board chosen from among the village council presidents and which has a working staff. The organization serves as a local check and balance for any new developments in the region.
  2. Calista Corporation has initiated a Department of Renewable Resources which will assist the Regional Corporation in its responsibilities in protecting and enhancing the subsistence resource base.
  3. A local Advisory board has been established by the Village Council Presidents to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service in protecting the regional environment and subsistence way of life.
  4. Local people need to become more involved in the policy formulation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
  5. Village magistrates and law enforcement officials might play a meaningful role in the management of fish and wildlife resources and the enforcement of any laws which protect the environment.
  6. The secondary and higher education systems should provide ample opportunities for young people in the region to develop skills and professions that are needed to manage subsistence resources. Such professions include wildlife biology, wildlife management, geography and economics.

Summary of Subsistence Priorities in Fish and Wildlife Management

As we have seen, the fish and wildlife problems that affect the subsistence way of life are numerous, complicated and inter-related. There is no single solution to the present problems. And there is no simple way to avoid problems that will arise in the future. Just as the problems come from many directions, so must the solutions come from many quarters. The key to perpetuating the subsistence resource base in our region and elsewhere lies in communication and cooperation from the local village level through the regional, State, national and international levels.

"My grandfather used to say before the white man came, the game was plentiful.... . The more white man come, the more people, the more population we have, the less game we gonna have here. And we'll be just like the lower United States... Actually, about 50 to 30 years from now, nobody is going to hunt no games around here, I don't think... Alaska will be so populated there will be no more place to hunt. If we don't preserve things, like if we don't stop the white man coming into our lands. I don't know, if this certain village here will make a law, but if we are together as a region. Not just Togiak. Let's see, Togiak, Dillingham, Goodnews, Bethel, or all over Alaska. If we stick together. Make a law to stay out of certain area. That's it. No white man can get in there. That's Eskimo land. If we keep that way, I think we preserve the land, we preserve the vegetation, preserve the game itself."
Peter Abraham, Togiak, 19742

Village people, like Peter Abraham of Togiak, are becoming painfully aware of the basic relationship between numbers of people and the abundance of fish and wildlife which Alaska's public policy makers have been either unable or unwilling to accept. But the time has come when Alaska has to come to terms with its growing population.

State policy makers must ask what benefits there are to what people if Alaska's population continues to grow? And it has to be asked: What will be lost, what people will be adversely affected if the State's population continues to grow indefinitely? Other states have learned the hard way that more people, bigger cities, more towns can bring more conflicts and undesirable changes than benefits. Being largely undeveloped, Alaska still has a chance to foresee the costs and benefits of larger urban and rural populations and then make policy decisions and establish some population objectives on the basis of what will be of most benefit to present Alaskans.

"The guy who is caught in the crunch is going to be the true subsistence user."

In our region, as elsewhere in Alaska, population issues are directly linked to subsistence issues. In fact, when Governor Jay Hammond was still a fisherman from Naknek he summed up the entire subsistence problem in rural areas as a population problem. He said:

"The problem as I see it, quite frankly, boils down simply to one thing—Alaska's problem currently is that we have too many people. Alaska is really over populated at this stage in time from these crucial standpoints. From the economic point of view we have the highest (I believe) unemployment rate in the nation. Obviously there are too many people impacting the fish and game resources of the State to sustain currently the subsistence needs of the people in the State, as well as an ever increasing sport hunting and fishing industry... What do we do about it?.. . If we go ahead with the normal industrialization development procedures along the lines that other states have progressed we're going to substantially increase the population in Alaska. Without a question, the guy who is caught in the crunch is going to be the true subsistence user."2

The main reason that this relationship between population and subsistence living has been overlooked in the past is the popularity of the "myth of never—ending abundance."

Because Alaska is vast, people have viewed it as a great cornucopia, forever providing great herds of caribou, flocks of migrating ducks and geese that darken the sky, and schools of fish that choke the spawning streams. In fact much of Alaska and vast stretches of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region have very sparse fish and game populations. At the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission's 1974 Subsistence Conference in Juneau wildlife biologist, Dr. Robert Weedon, began his discussion of subsistence by emphasizing

"...that the ability of the land to produce fish and game is very limited. When the sun shines on Alaska it allows all of the biological processes of life to go on, and it's that kind of limitation of sunlight, as you know around here, that set some severe upper ceilings as to how many meals we can get out of the country. It's very hard to estimate what this number of meals might be, but if you think back a couple of hundred years, there was a group of people around who had some chance to reach an equilibrium with the long term ability of the land to produce meals, and there were probably something like seventy to seventy-five thousand people here, Alaskan Natives. Most of them lived along the coast.., and it was this very reliable resource from the sea, and swimming upstream plus the supplementary resources that could be garnered from the countryside that allowed people to survive. My point is then that total biological productivity in Alaska for whoever wants to take advantage of it, for whatever beneficial purpose it's used, is limited.. . There are very few things we can do economically to increase that basic ceiling that nature has put on this hungry country of ours...."2

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is a hungry country. There is a very definite limit to the amount of fish and game the land and waters can support. Therefore there is a very definite limit to the utilization of these subsistence resources—a limit to the number of meals that can be taken from the land. The more people competing for the fish and game, the more pressure there will be on the subsistence resource populations and the harder it will be for a family that depends on subsistence hunting and fishing to live from the land.

Historically, the Yukon-Kuskokwim region supported between 15,000 and 25,000 people who were widely scattered along the coast and rivers. People traveled in small groups between hunting and fishing sites as the seasons changed. The number of people and their pattern of living maintained a balance with the subsistence resources of the region for some thousands of years. With the coming of white men came a variety of illnesses and infections which killed off perhaps as many as half of the Yupik people. Those who survived began grouping or centralizing around sites chosen for trading posts, missions, and later schools. Today, there are 53 villages in the region with a total of approximately 11,600 Native people and about 1,000 non-Natives. The centralizing of the people into villages has tended to concentrate subsistence hunting and fishing pressure in the vicinity of villages, but at the same time improved transportation methods such as snowmachines and motor boats have made remoter areas more accessible. The net effect of these two factors is that hunting and fishing activities are dispersed over the region more or less as they were before the coming of white men.

Improved equipment such as modern fishing gear and guns which are used in combination with traditional fish traps and harpoons have perhaps made the modern Eskimo hunter more efficient than his ancestors. It has been suggested by some that these new methods for subsistence living have created new pressures on the resources and somehow changed the whole pattern or meaning of subsistence. This theory holds that one hunter can now obtain many times the amount of fish and game that his great grandfather could. However, as long as the purpose of the hunting and fishing is subsistence, the factor determining pressure on fish and game populations is not efficiency of harvest but rather the need for food and how long the supply will last. An Eskimo family of five people today is not likely to be consuming more subsistence foods than an Eskimo family of five consumed 200 years ago. In fact, since most families use some store-bought food, the present day Eskimo is probably using less subsistence resources on a per capita basis than did his ancestors. Since there are still far fewer Yupik people today than there were originally, it can be assumed that the subsistence demands are less today than they were before.

"The number of people (in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region) and their pattern of living maintained a balance with the subsistence resources of the region for some thousands of years."

Some subsistence resources such as salmon and beaver have a definite commercial value and are utilized to obtain some cash. It is in the interests of all the village people that commercial use of fish and game not diminish their availability for subsistence consumption. This is an area of fish and game management in which the Department of Fish and Game should cooperate closely with the village people to maintain a sustained yield of subsistence resources.

Given the built-in limits for consumption of subsistence foods—a man can eat just so many black fish—we would not expect an adverse impact on subsistence resources until the Native population reached its original level. However, an increased Native population (and the birth rate on the Delta is one of the highest in the world) may come in conflict with available subsistence resources in the future.

In considering the impact of increasing rural populations on fish and wildlife resources wildlife biologist Dr. Charles Evans has cautioned that:

"From a very practical standpoint, the land entitlement of the Yupik under the Claims Act will be only a fraction of the lands that were available to them for subsistence before non-Native encroachment. No matter how much preference is given in law, the subsistence base necessary to sustain the Yupik population of that early period simply will not be available. Restraint of population growth among the rural residents of an area is an essential element of maintaining the subsistence life style."

To protect its subsistence resources in the future each village will have to determine how much hunting and fishing can be done right around the village. Then each village will have to find ways to either limit the number of people who live in the village or the number of people who will hunt and fish.

The population threat that does pose a very real and immediate threat to our subsistence resource base is the great number of people immigrating to Alaska and to our region who want to hunt and fish for sport and commercial purposes. The mounting pressure from these sources can be seen in the increased number of hunting and fishing licenses. For example, in 1940 there were 4400 resident sport fishing licenses issued, in 1973 there were 82,000. Over this same span of time the non-resident sport fishing licenses have increased from 52 to 42,000. In 1940 there were 10,000 resident hunting licenses and in 1973 there were 64,000. During this same period of time non-resident big game licenses have gone from 183 to 23,000 while the number of registered guides has jumped from 74 to 972.

Not only has there been a tremendous increase in the size of this user group, but its mobility has expanded. From 1956 to 1973 the number of licensed planes increased from 800 to 3500. And the new planes have a greater range and capacity for carrying sportsmen and their gear out for a weekend jaunt. With the population of Alaska's urban areas booming and tourism expanding at a phenomenal rate, the pressures on subsistence resources from these sources is likely to continue expanding at the same rate. If this is to happen, and it will unless some very specific and well-directed action is taken, demands on subsistence resources ten years from now may be completely overwhelming. In light of these trends, Gordon Watson, Alaska Area Director of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife has made this prediction of future subsistence living.

"What I'm suggesting is that there is a population potential that will far exceed the ability of the land to support Native populations or whatever population might want to depend on the land... I would like to summarize the (subsistence) problem this way. An Eskimo from Bethel and an Eskimo from Point Barrow started off to find the last moose in the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge. They get there and find a hunter from Fairbanks looking at a pile of smelly moose, with the antlers on the way to Dallas, and that, I believe, is the dimension of the problem as I see it."2

Just as overwhelming as the dimension of the population-subsistence problem is our frustration in trying to cope with it. The Association of Village Council Presidents has urged that the population not be increased by further immigration of large numbers of people to our region. Yet State policies have encouraged Alaska's current population boom which inevitably spills over into the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. Most of the people in our region share the feeling of our Inupiat brother John Schaeffer, Director of the Northwest Alaska Native Association, when he said, "I too get the feeling that nothing will be done. In fact, I'm getting the feeling that the best thing that could happen would be for the State of Alaska to secede and set up a border and a quota on how many people should come to the State."

Regardless of how quickly and diligently the State of Alaska moves to come to terms with its growing population, there is much that our region and the villages can do to formulate their own population objectives.

Different levels and degrees of commercial use will have to be considered. On one level is the trapper who uses some furs himself and sells some in order to have the relatively small amount of cash needed in his trapping lifestyle. On another level is the commercial fisherman who in good years can make substantial profits from his fishing efforts.

  1. On the village level, people should consider whether they want their villages to grow a great deal or remain pretty much the same size. Most villages are not faced with the prospect of any substantial growth at this time. However, as the region is developed there may be population booms in or near some villages. For example, if oil exploration or development is to take place around a village, it will no doubt attract many new people to the village. This could change the character and way of life in the village considerably. When faced with the prospect of growth, a village should carefully consider just how much growth it wants.
  2. On the regional level, our village council presidents in coordination with Calista might decide how much larger they want the region's population to grow, how many more people from the outside they want to move to the area. If they want to limit the number of people coming into the area or at least have this number grow slowly, then development policies should take this into account.

In addition to local and regional population planning, the State of Alaska must deal with the growing population of the entire State. The following are a number of specific steps that the State could take to prevent over-population from foreclosing on our way of life.

  1. First, both the State Legislature and Administration could recognize and keep in mind that the purpose of the State's policies should really be to provide for the well-being of Alaskans and the unique ways of living in Alaska rather than to build Alaska's industries, cities, and institutions just for the sake of growth and greatness; in other words, plan for Alaskans rather than for the people that might be attracted to Alaska in the future.
  2. Secondly, evaluate economic development in relation to its real benefit to Alaskans rather than just in terms of gross revenues and percents of growth which often don't reflect the actual effects of development on Alaskans and which tend to promote the attraction of more industries and people to Alaska. The State economic goal should not be growth of the economy but developing a sustaining economy for Alaskans.
  3. The State should begin immediately to develop population goals and objectives for Alaska. What are optimum population levels for Alaska, for various regions, for the different seasonal periods? How can optimum population levels be maintained or achieved? What are the costs and benefits of various population levels? How can state and local government plan for population problems on a continuing basis?
  4. A fourth area of consideration the State should make is to examine ways in which the adverse impacts of the existing and future population levels in Alaska can be minimized. Such consideration would address questions of availability of fish and game, recreation, transportation, health, education and welfare obligations.
  5. Finally, until the State's population objectives are clearly defined and until effective methods for maintaining optimum levels and minimizing their adverse impacts have been developed, the State should discourage all population growth—both the settlement of new people in Alaska and the increase in numbers of visitors. This implies that until the necessary population planning has been completed the State should discourage tourism and the attraction of new industries and developments in Alaska.

This five-step approach for coming to terms with Alaska's population problems may seem drastic to people in Anchorage or Fairbanks who seek growth for the sake of growth, or who at least accept growth as inevitable. But to Yupik people whose culture maintained a balance between population and the wealth of the land for thousands of years, these steps to control population growth before it controls everyone are not only practical and timely, but also mandatory. Anything short of this five-step approach will promote the continuing erosion of the basis of the Alaskan way of life for both Native and non-Native Alaskans. Failure to act immediately and decisively will certainly continue the cultural extermination of Alaska's original inhabitants such as the Yupik people.

"The Yukon-Kuskokwim Region is considered the most 'backward' in Alaska and as such stands a chance of preserving its culture through the educational system. It is our intent that by incorporating the study and practice of our culture in our schools we can save this culture from which we come. It is our conviction that the Yupik way of life can be saved and only our young can save it."
Harold Napoleon, 1974

What kind of education will prepare our children for the uncertain future that lies ahead? How can education give them the options to strike their own balance in living on a combined subsistence and cash economy? How can we prepare our children to meet the unpredictable and difficult circumstances of the rapidly changing world?

We did not always have these problems of the meaning and purpose and approach to education. Before the erection of school houses and the introduction of professional teachers to whom Western civilization entrusts the minds of their children, education was growing up in a village. Education was done in the home with the father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, brother and sister, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. Education was also given by the weather, the sea, the fish, the animals and the land. Children at a very early age came to terms with the elements. We did not have to worry about relating education to life, because learning came naturally as a part of living. Education was the process of living from the land, of subsisting, of surviving. The coming of Western civilization broke this unity of education and living. Suddenly survival depended upon knowing a new language, new skills and new ways of relating to people and the world. Today we have entrusted the minds of our young to professional teachers who seemingly know all there is to know. They are teaching a child how to read, write, repair a car, weld two pipes together. But they are not teaching the child the most important thing. Who he is: an Eskimo or Indian with a history full of folklore, music, great men, medicine, a philosophy, complete with poets; in short, there was a civilization, a culture which survived the harshest of environments for thousands of years. Now this culture and the subsistence way of life are being swept away by books, patents, money and corporations.

"Before school houses and teach...... education was the process of living from the land, of subsisting, of surviving."

It is not our intent to wage war on Western civilization. We merely want to come to terms with it—on our own grounds. We do not dislike Western civilization or White Man. We simply treasure our young and our culture. It is our belief that both can live together side by side, but not necessarily eating out of the same bowl. We can share potlatches and Christmas together.

Most parents see school as a necessary and vital thing if their children are going to share and take part in the Western way of life. If we are to control our own lives and run our own affairs we must each know the ways of the dominant culture. And we must have well-educated leaders who can look after the interests of the Yupik people. But the shortcomings of the present educational system have to be recognized.

"Professionals are teaching a child how to read, write, repair a car, weld two pipes together. But they are not teaching the child the most important thing: who he is."

When formal education began in this region in 1886 with the first Moravian Mission, people began giving up some of the mobility of the subsistence pattern of living. In order to be near the school, they had to forego some traveling to hunting and fishing camps. But even though people have become well-settled in villages all of which have schools, the achievement rate for Native children has remained far below the national average. In 1960 the average educational achievement level in this region was only 2.6 years. By 1970, the average had risen to 4.6 years.

Underlying the high dropout rate and absenteeism among students is the fact that school is an alien atmosphere for the children. Well over 90 per cent of the Native students in this region enter school speaking Yupik Eskimo which is spoken within the family as well as throughout the entire community life. Their lives become ordered by the ringing of bells and the calling of roll. They begin learning about buses, cows and chickens, Thanksgiving, baseball and spaceships; all of which may be interesting, but are nevertheless foreign to the village. Parents within this region have stated over and over again that acculturation and adjustment to Western society is not and cannot be a goal of education. However, a student's adjustment to the school environment demands acculturation which in turn represents a loss of traditional values and increased isolation from his own culture.

"We do not dislike Western civilization or white man. We simply treasure our young and our culture. It is our belief that both can live together side by side, but not necessarily eating out of the same bowl."

Look at the children at the age of five or six when they begin going to school to learn their ABC's from the adventures of Dick and Jane and their sense of history from the lives of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. The young children cannot identify with this way of living and these people. And so, as they are being prepared to go out into the world, they begin to lose a sense of their own identity, their own place and person.

This process of alienation continues and even accelerates when the children reach high school age. To attend high school they are usually away from their home most of the year. Their courses are designed to prepare them to go on to college and then on to various careers and professions. They are oriented toward finding the best paying jobs. Their lives become organized to the clock, the working day instead of the routines of living in a village.

Although the modern education system can give the children many skills that will be valuable, the process is usually very hard on them. During the time the children are away at school, learning more and more of the skills that it will take for them to live in the cities and become leaders in that world, they are learning less and less about their people and themselves. When they come back educated they are no longer the same children that we once saw leave for school. Some of them return home after so many years and are strangers to their own people. But much worse, they are strangers to themselves.

"When they come back educated they are no longer the same children that we once saw leave for school. Some of them are strangers to their own people. But much worse, they are strangers to themselves."

It has always been difficult for parents to send their children from their village to go to school. Their sadness has been balanced by the belief that this was necessary for their children's future, so they could make their way in a changing world. Now many of these parents are realizing that the education system has a great weakness that is leaving many children unprepared to live either in the village world or the outside world. It doesn't develop and strengthen a child's own self image and confidence. His education doesn't help him know who he is or where he came from. His education leaves him stranded somewhere between the village way of life of his parents and the white way of life he has been taught in school. He is between two worlds, not really belonging to either.

Education and Survival

Our young people are often not prepared in practical ways to live in either world. Their high school programs supposedly lead to careers and professions, but all too often the young people can not find jobs. Employment in the region is scarce, with many skilled jobs going to white people who gained experience outside the region. Some young people migrate to the cities where there are more opportunities, only to find they are not prepared for the competition of the wage earning market place.

Likewise, the young people are often not prepared to live in the bush. During their student years they have not been learning all the skills necessary to subsist off the land. One result of their studies has been that many have not had the opportunities to learn how to hunt, fish, prepare food and make clothing. If subsistence skills are lost, there could be tragic consequences to the Yupik people who have by nature been self-sufficient. People have survived in this region only because they have known how to draw food, clothing and shelter from the land. In this time we are living now, people are tempted to depend upon money. If a person has one skill that can earn him money, he can go to the store and buy food, buy clothing, buy plywood and 2 x 4's to build a house. But there is great danger in this. Inflation is driving up the costs of everything so that one must work more for less. We have also seen that there are sometimes shortages of store-bought things. Sometimes one cannot find the food one needs at the store. Sometimes clothing, fuel, building materials and other things are not available. If a person knows only how to live from the store, he will be lost if one day the things in the store cost too much or are simply not available. But if the person also knows how to live from the land he will survive.

Until recently only a few radical economists and environmentalists dared suggest that there are limits to growth and wealth, that there could be a world economic crisis. But recently we have heard the President of the United States warn that a recession or depression might come. We hear world leaders warn that the world's economic system may collapse, that there may be widespread famine. But it is not hard to imagine our difficulties if such an economic disaster comes. If store bought supplies become scarce across the nation, our region will probably be one of the first places in which they disappear altogether. If there is nothing in the stores, money will be worthless.

And if money is worthless, the cash earning skills we have been taught will be worthless. The people who will survive will be the ones who have the skills to live from the land.

As a people and as individuals we must consider very carefully how our education can make us dependent upon the Western economic system, the future of which, is unstable at best. If our children are educated just like other children in Anchorage, and Des Moines, Iowa they will grow to be just as dependent upon the Western economic system. Our children could come to be just as vulnerable as anyone to the fluctuations of the stock market and the whims of Arab oil dealers. But if the education our children receive helps them retain some of the subsistence skills and self-sufficiency of their ancestors, they will carry into the uncertain future tools which may make the difference between surviving and perishing in difficult times.

Subsisting and surviving requires different skills in different places. The knowledge one needs to survive in Harlem is different than the knowledge one needs to survive in mid-Western farm country. Men living in the jungles of Brazil must know certain things to live in their environment; men living in the highlands of Nepal must know other things. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is a very demanding environment which can seem hostile to those who do not know its ways, but which can provide life to those who know how to live with the land. Education of children in this region should equip them to live with the land.

Even if there is never an economic collapse, subsistence skills and knowledge of the land and waters will be invaluable. Such knowledge will permit Yupik people to live a fuller, richer life. And it will help them use, protect and manage subsistence resources in the context of the modern world. As long as subsistence resources continue to be the resource base of this region, knowing how to use them, and care for them will continue to be extremely important.

Just as important to the subsistence way of living as the skills of hunting and fishing, sewing and preserving foods are the ways of cooperating and working together. As elaborate as the modern classroom may be, it is still not equipped to really teach children the ways of sharing and helping others that has in the past been learned in the home and village. In fact, the competitive atmosphere of modern schools in many ways works at cross purposes to the cooperative atmosphere of traditional Eskimo education. This conflict is so fundamental that Pat Locke, a Sioux Indian wise in the ways of both Native and Western education, once said, "that all the differences between the two processes of education stem from the fact that the purpose of Western education is for the individual to find ways to excel and promote himself, his career, his life; whereas, the purpose of Native education has always been for the individual to find ways to serve his family, be a useful part of his community, to work for and with his people."

"The purpose of Western education is for the individual to find ways to excel and promote himself.., whereas, the purpose of Native education has always been for the individual to find ways to serve his family and his people."

In our region, in our past, sharing and cooperation have not been just social niceties. They have been ways of survival. If everyone were just looking out for himself, the Yupik culture would have vanished long ago. It has been through sharing and helping each other that people have survived. Children learned these ways naturally as they grew up in the village. It is a great event when a boy gets his first seal, not just because he has proven himself a hunter but because he has something to share with others. His first seal is divided among people in the village, first to the older people who can no longer get seals themselves.

Frank Nokozak has related how he learned the ways of sharing and helping others: (John Paul Jones interpreting)

"You know what the older people used to do for him? They would share their things with the people who did not have them. He did this for the people who did not have... When the people come to his place, he gives them food. People go to his home to ask for dried fish. He gives dry fish to those people because they need it. He said he wouldn't be like that if it wasn't for his dad who used to tell him to always be kind and give to the people who do not have. His dad used to tell him to be that way because you only live once. The people are born in one time and die. He repeated that it was his dad that taught him always to be kind and share."1

The classrooms can neither teach the skills nor impart the values and character which link the children to the subsistence way of life of their culture.

"The wisdom of our old people should be respected at least as much as the knowledge of the school teacher."

Building a New Way of Education

The process of young people losing their identity and not being prepared to cope with life is costing us many young people each year. And each year our young people seem a little less self-sufficient, a little less able to live from the land. These problems have been growing since our first contact with whalers, traders and missionaries. How can they be dealt with? We do not have ready-made solutions. But we do have a starting point and a direction in which to head. To make education more meaningful for our children we must start with our people in the villages and proceed to develop an educational process that combines the learning of ABC's and algebra with our traditional values, skills, and ways of living and learning.

"The women will teach the girls how to be women. And the men will teach the boys how to be men."

To begin developing this type of learning process, Yupiktak Bista started in the spring of 1974 a Cultural Heritage Program in which students as the Bethel and St. Mary's High Schools returned to villages for two weeks. During this period, older people in the village taught the students their own history and traditional skills. A live-in learning experience was chosen over a "Native studies" course because such courses set students up as observers much the same way a birdwatcher studies a bird or an anthropologist studies a culture. If the student is just a watcher, he remains inactive when he should be an active participant and he can actually become further disassociated from himself and his culture. Only by "living" his own culture will a student come to appreciate, understand and be a part of it.

In describing the Cultural Heritage Program to some students, Peter Atchak, who helped get the program started once said:

"When you get to a village the older people will tell you stories about how things were a long time ago. The women will teach the girls how to be women. And the men will teach the boys how to be men."

So it was that students went out to villages, often not their home villages, to live with foster parents who could teach them traditional ways. As the following comments by the students reveal, it was quite an experience for them. A boy who went to Hooper Bay said:

"Activities I participated in were the Eskimo dance and telling stories to the old people (testing my skills, whether I knew or not the stories they told me; they let me do the talking the day after they talk.) What I made during the cultural heritage program was the spear, the spear handle, fish hook spear, fish hook spear handle, ivory ring, a model seal out of soap stone, a parka, water boots out of seal skin, and information about how to make sleds, boats, and drawings of the old. The new skills I learned were to balance on top of the wavy sea in a kayak, and throw a spear without tipping over and a lot about hunting in the sea with just the kayak.

" Man, it was all right! Because they were open to me as well as to my friends who went down to Hooper Bay. I would like to go back to a village where I stayed. And I was just getting dreaming with the old people. They brought me to their world. They let me feel I was old when I got out of their stories."8

Another boy summed up his experiences in Toksook Bay by saying:

"All of these projects were of an advantage to me, cause I have never really gotten into Eskimo culture. Now I have a brief meaning of how survival takes place, what skills were needed to become a man, and how to make things to live off of."8

Staff of the Kuskokwim Health Corporation said:

"...especially noteworthy to us has been the reaction of the students and dormitory parents to the First Cultural Heritage Program. At a time when Bethel was experiencing some 'pre-breakup' behavior the high school students returned enthusiastic and in a positive frame of mind. Therefore, we would encourage the continuation of such a stimulating program with many desirable mental health consequences."8

The high school nurse was another person who noticed a change in attitude and outlook on life. Peggy McMahon said:

"In working with the high school students as their nurse, I have been able to observe their behavior and attitudes throughout the school year. As always, the first semester of school started out with high enthusiasm in both teachers and students. However, there seemed to be a real let-down in spirit after the Christmas vacation. Class attendance seemed to drop and I found many more students in my clinic with vague physical complaints and emotional problems. It seemed that many students were using the excuse of going to the nurse's clinic, but just wanted to talk to someone about their restlessness with school and desire to go home. More than the usual number of students seemed to be 'down during the months of January, February, and March. I think the introduction of the First Cultural Heritage Program at this time was valuable. It came at the end of the third quarter when spirits were especially low. I know that I was having difficulty dealing with the negative and demanding attitudes and behavior of many of the students during February and March. The Cultural Heritage Program seemed to give everyone a chance to learn different things and in a different setting than the school building. The first week after the Program I found that the students seemed happier, less demanding and better able to cope with some of their problems than they were before the two week program."8

"Why can't we have a longer period of time so we can learn our own culture instead of being pushed into a one-way street?"

Some of the strongest reactions to the Cultural Heritage Program came from the parents and old people who had worked with the students. Hilma Shavings from Mekoryuk said she felt this approach to education was

"...very important for our children, since a lot of our children are losing their own culture. I feel this program is a little bit of a beginning for our kids to see how their ancestors live to survive in this land that white man would call 'harsh country.' I feel this should be an ongoing program because even my own kids don't know how we have lived. They haven't seen the houses we used to live in. My own girl, that's going to Junior College, doesn't know how to sew how we do... I think this cultural heritage program will help the students. You never know what they might run into during their lifetime. At least, in case they run into some hardships they'll know how to make their own things. If it's a girl, make their own clothes and sewing and things like that. If it were a man, at least he will know how to survive if he was out on the tundra. You'll never know with all these traveling by snowmachines, airplanes, outboard motors, if you'll get to your destination. At least they should know how to survive without having to depend on these conveniences all the time."8

"I don't want to pass this life unless I pass my knowledge to another younger person."

Also, emphasizing the importance of knowing traditional skills was Andrew Brown of Mt. Village.

"This program was one of the best things that ever happened in this area. The things our forefathers used to do is too good of a thing to let it phase out. Who knows when the things the students learn might be the ones for survival in case of emergency or anything that will cut us off from the outside world. It could be for a short time or for a long period. Our land can still provide us clothing and food. Our young people should learn how to tackle with these things. Our culture is phasing out. Right now is the time to revive it back."8

In Chevak, David Friday said:

"I've been home for a long time and I was home during the time the St. Mary's students and Bethel Regional High School students were at home and most of the people participated with the Cultural Heritage Program. Because of what's been happening some of these people haven't been doing these things. Then all of a sudden this Cultural Heritage Program came to the people. It made an impression on me that these people are learning that their culture is cool. I think this Cultural Heritage Program helped the people out in the villages too. Some of them dug up cultures from the past to teach these children. They are the type of people, I think, that are caught between two cultures. They don't know what to do or how to make a living because they are confused. I think with this program, it helped find themselves in a situation where some of these people weren't really too certain of who they really are, their real selves, where they'd be satisfied and happy about it... There was a comment from an old man who said, 'I don't want to pass this life unless I pass my knowledge to another younger person.' I think this Cultural Heritage Program has opened that door to many of our people."8

The Cultural Heritage Program is not meant to turn back the clock, to prepare young people to live just as their ancestors did. Its purpose is to begin building a new educational process which will be based on our way of life. The value of passing on traditional ways is not because it is a way to turn from the present world, but because it simply offers young people the best hope of making their way into a troubled and uncertain future. Knowing the ways of their Yupik ancestors offers young people the invaluable qualities of self confidence, self reliance and the ability to live from the land should they choose to or should this become necessary for survival.

Modern education reflects the ways that Western civilization appears to have lost its way and no longer makes any sense. But we are now tied to this dominant culture. We must know its ways; we must have the necessary tools to cope with its problems and make use of its opportunities. So it is, that to find ourselves as individuals and as a people and make our way into the future, we will need the knowledge and ways of learning of our heritage and also the skills and knowledge of Western civilization.

How can a new process of education that draws from both cultures be created? What policy and institutional changes must be made? How will new curriculum, methods and teachers be introduced? These are not easily answered questions.

The difficulties of bringing about change in the entrenched educational system are many, but our experience with programs like the Cultural Heritage live-in has shown us that they are not impossible to overcome. And the basis for change toward an educational process combining two cultures must be an appreciation and acceptance of "multi-cultural equality." In education, multiracial equality recognizes that Native students are still Native people. Many of them may prefer to speak the language of their people and to live in villages as hunters, fishermen, wives and mothers, rather than enter the competitive and materialistic life of the cities. Their education should prepare them for this way of life. It should not, as the present system does, cut off this option. And all of our children, even those who go on to college and professions beyond our region, need to know their roots in the subsistence way of life of the Delta in order to know themselves. So it is that the education of all our young people must include learning some of the old ways and learning how to subsist on the Delta today.

"If the education our children receive helps them retain some of the subsistence skills and self-sufficiency of their ancestors, they will carry into the uncertain future tools which may make the difference between surviving and perishing in difficult times."

Multi-cultural equality implies that parents and grandparents should be involved in the educational process, as teachers, advisors, counselors, administrators, and school board members. A man or woman who has lived in a village all their life and perhaps has never gone to high school may nevertheless have more meaningful ideas about high school education on the Delta than a professor armed with degrees and years of experience.

The wisdom of our old people should be respected at least as much as the knowledge of the school teacher. Each finds within himself a balance between the elements of these two heritages and ways of life. Education should help keep options open for young people to live different kinds of life styles. The classrooms should not close the doors on the subsistence way of life that has been a good way of life for the Yupik people for thousands of years.

"The cultural thing is what I am talking about. How do you incorporate the Native philosophy into your rules and regulations? How do you preserve a lifestyle? How do you keep from destroying a culture? This is really, to me, where its at ..."2
Cliff Black, 1974


As we have seen, subsistence in our region continues as a way of life that is truly the heart of our culture. This way of life has been changing since our first contact with white people. Looking back over the past 100 years we can see that a great deal of change has certainly taken place. But watching as the changes take place day by day, a little here a little there, it's almost impossible to see the changes happen.

From one day to the next it is hard to see that we depend a little more on store-bought things, that our children may be speaking a little more English, that as we earn money there is a little less time for hunting and fishing. But every once in awhile we notice that things are different than they used to be. Things aren't the same anymore. So it happens, year by year, we change a little as individuals. Generation by generation, we change somewhat as a people. Then we look back and find that a great deal of cultural change has taken place without our knowing what was happening.

If we can't see just how the change is happening, how can we decide—as the changes come, moment to moment—if we want the changes?

And often when we do make clear decisions to make a change, try something new, there is no way of telling what may come from that change until it has already taken place. A person may try a new kind of job to get more money and then after a while he finds he got some things he didn't expect. Sometimes a person will find himself frustrated in the new situation that he thought was going to be great because there were unexpected pressures on the job, maybe problems being away from home. It may happen all of a sudden ‘that he realizes that this isn't what he expected. How did it happen? This isn't what he wanted.

We have seen villages make the same kind of discoveries about unexpected things. Maybe a village wants a road to the city so it is easier to get to town to shop and have fun. The road is built. It is easier to get to the city. But then it's discovered that the city also comes to the village. More people come to the village, maybe more sports hunters, more traffic—lots of unexpected changes. Maybe people are not happy about how things turned out. But there it is. Things have changed. How did it happen?

Changes took place before the coming of white men. But they took place slowly, gradually over much time. If fish or game began to get scarce in one area, the people could move to another area, take some time and find better places to hunt and fish. If there came to be too many people in one area for the fish and game, the people could take some time to branch off and start a new village. People did not have to worry about carefully watching change, and planning for change. Then there was time for change to take place in a natural, evolutionary way.

But in this time, changes are happening everywhere, very rapidly. It is a time of unexpected things, and of uncertainty. Unless we are willing to let the changes and the force of Western civilization just sweep us along, we must gain control of this process of change. We have to see how the changes happen. Then we have to decide if we want that change. Then we must keep that change from happening or allow that change to come just in the manner we want it to come.

We must develop a process of comprehensive planning in which the potential impacts of proposed changes are fully evaluated with respect to cultural values and conditions. This will not be easy. But it must be done. It must be done from the ground up, from the people in the villages. And it requires the cooperation of the State and Federal governments.

Creating a Cultural Planning Process

When we suggest developing "cultural planning" we do not intend to break into this process of change with some cultural masterplan which says, "This is what we want. This is the way it should be." Rather, we are looking for a flexible, ongoing method of following and having some control over the process of change. In order for village people to assert their cultural values into the process of change, we must first understand how this process works.

It is not surprising that the modern world has never really come up with a method of keeping track of and planning for a culture in transition. This may be partly the result of Western civilization not feeling it really has a culture of its own that is previous, changing and might be lost. But the Yupik people do have a culture that they live and that they feel is changing.

"Unless we are willing to let the changes and the force of Western civilization just sweep us along, we must gain control of this process of change."

Methods of focusing on and dealing with these changes simply have not yet been developed. The regional corporations have been established to manage the financial wealth of a region. The regional nonprofit organizations focus, for the most part, on health, educational, and welfare programs. The State Department of Education deals with education. The State Department of Natural Resources deals with natural resources. The State Department of Community and Regional Affairs is busy with problems of regional government, boundaries, human and economic resource development.

The Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission deals with land use planning. The Department of Interior deals with land management. The Bureau of Indian Affairs administers categorized Native programs. And so it goes with other agencies—each has its own particular area of concern. Nowhere in the system is there an institution set up to evaluate and plan cultural change. Some of these agencies express a degree of concern for cultural change and perhaps have some program that deals with a little piece of the process of cultural change. But among the agencies and institutions there is little general understanding of the cultural change that is taking place. And there is certainly no cohesive or coordinated process of dealing with cultural change as it takes place in all the many areas of our lives.

We do not want to imply that cultural change is the sole responsibility of government agencies and other organizations or that the whole question of cultural change should be handed over to some new agency. The village people have the final responsibility for what happens in their lives, to their culture. However, the actions of all agencies and organizations dealing with our region touch upon and affect our culture. So it is that each agency bears some of the responsibility for the cultural change that is taking place.

At this point in time, a process must be developed that requires each agency or organization or private enterprise that deals with our people and our region to meet their responsibility to the cultural change that is taking place. The decisions as to what change should take place or not take place should always remain with the people. But in order for the people to make intelligent decisions they must be well informed, and this is a responsibility of all agencies and organizations dealing with our region. The following are some suggestions for ways in which government agencies and private interests can work with the village people in creating a process of cultural planning.

Local and Regional Planning

Cultural planning must have the direct involvement of the people — not just elected representatives or professional employees of the people, but all of the people on the local level, in the villages. It is their culture, their life, their decisions to make. Therefore, local and regional planning processes must be developed to deal with cultural change. Some ways to approach this planning include:

  1. Village councils and village corporations should develop their own methods for analyzing the cultural effects of any action they take or allow to be taken in their village. This should involve finding out as much as possible about a new activity or development in the village, and communicating to all the people the various costs and benefits of the proposed change. For example, if a village is considering a proposal to develop a tourist facility, it should not only be determined how much money might be generated, but also what problems might arise from having great numbers of strange, outside visitors in the village. If a village can set up a thorough process of screening all new developments it stands a better chance of avoiding undesirable changes.
  2. Regional government such as a first class or home rule borough, can play an important role in planning for the needs of local people. There is no reason why the region-wide planning department of a borough can't review all regional programs from the point of view of cultural impact. Once the cultural impact of an issue is defined, the regional government may either rule on a proposed activity or development or refer the issue to the people for a vote.
  3. To coordinate all State programs within a region and make them responsive to the process of cultural change, substate planning districts could be established. In our area a substate planning district might follow the boundaries of the Calista Corporation. Within this area, State programs such as highways, education, resource development and welfare would be channeled through a regional planning board. This planning board would be in a better position than some planners in Anchorage or Juneau to evaluate the cultural costs and benefits of a given program. The framework for creating substate planning districts is in legislation pending before the Alaska State Legislature.
  4. The programs of Federal agencies could be made more responsive to cultural planning in a region such as ours if the State of Alaska would utilize the substate planning district mechanism that the Federal Office of Management and Budget has already established. Instead of Federal programs, such as education and transportation, reaching the local level via central State offices, these programs would go directly to a regional planning district board which would presumably be in much closer touch with the village people than a distant State or Federal office.
  5. Both Calista and Yupiktak Bista should, as other regional profit and nonprofit corporations might do, establish routine procedures for determining the possible cultural effects of all their programs. In many cases the cultural impact of a proposed development or project may be slight. In other instances there may be extremely difficult conflicts between the potential benefits of a proposed development and the undesirable cultural change it might bring about. It will not often be possible to have the best of both worlds. Decisions will have to be made, and they had best be made on the basis of accurate analysis of all the costs and benefits involved.

Cultural Impact Statements

Environmental impact statements often ignore the people-issues of a project or development. This would be a practical way for any agency or organization on the local, regional, State, or Federal levels to assess the anticipated cultural costs of any program, project, development, or activity in a rural region such as ours. Anything to be introduced into the region would have to be analyzed from the point of view of its potential cultural impact. A statement clearly and thoroughly defining all the possible impact a new development or program might have on the culture would be prepared and distributed to the people who might be affected. Before anything new could proceed, this cultural impact statement would have to be prepared and distributed for local comments. On important issues with substantial conflicts, public hearings in the villages might be held so that the people would have a chance to voice their feelings about the anticipated changes.

The preparation of such statements might be on a voluntary basis, at the initiative of the agency, firm or other organization that proposes to introduce anything with the potential for causing substantial changes. The statements might be requested by a village or regional organization. The sure way of making certain a proper statement is prepared is, of course, to require it by law.

Defining the cultural values that might be changed will be an essential part of the cultural impact statement. The people in the villages are the ones who must define their cultural values. No experts or agency people outside the culture are qualified to say what the important cultural values and considerations are. The people are the only ones who can define their own culture. Once they have done this, then experts and agency people can assist in analyzing how this culture and its values might be changed by certain developments.

Some of the areas a cultural impact statement should cover include:

  1. Description of the proposed program or development.
  2. Where and when would the program or development be introduced?
  3. What people would be affected by it?
  4. What are the anticipated cultural effects?
  5. What are the benefits? How does it serve the people?
  6. What alternatives are there for introducing the project or development in another way in which some of the benefits would be achieved and some of the adverse cultural effects eliminated?
  7. What happens if the proposed program or development is rejected?
  8. Will the adverse effects be temporary or lasting?

Such a cultural impact statement would be useful on developments ranging from a new road or dam, a proposed oil or mining development, a new school or educational program, an employment or economic assistance project, a land use planning or management proposal. Villages and the regional corporations could adopt the use of such statements as planning tools. The State and Federal governments might pass legislation that would require cultural impact statements before any new step is taken in the rural area.

The statements would have to be evaluated by the local people who might be adversely affected. They are the ones to judge whether the analysis is complete. And they should be the ones to decide if the new program or development is introduced. By itself, a cultural impact statement would not avoid unwanted cultural changes, but it would take that essential first step of making the potential problems clear to public decision makers and to the village people.

State of Alaska Responsibility to Cultural Change

The problems of cultural change are so crucial, complicated and immediate that the State government should assist regions and local areas in developing their cultural planning ability. This might take the form of creating a Department of Cultural Affairs or simply authorizing and funding a division of the Department of Community and Regional Affairs to undertake this work.

The Future

The future remains clouded by many questions. Will people in the State and Federal Governments find the legal, administrative and legislative ways to help maintain our subsistence way of life? Will the planners, businessmen, lawyers, teachers, legislators and administrators really listen and respond to the needs of village people?

Our ancestors have left no great cities to mark their passing, no legends of conquest, no great towers or pyramids. Their monument to time is a way of life. A way of living with the land. A way of surviving. A way of relating to the world and to other people. Will this cultural identity, this way of life, survive only as a museum relic or roadside monument survives? Or will it live on with the people?

Our way of life was well developed long before Western man emerged from the forests of Europe. But will it live on to bring some of its wisdom into this new and always changing world?

Will it survive at least for the village people who, like the elders of Nightmute, simply want "to live in a way somewhat different."


  1. Testimony, D-2 Land Hearings, Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission, 1973.
  2. Federal-State Land Use Planning Com mission, Subsistence Conference, 1974.
  3. Testimony, Public Hearing on the Kusko kwim Withdrawal Area, Bureau of Land Management, Bethel, Alaska, March 1, 1956.
  4. Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, A Proposal, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, September, 1973, U.S. De partment of the Interior.
  5. Testimony, Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, U.S. Senate Hearings, 1972.
  6. Testimony, Oversight of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Hearing before the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, U.S. House of Representatives, August, 1973.
  7. Alaskan Development, George Rogers.
  8. Interview by Yupiktak Bista.
  9. Education in the North, Edited by Frank Darnell, University of Alaska, 1972.


  • Northern Natives, Migratory Birds and International Treaties (The Day Report, Alaska Waterfowl Controversy), A report to the Director of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife by Albert M. Day, 1969.
  • Waterfowl in the Economy of Eskimos, David Klein, University of Alaska.
  • Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, A Proposal, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Alaska Planning Group, U.S. Department of Interior.
  • Education in the North, Edited by Frank Darnell, University of Alaska, 1972.
  • Indian and European: Indian-White Rela tions from Discovery to 1887, D'Arcy McNickle, The Annals of the American Academy.
  • Hunters of the Northern Ice, Richard Nelson.
  • On the Edge of Nowhere, Jimmy Huntington.
  • Eskimo Hunting of Bowhead Whales, Art Davidson, RuralCap.
  • Song of the North Wind, Paul A. Johnsgard.