Taku Tlingit reinforce cultural ties to land in discussion on transboundary mines
Lillian Petershoare’s family fishes the Taku River and has done so for decades. A new generation is now learning the tradition. John Morris “grew up on the Taku until I was 15 years old; I knew no other place.”
Barbara Cadiente-Nelson read a passage by Elizabeth Nyman: “This river, this watershed … know who you are and, if you permit it, it will tell you.”
Tlingit men and women whose lineage can be traced to the Taku River area spoke on their connection to the water and the land during a daylong boat trip down the Taku River on Sunday. The cruise was organized by the Douglas Indian Association.
The trip was meant to “put us on the same boat” — drawing a link between Tlingit connection to the land and the need for mainstream awareness and protection of its resources, said the DIA’s Morris, addressing the diverse group of passengers on the catamaran.
The day’s discussions aimed to show the importance of the river as a resource to the Taku River Tlingit, the T’aaku Kwáan, and impress that importance on the city, state and federal officials who came to listen.
It was also a space to talk about transboundary mines — metal mines located or planned across the political border in British Columbia that have the capacity to impact salmon-producing watersheds in Southeast Alaska.
About noon, the catamaran pulled up to a group of gillnetters just starting the day’s work. Their boats trailed long streams of net in the expectation that they soon would be filled with Taku River salmon.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, this week has brought the first 24-hour gillnet fishery opening during the sockeye run in Taku Inlet since 1988.
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