Alaskans Provide Testimony During Senate Subsistence Hearing

“Protecting the subsistence way of life through maximum self-determination is critically important”

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs this week held an oversight hearing to focus on promoting traditional subsistence in Native communities through testimonies from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Indian tribes regarding tribal subsistence activities and federal regulatory structures or circumstances which impede these activities. During the hearing U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a member of the committee, introduced Alaskan Mary Sattler Peltola, Executive Director of the Kuskokwim Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, to testify in the hearing.

Peltola was born and raised subsistence fishing in Kwethluk, a small Yupik village located on the Kuskokwim River. Peltola’s testimony focused on how vitally important fish and wildlife resources are to the food security of Alaska Natives, and how these resources are the cornerstone of Alaska Native cultures and economic systems of rural Alaska.

“Protecting the subsistence way of life through maximum self-determination is critically important to our tribal communities. Organizations like the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission are a great opportunity for Alaska and our tribal communities to coordinate the management of fish and wildlife resources, allow information to flow freely, and integrate traditional knowledge with state and federal research.”

Murkowski Subsistence hearing

(Click here for video of Senator Murkowski’s opening statement.)

During the hearing, Senator Murkowski called on Peltola to educate the Committee on the difference between a cooperative agreement and co-management, including what opportunities are available to a region.

“The [Kuskokwim Inter-Tribal] Fish Commission has done a very good job, if I can say so, in helping explain the issue of there just being a lack of Chinooks statewide and that our river isn’t the only river that is experiencing restrictions. And some rivers are experiencing full closures,” said Mary Peltola. “My belief is that we shouldn’t be called to join the table and become managers only in times of crisis when things are this bad. My preference is that we be asked to participate and be managers even in times of abundance, with all of our species of salmon. My hope is that the Inter-Tribal Fish Commission can be a manager all the time, not just when we’re facing this grim reality.” 

Mary Peltola

(Click here for video of Senator Murkowski questioning Mary Peltola.)

Other hearing witnesses included Dr. Jennifer Hardin, Subsistence Policy Coordinator at the Office of Subsistence Management at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska; Roy Brown, Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council in Fort Washakie, WY; and A-Dae Romero-Briones, Director of Programs Native Agriculture and Food Systems at the First Nationals Development Institute in Longmont, CO.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska