Archive for the ‘Tlingit Culture’ Category

Alaska Natives issues more complex than black and white answers

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

juneau_empire_picAugust, 18, 2009, the editor of NativeCo.com, Morgan Howard sent a letter to the editor in response to a previous letter published.

This letter is in response to a “Letter to the editor” (August 11, 2009) by Gretchen Goldstein.

The author states, “Living in harmony with nature is not compatible with clear-cut logging” and “Unfortunately, the way they (Sealaska) make money often overrides their Native culture’s traditional values.”

Please do not insult Native people by simplifying our world into the black and white world of disaffected environmentalists. Why do anti-logging proponents think they feel the negative effects of logging more than Natives just because we’re the ones doing the logging? This assumption is a failure to understand the plight of Indigenous people.

No one understands the paradox of respecting the natural world and natural resource development better than us. We’ve been the stewards of our land for more than 10,000 years… we understand the concept of balancing our present day needs with unforeseen future obligations.

I am a shareholder of three southeast Native corporations – all three have practiced clear-cutting. I understand the realities my corporations faced and know that our leaders have never taken land stewardship lightly. As a videographer, I have personally seen the healthy second growth forest near the “small communities of Prince of Wales Island”. I have seen Sealaska’s silviculture practices first hand, from tree planting to stream studies. Sealaska is a leading expert in forestry management in temperate rainforests.

Clear-cutting has such strong negative connotations that few take the time to learn about the practice. I suggest reading the front-page article last week in the Seattle Times entitled, “New strategy to save forests: logging”.

In fact, I embrace our history of “clear-cutting”. Clear-cutting has saved us! Our trees have allowed us to be respected and relevant stakeholders in our own country. The foundations of southeast Native corporations are built on the revenue from clear-cutting.

The timber business has provided enormous positive contributions to the Native community. Sealaska’s timber revenue funded the creation of the “Sealaska Heritage Institute” (SHI). SHI is the primary driving force behind saving our endangered indigenous languages.

I understand some believe that no amount of human benefit justifies the commercial harvesting of trees. I disagree. Some contributions such as language and culture are so vital to our existence, that their loss would be devastating. Trees grow back, but once we lose our language and culture, they may be gone forever.

We lost the Eyak language last year. We only have a handful of Haida speakers left. Tlingit, a language that once dominated southeast Alaska may be gone in my lifetime. Time is running out.

The late Frederica DeLaguna said to me, “Without language a culture will die… It will be like what Roman culture is to us today”. If we can somehow save our languages, our culture stands a chance to survive.

Environmentalists talk about the importance of “biodiversity”, but what about “cultural diversity” and “language diversity”. Our Hemlock and Spruce may help us save our language and culture. Generations from now, our descendants will thank us for cutting our trees.

Ironically, we had to sacrifice our language to become citizens and vote… And now we’ve had to cut our trees to save our language.

These issues are complex and like many times in our history have made for tough decisions. It is our “Native Culture’s traditional values” that provides the ability to adapt and persevere through the rising tides of change.

Morgan Howard

Tlingit, Teikweidí Clan, Eagle moiety

Sealaska, Goldbelt and Yak-tat Kwaan shareholder

Sealaska and Central Council sign historic agreement

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Martin and McNeil signing agreement The following is directly from their press release:

Bill Martin, President of Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Central Council) and Chris E. McNeil, Jr., Sealaska President & CEO are pleased to announce that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on March 27, 2009 between Central Council and Sealaska. The MOU is a historic agreement and strengthens opportunities for shareholders and members of both Native organizations. The intent is to provide business opportunities that will meet mutual objectives, including exploring business partnerships and investment opportunities in the region.

“This is a challenging time for Southeast Alaska but there is potential for developing innovative and sustainable economies in Southeast,” stated McNeil. “Collaboration amongst these Native institutions represents a new model to discovering solutions that will strengthen our region and benefit tribal members and Sealaska tribal member shareholders.”

Sealaska and Central Council will work to identify and evaluate strategic plans then consider acquisition or startup of operating enterprises. The primary goals of the MOU are to:
Research new opportunities to  improve the economic conditions of and employment opportunities for the  Tribe’s members and Sealaska’s tribal member shareholders
Generate revenue for the Tribe and  Sealaska
Enhance the Tribe’s economic  self-sufficiency and self-determination
Increase benefits and employment  opportunities for tribal members and Sealaska tribal member  shareholders
Enhance Sealaska’s access to  contract opportunities

“During this struggling economy it is important that we obtain maximum funding for our region through the stimulus act,” said Martin. “I look forward to the Tribe working cooperatively with Sealaska to bring economic and employment opportunities to our tribal citizens and shareholders.”

Central Council and Sealaska will focus on U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) federal contracting and mentor/protégé programs, renewable energy projects, labor force training and deployment, tourism and community infrastructure development.

“The board of Directors, Sealaska management and our subsidiaries are working together to increase our economic activity in Southeast,” said Sealaska Director Tate London. “This MOU aligns well with that vision and is an important step that will build off the collective strength of Sealaska and Central Council,” said London.

Presidents Martin and McNeil’s vision is to jointly develop enhanced revenue for the Tribe and Sealaska through future partnerships. Sealaska and Central Council will initially focus on the opportunities available by passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus package).

Hoonah Totem Corp. succeeds in Tourism destination

Friday, October 17th, 2008
Hoonah Builds Tourism hotspot, avoids tourist trap

By Charles L. Westmoreland
Capital City Weekly/Morris News Service-Alaska
Publication Date: 10/19/08
HOONAH – Huna Totem Corp. opened Icy Strait Point to cruise ships in 2004 with some apprehension. At the time Hoonah’s reputation was that of a quiet, pristine fishing and logging community; untouched by the flamboyant commercialism of other Southeast Alaska ports.

Like many remote Alaska villages, with local jobs dwindling away, a new viable source of income was needed. But marketing Hoonah as a tourism hotspot without turning it into a tourism trap was a challenge.

Tourists who disembark at Icy Strait Point, an early 20th century cannery located a few miles outside Hoonah, at first were kept away from the heart of the town so as to not disturb the everyday life of residents. But Hoonah’s 850 citizens didn’t just embrace their new role of host to as many as 2,500 travelers daily – they craved more direct involvement.

“At first everybody was deeply concerned about tourism coming to town because of what (Hoonah) could turn into,” said Bob Wysocki, CEO of Huna Totem, a Native corporation formed by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. “People quickly realized the impact wasn’t like everywhere else. Folks went from being concerned too many people would be in town to (Huna Totem) getting a lot of heat for not enough people coming into town. The community really opened up and embraced it.”

Wysocki said Huna Totem has allowed only one cruise ship to port each day, though he is looking at the possibility of allowing two ships at a time next season. Hoonah saw a drop off from 80 ships in 2007 to 59 last year due to scheduling conflictions among cruise lines.

“We’re not just about the mighty buck and bringing in three or four ships a day,” Wysocki said. “That just wouldn’t work. We’d burn out our employees and risk guest satisfaction.”

Hoonah has been an easy destination for Wysocki to market. Chichagof Island has one of Alaska’s highest concentrations of brown bears, and nearby Point Adolphus is known as one of the richest humpback whale feeding grounds in Southeast Alaska. Tourism activities are enhanced by the village’s remoteness and other factors, such as Hoonah’s predominantly Alaska Native population, and how subsistence hunting and fishing remain a staple of everyday life.

Huna Totem uses that cultural authenticity to its advantage, involving elders and youth in the showcasing, storytelling and presentation of their history, artwork, values and lifestyles to travelers. Many of Huna Totem’s 130 workers wear their Tlingit name on their badges next to their English name.

Faggen Skaflestad, a lifelong Hoonah resident and owner of Janaggan Touring and Guiding, said little has changed in the town in the past five seasons.

“It’s nice having (Icy Strait Point) out the road because tourism hasn’t changed the town,” he said. “As far as the economy, (tourism) definitely hasn’t hurt us. I believe next year will be the telltale of what will transpire.”

Tourism may very well have saved Hoonah after the village saw its fishing and logging industries dwindle during the 1980s and 1990s. Icy Strait Point employs about a quarter of the Hoonah’s population, most of whom also are shareholders in Huna Totem.

“We’ve maintained about 90 percent local hire and 85 percent Native hire over our five-year history,” Wysocki said. “With most Alaska villages declining in population and economic activity, Hoonah and Icy Strait Point stand out as proof that a culture can be maintained and that an economic base can be built providing jobs that keep the village and culture alive.”

Huna Totem Corp. purchased Icy Strait Point in 1996, and it is now home to more than a dozen locally owned and operated shops, including four restaurants, a museum, theatre and gift shops. Huna Totem invested millions in the project, to include building the world’s largest zipline, but Wysocki was hesitant to disclose how much money has been invested so far.

Huna Totem’s practice of hiring locally and creating business opportunities for the community earned it the Travel Industry Association and National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “Travel to a Better World” award this month for sustaining an indigenous culture and community. Hoonah’s seasonal unemployment has dropped below 1 percent since Icy Strait Point reopened.

“Darn near anybody who wants a job has got one,” Wysocki said. “If you can show up, be clean and straight and come to work every day, we hire just about anybody who walks through the door.”

Hoonah Mayor Dennis Gray said tourism has done more than just create job opportunities; it also has led to much-needed infrastructure improvements in the town. A new ferry terminal will be built next year and a 220-ton boatlift is expected to be operational by next summer.

“We’ve seen a few local business owners open gift shops and other stores,” Gray said. “People have disposable income to go shopping and are keeping dollars in town and putting them into the economy. (Tourism) saved the city in sales tax and revenue.”

Hoonah Harbormaster Paul Dybdahl anticipates more businesses moving in once the projects are completed. He’s already seen an increase in independent charter vessels trying to cash in on Hoonah’s tourism.

“I see the infrastructure changing even more,” he said. “Mechanics, fiberglass workers and shipwrights will need shops to support (the lift). We’ve already had people who perform these services call about setting up shop.”

Dybdahl’s brother, Johan Dybdahl, oversees special projects for Icy Strait Point and said the cannery is finished expanding for now. The infrastructure can accommodate up to 5,000 visitors at a time, and with cruise ships expected to dock five days a week next season, its limits will be tested. That’s especially if tourists keep making return visits.

“This year we had a lot of people come back because they visited once before, and they keep telling us not to change a thing,” he said. “They really appreciate getting on the ground and skipping rocks on the beach, going into the forest to see wildlife. Some even claim we control our whales because we haven’t missed on a whale watching tour in five seasons now.”

http://www.alaskajournal.com/stories/101908/hom_20081019011.shtml

The Amazing Intelligence of Crows

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

This is a an entertaining video about the intelligence and adaptability of Crows. The small birds play a role in Tlingit culture, found as a crest and in many stories. But, this video reminds me of the crow’s larger cousin – the Raven. The Raven is much more prominent in Tlingit culture and is considered a powerful being. As a “trickster” and “shape-shifter”; Raven let’s “Daylight out of the box”. Many stories about the intelligent Raven.