Hunting for answers.
The article in the Spring 2007 issue of National Parks magazine brought to my mind a sore point about anyone hunting in our national parks. The author stressed the fact that native people have been hunting here for millennia, but they did not always use modern weapons. If they wish to keep their tradition alive, they should be required to use traditional weaponry and not modern equipment no motor boats and no guns. No other Americans are allowed to kill whales and, regardless of their traditions, neither should they.
North Point, FL
Thank you for the article about subsistence hunting and fishing in Alaska's park units in the Spring 2007 issue. As an Alaska Native, I was pleased with author Dan O'Neill's feature on subsistence activities that are protected within most of Alaska's national parks and preserves. This was the promise made to Alaska Natives when their claims of aboriginal title to Alaska lands were extinguished in 1971. In enacting the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980, Congress declared a national policy of protecting the subsistence way of life and legislated a clear congressional directive to protect the cultural aspects of subsistence living as "essential to Native physical, economic, traditional, and cultural existence."
Unfortunately, the title of the feature, "Frozen in Time," may have suggested to some readers that customary and traditional subsistence activities are, in fact, frozen in time.
This is hardly the case, as subsistence activities (and the methods and means of taking fish and game), while based on customary and traditional knowledge passed from generation to generation, have adapted over time for purposes of efficiency.
In 1980 (the year of ANILCA's passage) virtually all Alaska Native subsistence hunters had already adopted firearms as a means of hunting game.
Congress knew this and did not expect subsistence hunters to go back to the bow and arrow days of pre-contact. Rather, Congress protected subsistence activities without distinguishing between those that were practiced pre-contact and those that have adapted since.
Senior Staff Attorney
Native American Rights Fund
As Ms. Kendall notes, the survival of Native cultures in Alaska is a testament to both tradition and adaptability. Great respect and deference are traditionally given to elders, but new technologies were adopted whenever they improved the success and productivity of a hunter, gatherer, or fisherman. The evolution of weapons included the use of rocks, then spears, bow and arrow, and finally firearms. But it is not the technology that defines Native subsistence life, it is the relationships--relationships between family and the land and resources they rely on, and between a people and the landscape that has been their home beyond their collective memory.
NPCA has addressed the need to monitor the impact of subsistence hunting in its August 2006 report, Who's Counting? How Insufficient Support for Science Is Hindering National Park Wildlife Management in Alaska. NPCA will continue to work on this issue to ensure the health of wildlife populations that are so crucial to the people of Alaska and to visitors alike. For more information, visit www.npca.org/alaska/wildlife.
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|Author:||Sheppe, Walter; Martin, Betty; Kendall, Heather|
|Article Type:||Letter to the editor|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2007|
|Next Article:||The fruits of his labors.|