Post written by Lia Heifetz
This fall, residents of Kake participated in a focus group to understand where opportunities exist to improve local wild food gathering and harvesting. The goal of this focus group was to determine which future cooperative efforts and direct investments in resources may improve the ease and efficiency of local gathering and harvesting. Constructive and instructive feedback was heard from seven Kake residents who participated in gathering wild foods.
The dominant topic of discussion was the subsistence harvest of sockeye salmon. Due to high prices of fuel, the cost of harvesting sockeye salmon under current procedures may not make sense financially and environmentally. Changes to make the process more efficient could decrease the environmental and the financial costs of this activity. Such modifications include community rather than individual permitting to allow fewer trips to the distant sockeye systems (and thus the decrease of fuel expenditures), access to a community boat to improve the safety and efficiency of conducting subsistence harvest activities, and the recognition that among Alaska Natives subsistence lifestyles are very much self-regulating traditions.
Other points of discussion among this focus group of Kake residents included sea otter impacts on local shellfish resources and opportunities for harvesting sea otters, investment in community resources, education capacity, resources not being utilized under current procedures, and a general of lack of transparency in management practices. The survival of culture and traditions is parallel to the existence of customary and traditional subsistence foods. The relatively small amount of fish and wildlife harvest that is allocated to rural residents of Alaska is essential to the economic, traditional, cultural and physical existence of Alaska Natives. In Kake food is culture, and subsistence is not just an activity- subsistence is a means to feed one’s family and a way of life.
Lia Heifetz works with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership on assessment of food security in communities at the local and regional level. She is currently working to develop a regional community food security assessment tool to aid SE communities in developing food security solutions.