Advocates Testify to Protect Way of Life

Written by Communications_Dept on . Posted in All News Items

The TCC Hunting and Fishing Task Force partnered with the UAF Tribal Management program to organize Tribal leaders and advocates, who attended and testified at the Board of Game (BOG) statewide meeting in Anchorage on November 9th, 10th, and 11th 2017. Over 20 advocates participated in the training, with 17 submitting oral or written testimony to statewide regulatory proposals effecting their traditional ways of life. Leaders and advocates shared their stories and their way of life with Board of Game members, who appreciated their time away from home to discuss issues critical to their families and communities.

During the training Tribal leaders and advocates were able to hear directly from Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Department) Subsistence Division Director Hazel Nelson. This was a unique opportunity for advocates to hear directly from Department leadership, learning specific tools and methods to preparing and providing effective testimony. They also dug deep on the issues with the Director, using their time effectively to ask critical questions related to the operations and functions of the BOG. Leaders and advocates were also able to share their concerns one on one, building relationships, with BOG members and Department Commissioner Sam Cotton during breaks and recesses. Leaders and advocates recognized early in the process, that building strong and positive relationships was important to having their voices and concerns heard by both the Department leadership and staff, as well as the BOG Chair and members.
Tribal leader and advocate commitment during the session was outstanding. They listened diligently, read through lengthy proposal documents, and prepared written and oral testimony over the first two days of the training, all in their effort to protect their traditional ways of life. In the end, their commitment, time, and energy made a difference at the BOG; their voices, stories, and testimony helped to ensure traditional hunting practices remain protected.
While leaders and advocates spoke to many regulatory proposals, four key proposals their testimony impacted included:
Proposal 4. Change the definition of edible meat for large game birds. This unexpectedly passed and Tribal leader and advocate comments were noted as making a difference. Tribal leader and advocates highlighted the cultural importance of respecting all animals, and not wasting any portion of a take. This proposal increased the take requirements for the fall bird hunters (sport hunters), making their requirements the same as the federal subsistence spring hunts (subsistence/rural & Alaska native hunters) to take the entire bird including wings and thighs.
Proposals 14 & 15. Prohibit the taking of bears in dens./Remove the exception for taking cub bears and female bears with cubs. These proposals failed. Tribal leader and advocate comments were critical. Testimony highlighted the longstanding traditions of their people, and again emphasized respect for all life. This protects important traditional and cultural practices.
Proposal 55. Combine the regulation allowing the take of big game for religious ceremonies and ceremony potlatches (Require Permit). This proposal failed. Tribal advocate comments were again critical to this proposal failing. This protects important traditional and cultural practices, and ensures further regulations are not put on religious ceremonial hunts.
Tribal Advocates also repetitively mentioned that BOG should follow their own Tribal Consultation Policy passed in 2002. (BOG Policy 2002-136-BOG)
BOG members placed it on record that the Tribal Management students made a difference, and that they made a huge statement, with their testimony. They further noted that the testimony demonstrated that people, including the BOG, should be very careful when considering proposals dealing with culturally sensitive issues. Their voices were powerful and were heard.
The Hunting and Fishing Task Force greatly thanks the Tribal leaders and advocates for their time, commitment, and dedication to the protection of their traditional way of life. Leaving our families to speak publically on behalf our people is a hard job. Basee’
The Hunting and Fishing Task Force also thanks those who make this work possible, including generous support from: Alaska Community Foundation’s Social Justice Fund, Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Alaska Native Fund, Doyon Limited, Tanana Chiefs Conference Executive Board, and donating Tribal Governments. Thank you to the UAF Tribal Management program for their partnership. Thank you to Jim Simon for sharing your knowledge, know how, and expertise. Basee’ for your support in making our voices heard.