Ahtna shareholder and Native Village of Kluti-Kaah Elder Faye Ewan served on a panel at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association in Fairbanks in February. Joining her on the panel was Odin Miller of the Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission. The session was focused on Ahtna Fisheries and Food Sovereignty, something that Faye is incredibly passionate about.
For thousands of years, the Ahtna people exercised food sovereignty through a complex set of relationships to Copper River salmon, to each other, and to the river basin itself. During the past 150 years, the advent of colonial fisheries management, and the ever-increasing numbers of people using Copper River salmon, have altered the relationship between humans, fish and the river system. Climate change and other environmental challenges have likewise impacted traditional fishing practices. The Ahtna people have employed a variety of approaches to navigating these challenges. In addition to being a lifelong subsistence fisher with extensive knowledge of the middle Copper River, Faye has also played an active role in this tradition of food sovereignty activism. At the conference, Faye was gifted with a copper knife in appreciation of her important work. Thank you, Faye, for being a constant voice for tribal sovereignty and indigenous rights.
“Our people are the fishtail people. We go way back. We never had a limit for fish when we were young. When we had extra we could give it away. Now we only have 500 fish per family of two. It doesn’t go that far. We exercise our sovereignty on our land, as a people. Part of our right is to fish here. It’s how we survive, and it’s been a sustainable way of life.”
-Faye Ewan in an interview with Salmon Life (www.salmonlife.org/archived/stories/copper-river)