Native Village of Tazlina Seeks Help to Protect Traditional Copper River Fishing Grounds

Published April 2020

The Native Village of Tazlina Tribal Council is raising funds to purchase a 462-acre parcel of property at the confluence of the Copper and Tazlina Rivers to protect ancient village sites and tribal fishing grounds. There are fish camp roads and trails established around the site to access traditional fishing grounds on the Copper River. Gloria Stickwan, President of the Native Village of Tazlina, stated, “The Tazlina Village Council goal is to protect these fishing sites, and we want to sustain fisheries in the Copper River. If this land is sold, our fishing sites will be taken away from tribal members.”

The property is the former site of the Copper Valley Catholic Boarding School which operated from 1956 to 1971 and is a reclaimed brownfield. In 1976, the entire school burned to the ground leaving rubble, ash and several contaminants in its wake, including asbestos which posed a public health and safety threat. In the mid-1990’s, the Tazlina Village Council started addressing the issue of the school’s rubble and contamination in council meetings and obtained EPA grant funding. Tana Mae Pete wrote the EPA grant application and was instrumental in setting up community meetings. In 2011, a Vision to Action workshop was held where pictures were drawn as to what the Village wanted to see for the school site if it was ever cleaned up. The discussion turned to how NVT could clean up lands that did not belong to the Village. Through a long process of discussions with government officials and anyone that would listen to the concerns, the NVT finally became eligible for program funding through the EPA Tribal Response Program in 2012, and the site was cleaned up the following year.

Under the presidential leadership of the late Johnny Goodlataw, a community-based stewardship vision for the area was developed. The plan includes protecting traditional fishing grounds and village sites; developing a tribal college, cultural center and museum, community hall, recreation area/playground, community garden, and church; and preservation of cultural resources, fisheries research and future riverbank erosion mitigation.

Fundraising for purchase of the property is taking place now, and you can help contribute to the effort. Donations can be sent to the Native Village of Tazlina Land Fund, P.O. Box 87, Glennallen Alaska 99588. For more information about the campaign, contact the Native Village of Tazlina at 907-822-4375 or email Heide Lingenfelter, Tribal Administrator Native Village of Tazlina, at prog.mang.@gmail.com.