Strengthening Indigenous Voice in Natural Resource Management: Alaska Haida Representatives Visit Haida Gwaii for a Community Exchange

In May, representatives from Alaska’s Haida communities traveled to British Columbia, Haida Gwaii to collaborate on indigenous natural resource stewardship and strengthen international relations.

Carrie Sykes of the Organized Village of Kasaan and Anthony Christiansen of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association participated in the community exchange program as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Emerald Edge Indigenous Stewardship Initiative. The intent of this program is to bring together people and projects from the coasts of Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington to support the long-term health of the world’s largest coastal temperate forest. This work was supported locally with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a growing network of organizations working together to meet the challenge of sustainable community development in Southeast Alaska.  

A collective goal of these complementary programs is to support increased Indigenous leadership and local capacity-building for natural resource management in communities across our shared rainforest. 



The coasts of our region are a truly sacred resource and extend far across international borders. International collaboration between Southeast Alaska and British Columbia on resource monitoring and indigenous stewardship present new opportunities to better protect these resources for generations to come. Photo Credit: Brenda Berry

While in Haida Gwaii, Sykes and Christianson participated in the Coastal Stewardship Network Annual Gathering. The Coastal Stewardship Network Annual Gathering brings together stewardship representatives from the First Nations to share information and strategize about important issues related to governing traditional areas. This year, the conference was opened to guests from northern Vancouver Island, the Northwest Territories and southern Alaska.

“Although the Haidas have been separated through a migration to Alaska, we are the same nation and we need a unified voice to protect our customary and traditional resources on both sides of the border. This relationship must include other First Nations and Alaska Native Tribes. We are united by our Native culture, resources and water. When we stand united we have strength and can make a difference for future generations,” says Sykes.

Through the Coastal Stewardship Network Gathering, it became clear that the Alaskan Haida and Canadian Haida have much to learn from one another in areas, such as cultural tourism, resources management, co-management, and the protection of culture. Developing this partnership further presents opportunities for collaboration and sharing of information and research processes that could greatly improve local management of traditional resources.

“It was very exciting to learn about what the First Nations are doing in British Columbia to assert their self-governance and sovereign authority. Although the management regimes are quite different between the two countries, there are similar concerns such as impacts from development, competing uses for the resources, challenges facing the eulachon and clams, and potential impacts from sea otter and invasive species,” Carrie Sykes says.

The transboundary relationship with First Nations in British Columbia and Alaska Native Tribes means strength through unity on issues that are important to both nation’s coastal communities. One prime example is with promoting best management practices for mining operations on the Stikine, Taku and Unuk Rivers. These rivers are very important to Alaskan Natives for salmon, and are equally important to Canadian First Nations.

Other important collaboration opportunities identified during this exchange include:

  • Collective data management: How can community resource managers effectively share and access cross boundary data sets to improve management practices at an international scale?
  • Co-management agreements: How can indigenous communities support and facilitate agreements with the Providence and U.S. Federal Government to support cross boundary relationships?;
  • Guardian Watchman Program development in Kasaan and Hydaburg: Can elements of British Columbia’s successful indigenous natural resource stewardship program be brought to Southeast Alaska? ;
  • Monitoring of traditional lands and waters: How can both nations learn from one another and improve natural resource monitoring programs at a grand scale; and the
  • Haida Gwaii Heritage Tourism Strategy: How can Southeast Alaskan Haida communities learn from Haida Gwaii’s tourism successes and improve local tourism development (particularly with the development of a Kasaan Tourism Plan).

The Sustainable Southeast Partnership is eager to turn this knowledge and strengthened international partnership into action for rural communities here in Southeast Alaska.

Alana Peterson is the Program Director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership.

“The indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest have it engrained in our culture to be good stewards of the land and its resources. Indigenous values are a natural platform for creating sustainable community development. Although there is an international border that separates southeast from British Columbia, we have historically shared information and ideas up and down the coast. We see great value in continuing to share ideas and information with our neighbors in British Columbia,” says Peterson.

Registration Opens for the Southeast Alaska Fish and Farm to Schools Conference




5 February 2015


Registration Begins for the Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to Schools Conference

Connecting Alaska’s Schools with Local Food Entrepreneurs

Registration has begun for the Southeast Farm and Fish to Schools Conference. This event will be the first regional opportunity focused on building connections between Alaska’s school systems and local food entrepreneurs. Anyone interested in bringing more local foods into our school system is invited to collaborate and connect with regional experts to strengthen fish and farm to school programming across the state.

Southeast Conference, the regional economic development organization, is coordinating the conference in conjunction with the newly formed Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a diverse network of organizations working together on community sustainability in Southeast Alaska.

Alana Peterson, program director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Haa Aani, LLC comments:

 “Often we find that the barriers to achieving access to local, healthy foods can be overcome if we work together as a region to make this initiative a priority. By bringing all the key players together for a conference we are hoping to achieve just that.”

Fish and farm to school programming offers significant economic, environmental cultural and nutritional opportunities to our rural communities and region.

 “Schools in southeast received more than $500,000 last year to buy Alaskan produced foods through the Nutritional Alaska Foods to Schools grant program.” Shelly Wright, Executive Director of Southeast Conference comments. “However, schools are often limited by what they can procure. There are untapped opportunities for, farmers, fishermen and small business in our region.  We are eager to break down barriers and grow the opportunities for everyone.”


About the Southeast Alaska Fish to Schools Conference

Conference Dates: April 2-3, 2015

Conference Location: Centennial Hall, Juneau Alaska

Online registration and more detailed conference information available at

Register before Feb. 28 to be eligible for a travel stipend

Contact Lia Heifetz for more information about the conference and accessing a travel stipend


Who Should Attend

  • Existing or aspiring businesses and entrepreneurs interested in growing or harvesting local foods
  • Fishermen who want to explore school markets
  • School administrators and community members interested in procuring more local foods for schools
  • People interested in starting a school growing program (greenhouse or garden)
  • Educators looking to exchange insights and obtain resources for developing food systems curricula for the classroom


Conference Highlights

  • Local entrepreneur development track with experts in developing business structure, planning, financing and marketing for a local foods enterprise
  • Information and resources for educators to increase awareness for students around food origins, health and traditional use
  • Resources for projects to sustain local foods in schools
  • Success stories from around the region and state
  • Opportunities for networking and collaboration


For Online registration and more detailed information please visit:



What do hogs and LED light bulbs have in common?

The Energy Hog in Kasaan

The Energy Hog in Kasaan

Carrie and Minnie helped organize assemblies at the Kasaan and Hydaburg schools as I brought the Energy Hog with me. What is the Energy Hog you ask? The Energy Hog is a great way to introduce students to energy use and energy savings concepts in a fun, entertaining and memorable way.  This is the second year that the Alaska Energy Authority has rented the costume and coordinated its appearance in schools around the state. Here’s footage from Energy Hog assemblies done in Angoon, Hoonah, and Kake, starring Tasha McKoy as the Energy Hog Buster. Video courtesy Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority and Nathan Havey of Thrive Consulting Group:  I’ve participated in these programs and am pleasantly surprised at how engaged the students are.  We had a lot of fun at both schools. I was also able to speak to the principals about AK EnergySmart, an Alaska specific curriculum developed by Renewable Energy Alaska Project and Alaska Center for Energy and Power with the support of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

In Kasaan, Carrie is interested in promoting energy efficiency opportunities for residents. We will continue to discuss the most effective ways to do this. I’ll share more about this soon. In Hydaburg, the tribe is interested in energy efficiency and district biomass heating for some of the larger, centrally located commercial buildings in town. I look forward to following up with Minnie, the Tribe and the consultants who have been looking at the buildings already. I also met with Machelle Edenshaw and Dennis Nickerson in Kasaan. They are working to build even further collaboration on energy and environmental issues among the Island’s tribes, and organize the Earth Day event on Prince of Wales. It was great to finally meet Dennis, as we have been emailing for months now. I will help them look into options to improve Kasaan’s energy independence. At the very least I hope to be involved in the Earth Day event in 2015, which draws hundreds of students Island-wide.

Carrie at OVK's new Cafe

Carrie at OVK’s new Cafe


Hydaburg’s Report for August

This is a photo of our stream crew on top of a stream of Dunbar.

This is a photo of our stream crew on top of a stream in Dunbar.

This month, our stream crew (Kurt Edenshaw Jr., Tony Sanderson and I) finished mapping all of the streams we planned to do this summer except for  Manhattan Lake on Dall Island due to time and weather. I started entering our data onto a spreadsheet when we didn’t go in the field. When I have some time I am going to go through the ArcGIS II book I got from Dorinda Sanderson.

Food Sustainability Catalyst Update: travel to Kake, Hoonah, Hydaburg and Kasaan


I visited Kake the last week of April.  I arrived a couple of days before the shellfish workshop (see Capital City Weekly article, during the Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) meeting, and the Organized Village of Kake Council Meeting.

Rodger Painter, a long-time mariculturist and oyster farmer working with Kake, spoke with me about the potential for a cockle habitat enhancement project. Cockles are one of the favorite traditional foods of Tlingit people, and the system in which cockles exists has pressures from humans and other predators such as sea otters. People in Kake have noticed declines in the amount of cockles they are able to harvest. The Shellfish grower’s workshop brought to town Ray Ralonde, an Aquaculture Specialist from University of Alaska Fairbanks. He recommended they begin a monitoring program to asses the inventory of cockles, water quality assessments, and education on the growth and natural processes of these bivalves. With the guidance of Ray, Kake plans to move forward with this project and develop an action plan.

April 30, 2014-DSC_0120

The annual CEDS meeting in Kake took place on April 30th.

Preliminary meetings were conducted with school district staff for the Fish to Schools Evaluation- the goal of this evaluation is to strengthen the program to ideally support local fisherman. Additionally, there is interest in implementing a school garden and school greenhouse in the future.

Dr. Paul Koo of the local SEARHC clinic also expressed interest in collaborating on a project that involves getting healthy foods to kids.

I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Michael Hibbard and Robert Adkins from the University of Oregon. They have worked with OVK for the last ten years on their Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). At this meeting, community members reported on the status of some of the high priority projects from the latest edition of this strategy. In addition to reporting on the status of current projects prioritized, I had the opportunity to present on the topic of food security. This included some background information on what this term means and potential ways a food secure Kake can come to fruition. I spoke about the projects that a currently on the docket: cockle enhancement, Fish to Schools, educational opportunities, and in the longer term, a commercial greenhouse. There was especially high interest in the Natural Resources Conservation Service grant program to receive high tunnels. This was great to hear, as an increase in local capacity to cultivate foods is necessary for a greenhouse to be a successful project in Kake.

Priorities: 1) cockle enhancement, 2) Fish to Schools, 2) local capacity building for food cultivation and future commercial greenhouse



Collecting seaweed to add to the community garden soil in Hoonah.

Collecting seaweed to add to the community garden soil in Hoonah.

One of the prioritized projects in Hoonah is to launch the Community Garden. To do this, Kathy McCrobie (SEARHC) and I planned a day to harvest

seaweed to add to the garden beds and to kick off the community garden. Jessie Dybdahl (HIA) and I led a seaweed gathering event with the Big Brothers Big Sisters after school program participants. Jessie and I taught a short classroom lesson on soil nutrition and the value of seaweed. I also brought a sample of worms and demonstrated how worms can compost our food waste to produce nutrients for the soil. The community garden just received soil to fill the remaining raised beds, and I’ve heard through Kathy that community garden participants are planting and enjoying the space!

Priorities: 1) Community garden, 2) local Fish to Schools, 3) food growing business development, 3) oyster value added processing

HydaburgGarden (6 of 8)

Planting seeds with kids in Hydaburg at the community garden site. Photo by Bethany Goodrich, SCS.


I arrived in Klawock, drove to Craig to pick of Bethany, Tongass Policy and Communications Resident for the Sitka Conservation Society. We went to Hydaburg to meet with Minnie, Environmental Planner at the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and SSP Community Catalyst. Bethany, Minnie, and I met with Lauren Burch, the Superintendent of the Hydaburg School District and the Southeast Island School District (including Kasaan), and talked about the food-related projects the district has activated. In Thorne Bay, a greenhouse enterprise was created within the school district. Lauren would like to see Hydaburg (along with all the schools on POW) have greenhouses that are producing foods to create a full salad bar. More on the greenhouse later… Other food sustainability interests in Hydaburg include developing a wild mushroom business, reviving the fish processing plant, and improving the school lunch program.

Most of my work in Hydaburg will be focused on building the capacity and funds to build a greenhouse for the Hydaburg school. Additionally, there are efforts to engage the youth in gardening activities. We attended an evening “crafts” event. At this event children, their parents and grandparents participated in Haida songs and dances, practiced Haida words for salmon species, and worked in the community garden! There was a lot of enthusiasm among the youth once they had their hands in the dirt. Bethany wrapped up the evening by sitting in on a dancing/singing/drumming practice at the gym. A group of about 20 youth gathered to practice Haida songs and dances for an upcoming celebration of life. The next day we met up with Minnie to tour the carving shed. The carvers were busy working on totems for the annual Hydaburg Culture Camp.

Priorities: 1) school greenhouse, 2) local and traditional foods in schools

Thorne Bay Greenhouse 

Leafy greens grown in the Thorne Bay greenhouse. Sold to the school lunch program, local market and store in Craig.

Leafy greens grown in the Thorne Bay greenhouse. Sold to the school lunch program, local market and store in Craig.


Minnie, Carrie (Kasaan Community Catalyst), Bethany and I  toured the Thorne Bay Greenhouse (see Anchorage Daily News article). The students run and maintain the greenhouse, which can produce up to 1150 heads of lettuce at a time. There is a construction and maintenance department, marketing and business, purchasing and ordering and horticulture department – all student run, with associated curriculum (see Thorne Bay School Greenhouse website). The greenhouse is heated by the wood boiler that heats the school and uses LED lights to grow year-round. The leafy greens from the greenhouse are sold to the school lunch program, directly to customers and to stores- in Craig and Thorne Bay. Lauren Burch hopes that in the coming years all nine schools in the SISD and the Hydaburg School district will cumulatively have a full salad bar. In the coming months, we can expect to see a media piece on this project- an example of an enterprise supported by locally sourced inputs (cord wood) and local food distributed to the school, community and island.


Kasaan Community Food Sustainability Meeting. Photo by Bethany Goodrich, SCS.


Bethany and I headed to Kasaan and met Carrie Sykes, Economic Development Coordinator for the Organized Village of Kasaan and SSP Community Catalyst. The Organized Village of Kasaan hosted a community luncheon to discuss food sustainability priorities. There were 29 participants. Most of the participants are interested in educational opportunities, including soil preparation, field guides for wild foods, wild food propagation, preservation education, getting more local foods into schools, and getting a school greenhouse. The greenhouse is purchased for Kasaan, but the process is  held up in some legalities of the land for the greenhouse. Additionally, the school district is seeking funding to buy hydroponic equipment for the Kasaan school greenhouse. I will be doing what I can to aid in writing grants and seeking these funds.

Carrie and I also spent time planning for a community wild foods preservation and Cottage Foods Industry workshop and wild foods harvest that will take place at the end of June.

May 08, 2014-DSC_0336

Petroglyphs in Old Kasaan.

Additionally, Carrie and I visited the Old Kasaan village site with the school kids from Kasaan and Hydaburg. We reached the site by boat on some rough seas and toured Old Kasaan, on Skowl Arm, with commentary by Fred Olsen, Culture Coordinator for the Organized Village of Kasaan. This site was likely established in the early eighteenth century and before 1900 it was one of largest Haida population centers. Skipping ahead a few years…. By the late 1860’s a cluster of businesses (salmon saltery, trading post, and the Copper Queen mine) were established on Kasaan Arm. These were employers of many people from the Kasaan village at the time and eventually this area (the current site of Kasaan) become known as New Kasaan (see more info on Kasaan history here). At the old Kasaan site we were able to see the remains of old houses, totems, petroglyphs and explored the area for old garden sites.

Priorities: 1) educational opportunities, 2) local foods in schools, 3) school greenhouse



Other news…

Additionally, I met with culinary teacher Patrick Roach at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau and Career and Technical Education director, Carin Smolin,  to talk about the potential for a greenhouse for school’s culinary program and use with cross-curricular areas in the high school. 

Will update on the Fish to Schools visits that are taking place over the next few weeks! Look forward to more posts soon!

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