Chasing Herring Spawn on Sitka Sound

Written by Bethany Goodrich for Alaska Dispatch News

SITKA — In early spring, the forests and estuaries begin to thaw. With the softer earth and longer days, Sitka’s residents thaw too. We stretch our arms and arch our backs, padded with a little extra winter weight, toward the increasing sunlight. We look to our coastline for the return of the herring.

All Rights Reserved. No use without explicit permission by Sitka Conservation Society, Sustainable Southeast Partnership and/or Bethany Goodrich

In Sitka Sound, herring have always been harbingers of spring. As they return en masse each year they carry on their iridescent backs the promise of warmer weather and seasons of subsistence. Seabirds, sea lions and fishermen compete aggressively for this plentiful food source. Hoards of humpback whales return from Hawaiian waters in pursuit of these silvery fish. Hunting in packs like wolves, they dive deep, flukes slipping into the sea. Our waters erupt with life.

Back in town, Sitka clamors with activity too. Our harbors flood with visiting seiners and tenders awaiting the commercial herring sac roe fishery. Locals prep their skiffs and begin eyeing young hemlock trees in preparation for the subsistence harvest. Wade Martin, 51, is a Chilkat Tlingit who has been harvesting herring eggs locally for 40 years.

“During herring season, there is no place better than Sitka. It’s a really happy time of year for animals, for us,” Martin said. “Just to be part of it all is a privilege. It’s more than cultural, it’s in my blood and I could not imagine not doing this. I’d go crazy.”

From his 18-foot aluminum skiff named Raven, Martin hustles through the Sitka Sound island chains with his eye to the water and his ear to local chatter. This year, he promised more than a half-ton of roe to friends and family around the region.

HerringSeason_SitkaHarbor (1 of 1) HumpbackwhalepackSItka (1 of 1)

Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi: Blessing of the rock

The season begins at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Tribal Community House, when community members join the Sitka Tribe of Alaska in prayer.

“We are especially thankful for our culture for our people and our ways that you have taught us as we celebrate the herring run, its history,” says John Duncan while Roby Littlefield pours channel water over the herring rock.

News Lawson explains the significance of this rock and the herring season.

SitkaHerringRockBlessing (2 of 2) SitkaHerringRockBlessing (1 of 2)

“The herring rock has a very long history among our people. Very significant. The days of long ago, the herring would come to our homeland and the first place the herring would spawn would be at the herring rock and this time of year was very significant to our people, the arrival of the herring on our shores that meant the arrival of new food, new food for our homes and the end of the old foods that sustained us through the winter months.”

The timbre of the prayer is calm and steady. Out on the water, the pace is entirely different.

Defined by patience

HerringSeason_BethanyGoodrich

Seiners strategize their position and await the Alaska Department of Fish and Game countdown.

“Three.

“Two.

“One.”

The rodeo begins.

Sitka’s sac roe commercial fishery is legendary for cutthroat hustle. Spotter planes scope fish movement from above and dozens of seiners narrowly avoid one another, dodging rocks and whales as they compete for masses of herring.

This year, seiners harvested 9,758 tons of herring, about 66 percent of the quota. Fishermen target the golden herring egg sacks, or skeins, coveted in Japan as a traditional delicacy called kazunoko. Fish and Game estimates that 10.7 percent of the nearly 10,000 tons of herring pulled from Sitka Sound this season was the target mature roe. The subsistence harvest stands in stark comparison. Participants still target herring eggs, but the technique for accessing these eggs will leave the fish breathing. It’s a methodology defined by patience.

In quiet coves foaming with turquoise milt, participants lower hemlocks from small boats, anchoring them into the spawn. Days later, they return to pull in branches, hoping that thick layers of eggs coat the limbs. While the process sounds idyllic, the reality isn’t always quiet and serene. Like the commercial sac roe fishery, locals are in hot pursuit of this sacred resource.

HerringSubsistenceSItkaKitka (1 of 1) HerringSubsistenceSItkaFoam (1 of 1) HerringSubsistenceSItka (5 of 5)

Sitka at heart of harvest

Martin and I pull the Raven up to a wooden troller anchored in a protected cove of Middle Island. The F/V Shirley N travels annually to Sitka from Hoonah.

Located on Chichagof Island, Hoonah is the largest Tlingit community in Alaska. Martin grew up in Hoonah and spent herring season traveling to Sitka on local trollers, gathering eggs. Today, Hoonah residents depend on Vernon Hill, a veteran troller with a local crew, to return with a hull weighed down by eggs on branches. The Hoonah Indian Association and community members contribute funds each year to support their travel. Martin reconnects with his hometown friends in the wheelhouse, while on deck Brandon Hill explains how a triumphant return to town looks.

“It’s crazy when we get back to Hoonah. Usually, we pull up to the dock and there’s about 200 people out there and we lay the eggs out on a tarp and watch people like seagulls fighting over this stuff. It’s just madness. It is really rewarding and it means a lot to a lot of people, especially elders,” Hill says.

Some people describe herring eggs poetically as the most culturally revered subsistence food after salmon. Others use a more crass nomenclature: Indian Viagra. Some people prefer to munch on egg-coated kelp pulled directly from the sea. Some blanch them, dress them with soy sauce or cook them in seal oil. Others kindly refuse.

Whether you like herring eggs or not, they are in demand across Alaska and Sitka is the beating heart of the harvest. Participants spend weeks gathering eggs, packaging and pumping thousands of pounds of this treat by boat or by box along airline arteries to eager families from Metlakatla to Barrow. Martin alone ships his bounty to Yakutat, Kake, Hoonah, Juneau and Angoon.

HerringSubsistenceSItka (4 of 5) HerringSubsistenceSItka (3 of 5) WadeRavenHerringSeasonSitka (1 of 1)

Atypical Easter egg hunt

It’s Easter. While little girls in Sunday dresses play hide and seek with colorful eggs, I sip thick coffee and talk herring with the crew aboard the F/V Shirley N. Days earlier, we anchored branches in coves across Sitka Sound. Today, we hop on skiffs for a different kind of egg hunt.

Cutting through a cold sharp rain, Martin and I race to Crow Pass, an epicenter for herring egg subsistence. The turquoise foamy spawn has subsided, the water fading to a more familiar and less tropical shade. Peering past the raindrop-mottled surface, we look deep in the water for color. Martin does not attach buoys to his branches, fearing the egg wranglers — people who steal branches laid by others. He hides his branches and has done such a fantastic job that we struggle to find them.

“See that? That yellow glow down deep,” calls Martin. We drop a grappling hook and yank. A growing pale form rises to the surface, a young hemlock heavy with eggs. “Not ours!” The line, and anchor are unfamiliar.

Martin is many things, but he is not an egg thief.

“For me, this is all about honor. I honor my culture, honor where I come from, honor my father and honor this resource.” Thievery is not honorable. He loosens his grip and the tree slips back into the darkness.

We continue in this way for hours, though most of the trees we pull are ours. This year, however, most of those trees are empty. “Junk! Junk!” Martin says as he clips the small sections of tree worth keeping. “It’s getting worse every year. It’s getting harder to make this happen.”

We motor back to the Shirley N. All the sets the Hoonah crew pulled were empty. Barren hemlocks balance sadly on deck. Everyone is tired, feeling defeated.

wadeHerringEggsSitka (2 of 1) HerringSubsistenceSItka (4 of 4) herringsubsistenceculturesitka (1 of 1)

A changing harvest

Martin and the crew of the Shirley N were not alone in their struggles this spring. Sitka Tribe distributed 3,240 pounds of this culturally revered resource, not even half of what they distributed a year ago.

Harvey Kitka, born and raised in Sitka, has been chair of the tribe’s herring committee for 10 years. “Harvesting … was really bad. Usually, I have so much that I distribute to not only family in town but some friends, too. We all have friends who don’t have boats; some of them are older … and we usually get eggs for them,” Kitka says.

He remembers a time growing up in Sitka when the herring were so thick that the crack of their flipping backs would echo across the Sound like a hailstorm. Back then, subsistence seasons were more reliable. “It used to be that the duration of the spawn was so long you could see which way the herring were heading, you could watch them every day as they got closer in town. We would try to get there right before the herring would start spawning, anticipating their movement.”

This season, the spawn seemed different.

“The herring came in tiny bunches, just scattered on the surface and there were just little balls of herring. It was just a little spot here and a little spot there,” Kitka says. “You had to be really lucky.”

HerringSeason_SitkaKruzof (1 of 1)

Persistence, rejoicing

Back on the water, Martin and the Hoonah boys are determined to get lucky. By chance, while Martin and his buddy Russ James are hunting seals and otters north in Salisbury Sound, they stumble upon a late spawn. They move fast, lay branches and lead the Hoonah crew there to do the same. They all cross their fingers.

After weeks of battling waning optimism with die-hard persistence, the Hoonah crew and Martin taste salty, crunchy success. They pull plentiful branches from Salisbury Sound. The next day, I join Martin, James, his girlfriend Teresa Moses and her sons Eli and Andrew as they sort and package the spoils. The sun is bright, the atmosphere warm with relief and rejoice.

herringeggsSitka (1 of 1)

“I was pretty worried that I wasn’t going to be able to hold up my obligations, but now I’m very happy,” Martin says.  “I try to be honorable and honor my word. This was the first year I almost didn’t make my obligations. It’s getting worse every year. We all but gave up on this season and just lucked out and stumbled into it in Salisbury Sound, the farthest north I’ve ever had to go,” Martin says.

The afternoon is rich with celebratory sounds: pruning shears clip, packaging tape stretches across burgeoning fish boxes, Creedence Clearwater Revival sings “Proud Mary” on the radio and two little boys crunch gleefully on eggs.

“I wish that we could have herring eggs every day,” one says. With a grin, their mother promises fresh eggs in tomorrow’s school lunchbox.

herringeggsSitka (4 of 4)All together, Martin packages more than 2,000 pounds of herring eggs on branches. Four-hundred pounds are set aside for a particularly important purpose: Martin’s father passed away earlier this spring. These eggs will feed guests at a ceremonial party to honor Chief George Martin Jr., clan leader of the Chookaneidi. The rest are distributed to family and friends within Sitka and across the state. He pushes cartload after cartload through the gates at Harris Aircraft Services. He estimates these eggs will hit the tongues of nearly a thousand Alaskans.

“There’s not a lot of people who can do this anymore, and it’s my culture. A lot of people do their culture with dance and music. With me, it’s the thrill of showing people this, sharing whatever is in season,” Martin says.

In Hoonah, the community celebrated the triumphant return of their hardworking men on the Shirley N. Residents fought with fervor and glee over the thickest branches.

As spring tapers off into summer, Sitka’s residents wear down our winter weight, pulling skates and hooks heavy with halibut and salmon from the Sitka Sound. As we clean our bounty, we look graciously to our plentiful waters and curiously in the pink bellies of our chinooks. We are reminded of the little fish that begin it all, the shimmering foundation of our rich subsistence culture.

Living and Breathing Art With Sgwaayaans Young

Written for Alaska’s Capital City Weekly

Photo1_2015Culturecamp (1 of 1)

For many, art is defined as a pretty landscape painting interpreted by a single artist using store-bought materials. The final product is sold to an admirer, tossed up on a wall and enjoyed for a generation before ending up discarded at the Salvation Army.

Sgwaayaans (TJ) Young is not in that business. As a Haida carver who works predominately on community-based projects, his artwork is dynamic and consuming. His process pulls together a collective vision, a tested history and a proud future. He uses materials borrowed from the landscape and shapes them with tools hand-made from trees. Though sometimes, he proudly uses chainsaws (more on that later). His work encourages collaboration between teams of artists and depends on the support and love of a community at every step in the process. The final pieces live and breathe and eventually, like the best of us, they return to the earth and rot.

TJ helps work on the raven pole at the 2015 Hydaburg Culture Camp.

TJ helps work on the raven pole at the 2015 Hydaburg Culture Camp.

I first met Young in his hometown of Hydaburg. In the summer of 2015, he returned home for the annual Culture Camp, where he was quickly locked up in the carving shed and put to work helping to complete two totem poles to be risen later that week. Light crept out through the boards of the shed until the wee hours of the morning.

Community members helped the carvers long into the evening before the Totem Pole raising at the 2015 Hydaburg Culture Camp.

Community members helped the carvers long into the evening before the Totem Pole raising at the 2015 Hydaburg Culture Camp.

The night before the raising, I joined community members and visiting dance groups in the shed. To the beating of drums, singing, dancing and laughter, friends took turns helping the carvers layer on paint and varnish late into the night. Everyone crossed their fingers that the paint would dry before men, women and children hoisted the eagle and raven pole to attention the following afternoon. The energy not only left my head, heart and body pounding to a powerful beat, the experience redefined the role of art and culture for me.

Needless to say, I was excited to hear that Young was joining a talented crew of artists on a local canoe project in the Sitka Historic Park. For more on that project, please check out the CCW’s story here: http://bit.ly/1YOVjFX.

After months of sheepishly admiring their handiwork, I built up the courage to finally ask Young on a pizza date to discuss in more depth his art, process and aspirations.

BG: How did you find yourself in this career?

TY: We grew up carving a little bit but it wasn’t in school past grade seven so it just kind of tapered off for most people. What happened with us was that our mother got my brother (Joe Young) a tool roll with some carving tools and I think I got jealous and she ended up getting me one, too. It was pretty expensive back then but we were both excited about our tool roll. We were always fascinated by my grandpa Claude Morrison, too. He used to make halibut hooks, functional ones that people would actually use.

Then, a group of us made a model-sized long house about 3 feet by about 2.5 feet. We used a little diagram sketch in one of the old books and got $600 for the longhouse. That was a lot of money to us as kids back then as sophomores in high school. Our superintendent bought it and that was one of those ‘Aha’ moments: We could get paid to do this and make a living doing art.

BG: How has the scope of your work changed since that first model longhouse?

TY: So, my grandma, Gladys Morrison, died in ’97 and the following year my brother Joe and I decided to carve a little totem pole for her. It’s right in front of her house still and I remember thinking how big of a project it was despite it being only 7-feet tall. We had our tool rolls and two little adzes and we were fishing in the meantime and it just seemed like we were never going to finish it. It was a gift, it had my grandma’s crest on it, a beaver with an eagle on the tail and a watchman on top to represent my grandfather looking out at the ocean.

TJ and his brother Joe carved their first totem pole in honor of their grandmother, Gladys Morrison. From that point on, the poles got taller and the scope of their work grew and grew.

TJ and his brother Joe carved their first totem pole in honor of their grandmother, Gladys Morrison. From that point on, the poles got taller and the scope of their work grew and grew.

So, we had a little totem raising and it was nice weather and it went up in just a second because it was so small, ha! It seems like a small project now but it was a big project to us and to a lot of people because what it meant was big. My grandpa was real proud of it. His generation was more apt to let that way of life go, to move on, so it brought a twinkle to his eye to watch us carve.

We were getting little jobs here and there, commissioned poles on Prince of Wales and the poles were getting bigger and bigger and we were getting more comfortable as we went. It wasn’t until 2006 that my brother and I actually got our first big job, a 40-foot pole here in Sitka. I remember coming in on the ferry and we were getting docked up and we looked at each other, my brother and I, and we were like: What are we doing? We’ve never even done (something) like this before! We were anxious.

In the meantime, we have done some poles for galleries in Anchorage, a couple commissions down in Texas and Washington, more on Prince of Wales and I am pretty excited about this canoe I am helping work on. I hope we jump on another one in the next few years so we can get real familiar with it.

BG: What do you like most about this work?

TJ: I couldn’t see myself doing anything else beside this. I’ve worked other labor jobs but this is a real privilege. I learn something new every day and it’s my way of keeping in touch with who we were as a people. You learn more about who you are by doing this kind of work. You get to step into your ancestors’ shoes and you are constantly studying these old pieces and reflecting on what they were going through at that time, through the art.

They were able to reflect their everyday lifestyle and values through their work and I want to get to a point where my art can more accurately reflect what I was going through instead of trying to cater for a market. I want to get to the point where I can reflect through my work how I see the world and how I interpret not only who we were but who we are (and) who I am now.

It takes an entire community to raise a totem pole. The community helps carry the raven pole out of the carving shed during the 2015 Culture Camp.

It takes an entire community to raise a totem pole. The community helps carry the raven pole out of the carving shed during the 2015 Culture Camp.

BG: How do you define a successful community project?

TY: I guess just involving as many people as you can. It doesn’t take 10 people to pick up a pole, it’s 100 people. The kid at the end who isn’t really pulling hard but he has his hand on the rope and in his mind he thinks he helped out, it’s all about that feeling, that sense of belonging.

And, it’s sometimes hard to get that feeling when you grow up in some of these communities where there are struggles. To feel like you belong, that’s why we need to get back into our language and our culture. All of a sudden you are one of a kind, you speak a language that a hundred people speak at the most in the world. It’s a commitment. You start getting into language and like one of my teachers Robert Davidson told me, you have to look back to look forward sometimes.

BG: What is the most frustrating reaction to your work?

TY: When we get called out during carving for using modern tools, like small chainsaws on the canoe project. Things changed pretty quickly for us with European contact and survival is always based on whether you can adapt or not. So we get our balls broken about using modern tools nowadays but we don’t get personal with it. They aren’t being personal, more ignorant than anything. One tourist the other day said that we were cheating our ancestors. Well, no, your ancestors probably cheated our ancestors, ha. But, we have a good humor and I think that’s one thing that’s gotten us through a lot of what has happened in the past. You can’t walk around mad, that’s not what life is about. Life is too short.

TJ Young adzes out a dugout canoe in Sitka.

TJ Young adzes out a dugout canoe in Sitka.

BG: What is the most rewarding reaction?

TY: When the whole village cheers when we put that pole up. There’s nothing like it. You can score a game winning basket in a tournament and it’s maybe a bit like that. Also, somebody dancing in one of your masks or pieces in a dance group is a pretty cool feeling.

And that is what they were meant for, what they were needed for, to be used and not hung up on a wall and not created for just money. That is why a lot of people put more love into this type of artwork because they know certain people will be using it and thousands of people might see it. So I think that seeing your work being used is the best feeling. And yes, it will be a good feeling when we get this canoe in the water and people jump in, so long as it doesn’t sink!

BG: Do you have any advice for aspiring carvers and artists?

TY: There’s this quote I like, “I’m aware that my time is near because I start to see my idols as peers.” I forgot who said it, but what it means is that if you are passionate enough about something then you are going to gravitate toward somebody who can help you get to be where you need to be. You might need to be a little bold, you might need to ask questions, but if you are passionate enough about what you do, find someone who can mentor and help you get to the next level and from there you will find something else. So be courageous, you can’t get what you don’t ask for.

Have balance. There is this story from Haida Gwaii where the Haida were disrespecting the hooligan and they went away and we had to get the hooligan from the mainland. They were overfished or something and they never came back and it was a tough lesson to learn at the time. The lesson was to have a strong sense of balance. And that’s important with everything. There’s a balance in life, with marriage, with kids and with art. The best artists have a good balance, and balanced proportions and they were sought after more. That’s why eagles marry ravens and vice versa and potlatches were about balance, about attaining wealth for five years or 10 years just to give it all away. It’s just a beautiful way of going through life and for creating good art.

And lastly, keep learning. I love what I do because it’s a learning process. No matter the project, I’m still learning. I’m 35 and I have a lot to learn. So stay open to learning, be courageous, be bold and ask questions. Have balance in life and in art.
Photo7_2015Culturecamp (1 of 1)

BG: What are your hopes and goals looking forward?

TY: One thing I’m kind of nervous about, especially with these canoes, is that yellow cedar is getting harder and harder to acquire. That’s why we are working on a log that is so messed up right now with cracks. It was the best one available and that’s kind of scary. It’s kind of scary and sad that if we continue to pick up this technique of canoe carving, whose to say that my kids will even be able to carve? There might not be cedar like that around. So, preserving our old growth cedar should be a priority. When they are gone they are gone.

For my art, I’d like to get my skill set up to par with some of the great masters of the late 1880s. Those old Haida masters were just on a whole different level than most people are now. That’s what I’m going for. And when I was done apprenticing with Robert Davidson he said, “Don’t be stingy.” What he meant by that was to just help other people out. Don’t take this knowledge I gave you and hoard it. I gave it to you to give to somebody. And I mean, don’t just give it to everybody on Facebook, ha!

But I will give it to the people who are eventually going to gravitate to me and that’s where I want to be. To get to that level and be able to pass it on to a couple of younger ambitious Haida who want to preserve what we do. It’s a wonderful art, its a beautiful art form and it needs to be preserved. I look forward to passing that on. That’s what I’m shooting for and to keep putting feeling and love into all of my work.

TJ works on a dugout canoe in Sitka.

TJ works on a dugout canoe in Sitka.

Photo8_2015Culturecamp (1 of 1)

The carvers dance before the Raven pole is hoisted to attention in Hydaburg.

 

 

 

 

 

The canoe project that TJ is currently working on with Tommy Joseph, Nicholas Galanin and Jerrod Galanin under the direction of Steve Brown, is being orchestrated by the Sealaska Heritage Institute and Sitka National Historical Park.

 

4-H and Sitka Tribe of Alaska Language and Education Program Teach Respectful Deer Processing

4-H and Sitka Tribe of Alaska Language and Education Program Teach Respectful Deer Processing

Please Listen to Raven Radio’s Morning Interview with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Alaska Way of Life 4-H Program

 

Written by Molly Johnson, Sitka Conservation Society

Hunting is more than a means of subsistence, it is a practice that deeply connects us to the land. Recently, 4-H Alaska Way of Life partnered with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Language and Education program to embrace the depth of this relationship by learning the art of respectful deer processing. Chuck Miller and Heather Powell shared their Tlingit background and knowledge  about harvesting and processing deer. Miller explained that when a hunter kills an animal, it is not because the hunter has a lot of skill but rather because the animal chose to share its life with the hunter. This perspective encourages an important humility we all must have to successfully live with the land.

Miller revealed that to respect the spirit of the animal, one should act as if the deer were still alive throughout the processing. With this in mind, a person is more likely to take care while butchering the meat and behave in a way that will not offend the animal’s spirit. In this way, future animals will continue to trust the hunter with their lives. Powell and Miller stressed to the children that if they find certain parts of the processing uncomfortable or gross, they should keep the thoughts to themselves; saying “eww” is disrespectful to the animal which trusted the hunter with its life.

16087116558_a255753d21_h

In the lesson, Miller demonstrated how to safely remove the deer hide, the head, and the hooves. Participants predicted what each element could be used for. The group concluded that the hide could be used for clothing and drums, the antlers could be used for buttons and tools and the hooves would make great baby rattles. 4-H members and STA language and education students assisted in removing the hide. They worked diligently to cut up the meat into sections and wrap up the meat so it could be frozen. Some participants learned important new vocabulary such as the shoulder, backstrap, tenderloin and hind quarters! The many lessons made it a very successful evening of skill-sharing.

Most importantly, along with practical skills, the participants gained an important connection to tradition and culture. In respecting the animal, we are also respecting the ancestors who lived here long before us who subsisted on this animal and passed the practice to future generations. This is the art of conservation: using what we have and protecting it to share with generations to come. A huge thank you to Chuck Miller, Stephanie Gilardi, Heather Powell, and the STA Language and Education program for sharing such important knowledge with 4-H Alaska Way of Life.

Venison Stew and a Family Night Out

As a follow up to the deer processing event, 4-H and STA Language and Education program hosted a family night out dinner at the Sitka Kitch, Sitka’s community/commercial kitchen space. Families were invited to arrive early to help cook up some delicious venison stew. People worked together to chop carrots, celery and 4-H grown potatoes for the dish. As the aroma of dinner permeated the air, families took time to make kindness chains, where each member wrote kind actions they intend to carry-out during the holiday season.

Dinner-time meant a table full of homemade bread and jam, wholesome salad and the hard-earned, mouth-watering, stew. While families indulged in the delectable dinner, sounds of joyful conversations filled the air.

The evening ended with crafts and the opportunity to make handmade deer calls. Children revealed their genuine generosity as they listed off the people who they planned to give their deer calls. Along with the fun, came an important lesson in safety when using the calls. “Be careful when you use your deer call because you may also call in a bear.”

The Family Night Out dinner taught us all that the process of preparing a meal is a wonderful way to bring people together. Each element of the dinner held a story: who caught it, who baked it, who ate it. This surely is the way food is supposed to be.

Job Opportunity: Sitka Sustainable Communities Catalyst

Job Opportunity: Sitka Sustainable Communities Catalyst

The Sitka Conservation Society is one of the many organizations that make up the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. The Sitka Conservation Society is hiring a new Sustainable Communities Catalyst. This position will work with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and the Sitka Conservation Society to encourage community sustainability in Sitka and across the region.

The Sustainable Communities Catalyst will develop, promote, and implement community sustainability goals in Sitka and other towns in the Tongass National Forest. Responsibilities will include practicing strategic leadership, coordinating and directing staff, establishing overall project priorities, disseminating best practices, developing partnerships with public and private organizations, and building regional capacity.

Application deadline is Friday November 13th, 2015

scs_logo_landscape_wordy_medium

 

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

Farm&FishLogo

 

PRESS RELEASE

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 www.seconference.org

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 growsoutheast@gmail.com

 

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: http://www.seconference.org/southeast-farm-and-fish-schools-conference

 

 

Community Catalyst Report: Sitka

I am fresh off of our trip to Vancouver for the Community Development coursework and looking forward to our SSP retreat this week. Here is a brief summary of some of the work and progress in Sitka!

• It looks like a tiny house with the UAS course is not in the cards this semester/year. There are several road blocks and issues at this time.However, I am partnering with the class to construct a new Visitors Bureau kiosk. So far we are slated to provide a portion of the materials through our project fundingI am also working with Pat to source as much lumber as possible through local millers. My goal is that we can also have some sort of interpretive signage and brochures at the kiosk highlighting the local materials. The structure will be about the size of a tiny home, so it is a nice compromise for now. I am meeting with instructors at the High School this week to revisit potential project options there. I also attended a meeting yesterday at the city with several community members interested in microhomes and affordable housing projects. I am hoping for two things: first some major policy changes that will facilitate future microhome projects, and second, a potential partnership with some of the attendees, SCS and Sitka High.

• Renovations are on-going at Sitka Kitch and we hope to have them wrapped up in the next two weeks or so. We are going to cap the Applooza event with a workshop on apple trees led by Jud Kirkness and help prepare a bulk order of fruit trees for interested Sitkans. The Sitka Kitch canning classes were wildly popular but we thought that the extension agent would only be able to travel once per year to communities. I have since learned that she may have received new grant funding for more travel. So I am hoping this will allow us to organize another set of canning classes, including the soups and sauces class that many participants expressed interest in.

• Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group: We had a quick meeting last night. It was sparsely attended, but there was a lot of updated information from the FS about the Kruzof Island restoration projects. Andrew was also able to share info about the TAC and remind people that they can attend the TAC meeting in November (19-21st) here in Sitka.

• As I mentioned, Alana, Lia, Adam, Bob and myself ventured to Vancouver last week with other to begin our course work. It was really interesting and eye opening, I am very excited about the programming. It was also nice to have a chance to get to know  other SSP partners better as well as other people working on similar projects throughout Canada. Over the next several months we will be attending classes online and working towards a better understanding of Community Development and what that means for our communities.

• Wilderness Kiosk in Petersburg: SCS partnered with the Petersburg district so they could take advantage of the National Wilderness Association’s kiosk grant program. We are administering grant funds and helping them source all of the materials for building a kiosk. They have ordered everything through Gordon Chew in Tenakee and will have high school students building a kiosk entirely of locally sourced Tongass timber.

• This week I will be attending the SSP retreat along with the other SSP partners. I am really looking forward to all the new momentum and spending time connecting with everyone!

 

Pin It on Pinterest