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.
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.