Akiak Native Community submits subsistence disaster declaration to AFN

Tribe says severely reduced subsistence harvests threatens the very survival of remote villages

Sheila Williams Carl, Tribal Administrator for the Akiak Native Community, stands atop an eroded stream bank on the Lower Kuskokwim River near her village.

The Akiak Native Community passed a resolution which was submitted to the Alaska Federation of Natives 2020 annual convention for support of a subsistence and commercial fishery disaster declaration. The resolution was passed and approved by the Akiak Native Community unanimously on September 23rd, 2020.

The resolution will be reviewed by AFN’s resolution committee before being submitted to the full AFN board which will meet in December. Below is the proposed resolution.

RESOLUTION

TITLE; IN SUPPORT OF A SUBSISTENCE AND COMMERCIAL FISHERY DISASTER DECLARATION FOR ALL REGIONS/RIVERS

WHEREAS: All of Alaska Natives depend on subsistence resources in Alaska; and

WHEREAS: Alaska Native cultures developed rich and enduring societies and economies around the harvest and utilization of natural resources that have sustained us through thousands of years; and

WHEREAS: The harvest and utilization of natural resources are vital to our communities social and economic well-being and the survival of Alaska Native cultures; and

WHEREAS: Subsistence fish along with other natural resources provide the basic food security for Alaska Natives who live communities where cash income opportunities are limited; and

WHEREAS: The significance of Alaska Native subsistence hunting and fishing was recognized by Congress when it made a commitment to Alaska Natives when it enacted Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980; and

WHEREAS: Subsistence hunting and fishing became increasingly important to rural communities as a result of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic including irregular transportation to and from rural communities; the cessation of transportation during the closure of some communities; loss of cash income opportunities; stable availability of commercial foods; and the increased costs of commercial foods; and

WHEREAS: The summer of 2020 is being characterized by the Alaska Department of Fish and Games as one of the worst salmon seasons in decades; and

WHEREAS: Several communities have requested the State of Alaska to declare disaster declarations for the salmon commercial fisheries and to request a disaster declaration from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act; and

WHEREAS: Many rural communities depend on subsistence fishing as their primary source of food as well as their cultural way of life and to sustain themselves through the winter months; and

WHEREAS: Rural villages are reporting a disastrous 2020 subsistence fisheries season with fishing areas closed; with subsistence fishermen having to go to five or more sites and longer distances from their communities to find any fish; fishing longer hours; and with families able to harvest only two or three fish or to receive two or three fish from sharing; and

WHEREAS: Rural villages, which have suffered the loss of wage income jobs; irregular transportation to and from villages resulting in higher costs of commercial foods together with the worst subsistence fishing seasons in decades are facing extraordinary hardships and loss of their food security; and

WHEREAS: Substantial inequities exist between commercial and subsistence fisheries in that disaster fund have been made available for commercial fisheries, but not for subsistence fisheries.

NOW THEREFORE BE RESOLVED that: AFN meeting in its 2020 Convention, shall request the Governor of Alaska, the Alaska State Legislature, the Alaskan Congressional Delegation and the Secretary of Commerce

1) to address the inequities that exist in Disaster Declaration Funding for commercial fisheries but no funding for subsistence fisheries.

2) to provide for Subsistence Disaster Declaration Funds for those families and communities that are suffering from the worst fishing season in decades.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the State of Alaska is urged to immediately implement a special subsistence relief program in rural Alaska

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the State of Alaska and the federal government revise existing economic disaster funds to include disaster funds for subsistence economies that are experiencing severely reduced subsistence harvest.

Severely reduced subsistence harvests threatens the very survival of remote villages through outmigration of people who can no longer afford to live in their own homelands, creating a corresponding social and economic crisis in urban Alaska; and

Subsistence Disaster Funds are vitally needed to insure the food security for rural residents and to ensure the health of elders and children, who are especially vulnerable without a good quality diet.

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