Indigenous communities in B.C., Alaska, declare state of emergency over Pacific salmon
'This is an emergency. We can no longer wait. We have to act now'
A group of Indigenous communities from Alaska and B.C. has declared a state of emergency related to Pacific salmon populations, and says First Nations and Tribes need to be more involved in managing traditional resources.
"We're just exploring the idea at this point, to see how we can work together to manage salmon for our future generations," said Guy Archibald, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC).
"This is an emergency. We can no longer wait. We have to act now."
The SEITC recently hosted a summit at Lummi Nation in Washington state for Indigenous leaders from the Pacific coast regions in Canada and the U.S. SEITC is a consortium of 15 Tsimshian, Tlingit and Haida Nations.
The focus of the meeting was the apparent decline in salmon populations and how Indigenous communities can work together across borders to preserve the stocks.
"Indigenous, people have, you know, a long history of being able to manage these watersheds successfully and productively. We deserve a seat at this table and how these watersheds are managed," Archibald said.
"We're not seeking to move the border — we're seeking to kind of erase it."
Archibald said a working group has been formed to determine how to move forward. He said the goal is to assert Indigenous authority over traditional territory, and have a greater say over big resource development projects that might threaten salmon stock.
"We don't want to just have these yearly meetings where we wring our hands and complain about the state of affairs ... We want to have this together, organized and make progress, you know, in between these annual meetings. So it's got to happen in less than a year."
Violet Gatensby was at the recent summit as a youth representative from Carcross, Yukon. She told the delegates that for her, salmon primarily exist in stories now.
"I just wanted to share with them a little bit of what I know of what's going on here, to hopefully motivate them to avoid the story we have," she said.
Gatensby said it was "scary" to hear from other Indigenous communities, and realize how they were all seeing the same trends.
"It was quite frightening actually to hear just how similar everybody's stories were," she said.
With files from Chris MacIntyre