Hunter-Gatherers and Fishing Rights in Alaska and Siberia: Contemporary Governmentality, Subsistence, and Sustainable Enterprises

  • Thomas F. Thornton
  • Nadezhda Mamontova


This paper examines processes by which Alaskan and Siberian indigenous peoples have been rendered as political subjects, “traditional” hunters-gathers, and sustainable enterprise owners amid their respective colonial and post-colonial industrial economies. The comparison is instructive because, despite being part of diametrically opposed (Soviet versus USA) national political organizations, policies and the exercise of biopower towards indigenous peoples have proceeded along similar lines. In the post-colonial era, these lines have converged around neoliberal and social development policies which support indigenous “self-determination” through minimal subsistence rights and the creation of ethnic enterprises and partnerships with non-indigenous capitalist corporations. On both sides of the North Pacific, however, this transition has come about without formal recognition of the well-developed systems of aboriginal marine tenure and fishing rights, as has been the case in other indigenous-state Treaty regimes (e.g., Canada and New Zealand). The lack of such protections, we argue, has led to poor management of coastal zones as social-ecological systems, making sustainable indigenous livelihoods and small enterprises based on marine resources difficult to develop or maintain. We examine, in particular, the relationship of Sakhalin and Southeast Alaska indigenous hunter-fishers as strong, independent peoples whose salmon fishing rights were usurped and their corporate groups reorganized to fit notions of modern industrial and neoliberal social-economic organization. Further, we argue for more synergistic policies between indigenous subsistence and commercial economies to reduce ‘black market’ transactions and conserve valuable fishing knowledge, skills, and cultural practices which are vital to heritage, livelihoods, and wellbeing.


Commercial Fishing Subsistence Fishing Indigenous Minority Alaska Native Community Commercial Salmon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank our local assistants in Sakhalin, Natalya Chaika (Nekrasovka) and Alena Kavozg (Nogliki), for collecting the data on subsistence resources for the CLUE project (NSF award #0755832), overseen by Hugh Beach. The data were processed by N. Mamontova within the project RSCF, grant No. 15–18–00112, PI D.A. Funk.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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