Watersheds and Marinescapes: Understanding and Maintaining Cultural Diversity Among Southeast Alaska Natives
Among the Tlingit, Haida, and neighbouring peoples of the northern Northwest Coast of North America, key watersheds not only define regional dwelling spaces but were owned and managed by lineages (matrilineal clans and house groups), which controlled access and enhanced their productivity in a variety of ways to ensure sustainability. These indigenous peoples also derived critical aspects of their identity and livelihoods from the unique features of these waterways, the differences of which were celebrated in a variety of contexts, including naming, visual art, dance, and rituals such as the potlatch ceremony. Among the Tlingit especially, the relationship between watersheds and marinescape explains critical biological and cultural diversity within the region. For example, sockeye or red salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) streams were highly valued, as were fall dog (chum) salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) and coho (silver) salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) runs because of their temporal ‘stretching’ of the salmon harvest season. Similarly, marinescapes invisible from the surface, such as Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) banks might be defined by a set of relational characteristics between observable surface features, as in the name of one fishing bank, Geesh K’ishuwanyee (‘Just on the Edge of the Base of the Kelp’). Such unique and diverse water features, though often not dominant in the physiography, were celebrated as markers of regional identity and culture. The implications of this intracultural diversity are evaluated against current water policy and fisheries management that typically ignores indigenous hydrological units in favour of commercial zoning.
KeywordsIndigenous People House Group Oncorhynchus Nerka Oncorhynchus Keta Pacific Halibut
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- de Laguna, Frederica. 1972. Under Mount Saint Elias: The history and culture of the Yakutat Tlingít, Vol. 7, Smithsonian contributions to anthropology. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
- Deur, D., and N. Turner. 2006. Keeping it living: Traditions of plant use and cultivation on the northwest coast of North America. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
- Jones, R. Russ, and Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. 2000. Applying Haida ethics in today’s fishery. In Celebration 2000: Restoring the balance through culture, ed. S. Fair and R. Worl, 87–94. Juneau: Sealaska Heritage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Joseph, Phillip. 1967. The history of the Aukquwon. In New Alaskan (Dec).Google Scholar
- Langdon, Steve J. 2006. Tidal pulse fishing: Selective traditional salmon fishing techniques of the west coast of Prince of Wales Island. In Traditional ecological knowledge and natural resource management, ed. C.R. Menzies, 21–46. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
- Langdon, Stephen J. 2007. Sustaining a relationship: Inquiry into the emergence of a logic of engagement with salmon among the southern Tlingit. In Native Americans and the environment, ed. M.E. Harkin and D.R. Lewis, 233–276. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
- Swanton, John R. 1909. Tlingit myths and texts, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 39. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
- Thornton, Thomas F. 2008. Being and place among the Tlingit. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
- Thornton, Thomas F. 2009. Anatomy of a traditional cultural property: The saga of Auke Cape. George Wright Forum 26(1): 64–75.Google Scholar