Salmon Donation programs work to help preserve Alaska Native culture through fish donations
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For Alaskan Native families, fishing is more than a way of providing food on the table for their families, it is a lifestyle.
“It’s extremely important,” Natalie Sattler, the Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association said. “It’s part of their culture, their tradition, and their lifestyle.”
However, as communities such as Chignik are entering their fourth consecutive year of low salmon returns, practicing Alaska Native traditions of fishing and preparing fish is a struggle. In 2020, the Salmon Donation Project was created to help feed that need.
The organization provided 640,000 meals for families in Anchorage, Chignik, Fairbanks and Southeast Alaska in 2020. The group uses grants to purchase fish from other areas of the state and donate them to communities that are struggling with their harvest.
According to Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, one of the organizations they are working with is Bristol Bay Seafood Development Association, where record-breaking salmon fishing seasons are projected. Bristol Bay alone in 2020, provided 33,000 pounds of food for Chignik.
“We are hoping that at least gets them through the season,” Sattler said. “We are trying to provide you know subsistence fish that would be used in a traditional way.”
The organization is working to donate fish that can be processed in traditional Alaskan Native styles. They said that they try to donate either whole or round fish. In addition to fish that is head and gutted, so traditional cooking methods can be done, allowing the preservation of culture for the next generation.
“So that, you know, the cultural traditions and practices of smoking and just processing and teaching those skills to, you know, the younger folks as well, it’s maintained as much as possible,” Sattler said. “Continue to instill those values in the next generations.”
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