Alaska, Canada tribal members talk of shared interests in protecting rivers

Tribal members from both sides of the U.S.-Canada border — the headwaters and downstream region of the Stikine River — talked about strengthening their relationship when they met at the recent Sharing Our Knowledge conference in Wrangell.

One of the common interests bringing the Indigenous people together is their concern for the river — protecting and preserving its salmon runs that have fed tribal members for generations.

The discussions during the conference were about “connecting and cementing those relationships,” said Christie Jamieson, assistant executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission.

The organization is campaigning for a permanent ban on toxic mine waste dams and a temporary halt to mining in Canada near the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers that start in Canada and flow through Alaska to the sea.

About 200 people traveled to Wrangell for the conference of Tlingit-Haida-Tsimshian tribes and clans Sept. 7-11. The attendees included Kirby Muldoe “Hup Wil Lax A,” of Tsimshian and Gitxsan descent from New Hazelton, British Columbia, and Guujaaw “Gidansda Giindajin Haawasti Guujaaw,” the heredity leader of Haida Gwaii, also of British Columbia.

The two Canadian tribal leaders — along with Jamieson and Elizabeth Peterson, both descendants of the last Tlingit Chief Shakes — spoke at an event the first night of the conference. “The focus was on rebuilding relationships between the headwater First Nations and the downstream Alaska tribes sharing the Stikine River,” the transboundary commission said in a prepared statement.

The commission’s executive director, Guy Archibald, presented on the second day of the conference, talking about protecting food resources and an upcoming Wrangell seafood consumption survey. “Collecting this data is critical to support setting water quality criteria stringent enough to protect the health of tribal citizens who eat a lot of seafood, and also to protect the continued abundance of these food sources for future generations,” the commission said in its statement.

Transboundary commission members also met with the Taku River Tlingit First Nations Land Guardian program and a delegation representing the Teslin Tlingit Council from Canada’s Yukon Territory.

In its continuing effort to learn more about mining near transboundary rivers, Jamieson said she and others from the commission planned to attend a mining conference of the Upper Columbia United Tribes this week in Wenatchee, Washington.

 

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