by the 118 tribes of western and interior Alaska
The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Consortium (AYK TC) calls on the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Commerce (DOC) to work with us in the management and conservation of our salmon fisheries and the ecosystems whose they depend. .
The AYK TC, comprised of the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP), Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), and Kawerak, Inc., has worked to understand the causes and reverse the decline in salmon in western Alaska since 2002. Today, with the recent addition of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (KRITFC) and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (YRITFC), our regions are are united with one voice for one purpose:
Restore, maintain and conserve the health and biodiversity of Bering Sea ecosystems, from rivers to seas, with a focus on restoring abundance of wild salmon returns, all to ensure our way of life of subsistence and other sustainable uses (including sustainable commercial uses) for this and future generations.
AYK TC represents 118 tribes and communities in the Arctic/Norton Sound, Yukon and Kuskokwim regions of Alaska. Fishing families in every one of our communities, from the coastal villages of the tundra to the forested villages of the interior, have sacrificed and suffered due to the decline of salmon throughout the region. These same communities have noticed other species depletions, which, coupled with climate change, indicate potential ecosystem collapse.
The AYK TC calls on the federal government to work with the tribes in their collective area to address this ecosystem crisis.
“Our people rely on salmon to sustain us not only for food security, but also for cultural survival,” says Melanie Bahnke, CEO of Kawerak, Inc. “Our salmon stocks are collapsing and we cannot remain the arms crossed while being ignored by policymakers. The United States has an obligation to the tribes and must engage with us to reverse the course we are on. We call on policymakers to fulfill their responsibilities to the natives of the ‘Alaska who depend on our natural resources. The government must be with us, not against us, because we have a common goal of resource abundance. It’s time to act.”
According to Vivian Hooper, CEO of AVCP, “Our villages in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta experienced a devastating salmon incident in 2021. It affected every home and family in our region and directly threatened the food security of our people. There are about 15 weeks left before the spring breakup, and that’s when we expect the salmon to start returning to our rivers. We are now going through a critical period where, instead of preparing for a bountiful salmon harvest, we worry about what will happen this summer if another accident occurs. We need answers and we need the federal government to help us lead by listening to our recommendations and implementing action now.
Brooke Woods, President of YRITFC, together with Elder James Sipary Sr. of Toksook Bay, said, “The survival of our people, the survival of the river and the survival of the salmon are interconnected. Our communities are highly dependent on salmon, the salmon need help in the Bering Sea to survive. We used to have an abundance of king salmon and chum salmon, and we don’t want king salmon to be a story for our children. Our children need nutritional salmon harvested by their parents and grandparents. Our land, our water and our resources must be respected and not wasted, because waste does not fit into our traditional habits; it is not our word. We can’t wait any longer to act on behalf of our people. We, the people of Alaska, will not remain silent and hereby express our thoughts and wishes for our survival.
AYK TC seeks assistance from DOI and DOC to prioritize tribal participation in ecosystem conservation and cooperative management; facilitate systematic change to ensure tribal participation in federal fisheries decision-making bodies; establish a salmon recovery program; and identify and designate Indigenous Protected Areas/Marine Ecological Conservation Areas.
Vivian Korthuis is the CEO of AVCP, a nonprofit inter-tribal consortium based in Bethel, Alaska, controlled by 56 federally recognized tribes. We provide human, social and other culturally relevant services to our member tribes, which are located in villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in an area of approximately 59,000 square miles. We have and continue to be fully committed to defending the protection of the Bering Sea and its resources.
Melanie Bahnke is the CEO of Kawerak, Inc., a not-for-profit Indigenous Regional Consortium for the Bering Strait region, provides social, educational, building and other services to residents of the Bering Strait region on behalf of the region’s 20 tribal governments. The teaching of subsistence values and the preservation of the subsistence way of life of the people of the region – who are mainly Inupiat, Yup’ik and Yupik of St. Lawrence Island – are among our main priorities.
Mary Peltola is the Executive Director of KRITFC, which represents the interests of the 33 federally recognized tribal governments in the Kuskokwim River region in fisheries assessment and sustainable fisheries management. Tribal appointed fishery commissioners, executive council members and in-season managers combine traditional knowledge and Western science to carefully manage the Kuskokwim fisheries according to Yupik and Athabascan Dene values. The values at the heart of our work are social and environmental justice, fair and sustainable salmon harvests across the watershed, and unity as a fishing people along the Kuskokwim River.
Brian Ridley is the interim president of TCC, an Alaska Native non-profit society, also organized as Dena ‘Nena’ Henash or “Our Land Speaks”. We are a consortium of 42 federally recognized Interior Alaska Tribes. We work to meet the health and social service needs of tribal members and beneficiaries throughout our region. We provide a unified voice to our tribal governments by advancing economic and social development, supporting physical and mental well-being, designing educational opportunities, and protecting language, as well as traditional and cultural values.
Brooke Woods is the President of YRITFC, which was founded on tribal unity for the health and well-being of tribal members, future generations, and all Alaskans and Canadians who depend on the health of the Yukon River fisheries. We are committed to conserving, restoring and ensuring tribal use of fisheries based on indigenous knowledge systems, scientific principles and sound management. We represent 28 federally recognized tribes along the Yukon River in Alaska from Kotlik to Eagle. Our geographic area covers the following federal ANILCA lands and waters used by member tribes: Yukon Delta, Koyukuk, Innoko, Nowitna, Kanuti and Yukon Plains National Wildlife Refuges and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve .