Sunday, January 30, 2011

State of the Salmon- Cultural Survival or permitted destruction

To: Honorable President Barack Obama

Cc: Honorable Secretary Gary Locke
Cc: Honorable Secretary Ken Salazar

Cc: Senator Lisa Murkowski
Cc: Senator Mark Begich

Mr. President,

Thank you for addressing the concerns of our Nation in the State of the Union Address on January 25, 2011.

In Alaska, hundreds of Tribal Citizens, thousands of Indigenous Peoples and millions of Americans depend on fresh, wild Alaska salmon for various cultural, economic, food and health reasons.

I would like to ask a few questions regarding serious Government infrastructure problems on salmon regulations and jurisdictions between fresh water and salt water (Department of Interior-freshwater; Department of Commerce-saltwater.)

"We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV. There are twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked."—U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address to the Nation on January 25, 2011

1) As the State of Alaska looks toward developing numerous industrial mines in salmon spawning areas in the last wild salmon ecosystems on Earth, how can we be assured that the few mining jobs will not usurp the thousands of jobs and thousands of native peoples that currently exist in sustaining the multiple billion dollar salmon industry?

2) Salmon as one of many sacred cultural foods for indigenous peoples: Due to the pressure by the State of Alaska to please and allow massive increases in foreign mining interests, the local Indigenous Peoples are recognizing major human rights implications of destroying salmon spawning areas; and critical habitat for thousands of other species that the Indigenous Peoples and the World’s people depend on for biodiversity and food production. How can this administration assure that Alaska's indigenous peoples will not be sidelined by the State or Federal agencies for foreign economic interest over the local villages and the sustainable domestic interest of the United States?

3) The current process of excluding indigenous peoples and Tribal Governments by the State of Alaska in the management, policy-making and access to living cultural resources (such as salmon), and exclusionary policies restricting First Nations from healthy traditional foods by hunting, fishing, gathering, and harvesting is a huge concern to traditional indigenous peoples. How can the indigenous peoples and Tribal Governments be assured that the illegal activities by the State of Alaska restricting US trust obligations are dealt with to insure justice and prevent human rights abuses?

4) The education of Alaska's native peoples and rich cultural heritage depend on intact bio-diverse ecosystems, self-sustaining infrastructure, and quality indigenous teachers. In the age of communications and sustainability, Alaska's indigenous peoples have a history of unique resiliency in the northern regions. How can the U.S. Government ensure that our native peoples' history, knowledge and wisdom are passed on to future generations to boost local sustainability, empower children to learn the rich America's heritage, and pass on cultural knowledge for resilient community development beneficial for all Americans?

Thank you for your time.


Carl Wassilie
Yup’iaq Biologist
Alaska's Big Village Network