By George Jackson
February 16, 2006
I am responding to the comments posted in regards to the Eulachon Fishery. I agree with your comments. I too am a subsistence gatherer here in Sitka. I was born and raised in Ketchikan, I lived there for 27 years of my life. I grew up in Saxman and ate lots of fish. To me eating fish was a sign of being financially burdened. When times were tough we pulled some salmon, halibut herring eggs or Eulachon. If we didn't have time for that we opened a couple jars of fresh pack or smoked canned salmon and cooked some rice.
To me growing up eating seafood was a way of survival not leisure. We didn't eat it because we desired it, we ate because we were broke. Throughout southeast Alaska there seems to be a higher rate of unemployment during the non-tourist season. As a full-time student and a father of five children working part time in the winter so I can have an education, my family and many other families depend on subsistence to make it through the winter. My elders taught me that our lifestyle is who we are and our history. In other words, taking our traditional foods.
As I have gotten older I've come to realize that subsistence is not only necessary for physical survival when times are hard, but they are necessary for our cultural survival, as well. Loss of our subsistence foods due to over harvesting and lack of caution in commercial fisheries is a loss of our soul food.
I once heard an elder giving a welcome speech in Saxman and she said, "I am ninety two years old and I eat fish everyday, thank you for joining us tonight, eat fish."
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