Alaska Natives discuss Indigenous approaches to harvesting at a community meeting. Photo by John Chase.

By Kristen Green, Anne Beaudreau, Maija Lukin, and Nicole Ardoin.

This Plain Language Summary is published ahead of the article discussed; check back soon for a link to the full paper.

The subsistence harvest of animals and plants—that is, harvest for survival or continuation of cultural traditions—is critical to Alaska Native peoples for nutritional, cultural, social, and spiritual benefits. Management of subsistence harvest occurs under state and federal regulations; however, a long history of Alaska Native stewardship precedes the current management system and continues today. We interviewed Alaska Native harvesters in Northwest Alaska and National Park Service (NPS) staff who manage subsistence resources statewide to better understand the perspectives of each and perceptions about: (1) the communication and relationships between these two groups; and (2) barriers to, and solutions for, improving subsistence management.

We found areas of agreement for improving subsistence management within NPS including pairing the different types of knowledge held by Indigenous harvesters and non-Indigenous federal agency staff, addressing barriers to Indigenous stewardship within NPS, enhancing community engagement and communication, and making the public process for discussing and changing subsistence regulations more accessible. Specific strategies for improving management within the NPS include hiring local and Indigenous staff in NPS management, reducing NPS staff turnover, and increasing NPS in-person visits to rural Alaskan villages. Additional funding and staff support would help NPS accomplish these goals. Harvesters also described the deep power imbalances that have occurred through colonization and remain embedded within the current management system. They discussed the desire to increase Indigenous stewardship practices outside the federal and state systems and paths forward for Indigenous self-determination. This research amplifies Indigenous-led pathways for conservation in National Parklands and highlights the importance of addressing issues of power, equity, and sovereignty in the management of shared resources.