Challenge Issued to the Southeast Alaska Tribes to Work together
Terrance Henry Booth, Sr. – Tsimshian
In the not too far distant past and noted in our tribal history of the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian these tribes once traded and bartered with one another. How is this? This writer’s late father, Ira C. Booth, of Metlakatla, Alaska did a partial tracing of the Tsimshian Trade Route in Southeast Alaska and found in Angoon, Alaska upon visiting that Tlingit Village verifying that they once did trade and barter with one another. To this day among the Tlingit Dancers of Angoon are three Tsimshian Songs. Prior to the singing of these songs their Dance Leader announces to the audience that their entrance songs came from the Tsimshian upon their visits to trade and barter. The same in Yakutat, Alaska the Mt. St. Elias Tlingit Dancers for their entrance songs they too announce how they received the Tsimshian Songs. They announce the Tsimshian came among them to trade and barter. Far south located on the Olympic Peninsula, is the Makah Nation, they know of the Tsimshian and it is said by them that they traded and bartered with them and Tsimshian Canoes were either going south along the Pacific Coast or going back home going back north.
The tribal leadership of Southeast Alaska should readily note that small Native businesses are important for preserving their cultures, building tribal capacity, increasing tribal self-sufficiency, and retaining money within their Native communities. Without small Native businesses within tribal lands, the tribal leaders should know that money that was earned within tribal lands can be spent elsewhere, for the Native business efforts to build strong communities for the future the Southeast Alaska Tribes should begin to take action steps to have an economic analysis of their tribal settings and see where the dollars goes off tribal lands and dollars from the tribal setting goes elsewhere and thus, a poor tribal economy. One will readily note that there may be several economic leakages meaning dollars are spent elsewhere and much dollars leaves the tribal settings. Tribal Governments, Native Corporations goods and services dollars go off the tribal setting to pay for goods and services and a solution is implementing more Native businesses initiated to stop these economic leakages and capture dollars that would otherwise go elsewhere.
In Southeast Alaska the Natives participate with several fisheries; however, the tribes are only active in harvesting and processing. What is needed is a Southeast Alaska Native Fisheries Alliance to gain self-empowering and fuller control of their fisheries from harvesting, processing, marketing and sales. Why? This writer last week was at a well-known grocery store chain and in their seafood display was fresh wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon selling for one fillet $28 Dollars and how much did the Native Fisherman make? The Native Processing Plants need to combine forces to take complete control of their fisheries by doing their own marketing and sales and reap the financial benefits of direct marketing. As it is now Natives only lease their facilities, work for other companies, work for a particular seafood buyer or work with seafood brokers. All these companies the Natives work for reap more financial benefits by not having full participation of our raw seafood products and the company’s value-add and even reap more financial profits.
In several grocery store chains due to the cultural diversity of America some of the grocery store chains have food displays of ethnic food section. These same grocery store chains have a minority diversification program whereby a minority can place their food product on the shelves or freezer displays by signing up for this diversification program of grocery store chains. We as tribes can readily establish a Native niche market simply by taking a tribal perspective on marketing and sales. All of the Southeast Alaska tribes in their arts, dances, songs and stories reflect our cultural ties to our seafood over thousands of years.
The big picture is job creation for our Southeast Alaska tribal people and fisheries can gain much revenue by having tribal labeling that reflects the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian Tribes. Also, create year around operations implemented for other seafood products: sea cucumber, sea urchin, Geoduck and other seafood products. There are fisheries were quotas are not met and each fishing district depending upon the harvest is either cut back and end up with smaller quotas. Collectively working together Southeast Alaska Natives can prosper by working together empowering themselves to gain full control of Southeast Alaska fisheries. They can work together by custom packing each other’s harvest, might be one of the processing plants has the full ability to value add their seafood product. It is noted that significant progress has been made by the Southeast Alaska Native Village Corporations. Even more can be gained by formation of a Southeast Alaska Native Seafood Alliance. It can have the expertise of globalizing its seafood harvest and literally take control by participation of marketing and sales instead of seafood companies from other states controlling our seafood fisheries.
Metlakatla Indian Community has a dormant airport that can be an exclusive air cargo facility and re-activating this airport. Budget item for freight to Seattle/Tacoma Harbors and International Airport is a significant budget item for our Native processing plants. The Southeast Alaska Native Seafood Processing Plants can reduce their shipping costs by working with Metlakatla. Also, Metlakatla has Port Chester a deep harbor access harbor where ocean going ship freighters can dock and there are in Metlakatla in-active stevedores that once worked their harbor when Louisiana Pacific Saw Mill was in Metlakatla. Having this Metlakatla Airport activated the Native Processing Plants can get their seafood products to the market places faster than anyone in Alaska. It can be declared an international trade zone and can have the ability to have international air cargo commercial jets land in Metlakatla for immediate delivery overseas or other global market places.
With the designation of having an international harbor designation it can provide much needed revenue and jobs for the community of Metlakatla and surrounding areas of Metlakatla. Just south of Metlakatla the Port of Prince Rupert has a new Cargo Container Shipping Business owned and operated by Chinese Company. The ships from China go directly to Dalian Harbor, China; the third largest harbor of China. Three years ago Dalian Harbor built a very large seafood distribution center to deliver seafood to all of China. By having the designation of a international harbor Metlakatla then could implement its rock quarry shipping rock overseas.
Example of successes in Alaska highly noted on the “Deadliest Catch” is Dutch Harbor in 2009 it was ranked second in the nation for seafood earnings. Last year 2010 Alaska produced the largest salmon production ever in its fisheries history. So seafood is a major industry for Alaska and exports a high percentage of its seafood for almost the entire USA. It is time to Southeast Alaska Natives to capture the dollars that leave Alaska and profits being made elsewhere. This can be done by jointly working together amassing its own fisheries professionals for marketing and sales. The Southeast Alaska tribes have the means to capture the seafood market by taking complete control of the entire seafood markets instead of working for others it’s time to work for ourselves.
The Southeast Alaska Tribes should join forces to capture earnings from the visitors that visit Southeast Alaska. Out of all the visitors visiting Alaska according to the McDowell 35% of the visitors to Alaska visit Southeast Alaska. A visitor spending in Southeast Alaska in 2009 was $523.6 million dollars. By formation of a Southeast Alaska Inter-tribal Regional Tourism Co-operative building Southeast Alaska Native Cultural Pavilions in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Haines, and Skagway to capture the dollars that otherwise leaves Alaska. Among the Southeast Alaska Natives is wealth of Native Artists, tribal dancers, storytellers, musicians, and tribal historians.
In closing this writer’s late father once said, “Tribal economic development in reality would be a re-discovery of who we are as tribal people." (Quote Ira C. Booth, Tsimshian Tribal Historian, Tsimshian Nation)