Salmon donation programs help preserve Alaska Native culture through fish donations

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – For Alaskan Native families, fishing is more than a way to feed their families, it’s a way of life.

“This is extremely important,” said Natalie Sattler, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “It is part of their culture, their tradition and their way of life.

However, as communities such as Chignik enter their fourth straight year of low salmon returns, practicing Alaska Native fishing and fish-preparing traditions is a struggle. In 2020, the Salmon Donation Project was created to help meet this need.

The organization provided 640,000 meals to families in Anchorage, Chignik, Fairbanks and Southeast Alaska in 2020. The group uses grants to purchase fish from other parts of the state and donate it to communities struggling to harvest.

According to the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, one of the organizations they work with is the Bristol Bay Seafood Development Association, where record salmon fishing seasons are predicted. Bristol Bay alone in 2020 provided Chignik with 33,000 pounds of food.

“We hope that will at least get them through the season,” Sattler said. “We try to provide you with subsistence fish that would be used in the traditional way.”

The organization strives to provide fish that can be processed in traditional Alaska Native styles. They said they try to give whole or round fish. In addition to headed and gutted fish, traditional cooking methods can be used, allowing the culture to be preserved for the next generation.

“So that, you know, the cultural traditions and practices of smoking and just transforming and teaching those skills, you know, to younger people as well, are maintained as much as possible,” Sattler said. “Keep instilling these values ​​in future generations.”

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