U.S. Forest Service

01/13/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/13/2023 14:11

Learning from local voices: Alaska Region hosts Alaska Native panel

Learning directly from tribal members is important to employees. Here, Anthony Christianson, Hydaburg Cooperative Association mayor and Natural Resources director (right), demonstrates the culturally respectful and sustainable method of harvesting cedar bark to Forest Service employees. USDA Forest Service photo.

ALASKA-Employees working for the Alaska Region make it a priority to learn about Alaska Native cultures, get an understanding of the federal government's trust duty to tribal nations, and work to develop connections with local Indigenous communities.

Although there are educational and informational resources available to staff about tribes with connections to national forests, it is more effective to learn about forest-related tribal topics directly from tribal leaders, who can share both historic and current perspectives. This allows staff to gain a better understanding of the past, present and future of important tribal issues.

In late 2022, the regional and forest civil rights advisory groups provided an opportunity to connect with local tribal leaders by holding a virtual discussion around themes from the documentary "For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska." Employees were able to watch the film last year. It highlights Alaska Native Elizabeth Peratrovich and the enormous contributions she made to Alaska and its civil rights movement.

On the panel were Grand Camp Presidents Heather Gurko from the Alaska Native Brotherhoodand Daphyne Albee from the Alaska Native Sisterhood, historic civil rights organizations created to advocate for Alaska Native civil rights. Also on the panel was Joseph Nelson, co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives,the largest statewide Native organization in Alaska, which advocates for Alaska Native cultural and economic priorities. The final panelist was Joaqlin Estus, a reporter for Indian Country Today,an independent media outlet dedicated to tribal issues. The event was facilitated by Jennifer Hanlon, Tongass National Forest tribal relations specialist.

The Forest Service works closely with tribes to ensure we respect cultural practices, including timber management. Kasaan Carver Glenn "Stormy" Hamar (right) talks to Forest Service employees Tim Wold, forester, and Nick Reynolds, timber management assistant, about the characteristics that make trees acceptable for totems or canoes. USDA Forest Service photo.

Panelists presented an Alaska Native perspective not only on Peratrovich, but also on other notable Alaska Native leaders, historical milestones and significant contemporary events. They were able to recommend other online resources, films and books to help employees improve their working relationships with tribal nations, Alaska Native corporations and tribal citizens.

At the conclusion of the event, Hanlon, an Alaska Native from the Tlingit Nation, thanked the panel and said, "I know that you have been an inspiration for all of us listening about furthering our understanding and trying to figure out better ways to move forward, because that is in our collective interest-Gunalchéesh" (Thank You).

All Forest Service employees are invited to watch the film onlineusing thepassword AKR10. This film is for all USDA employees. Please refrain from sharing outside the department and agency.A recording of the virtual panel discussionis also available.