The Alaska Tribal Conservation Alliance held a regional conference in Kodiak recently. Organizers flew in to promote local communities coming together to preserve their natural resources.
It’s the last day of the Alaska Tribal Conservation Alliance Regional Conference in Kodiak. Attendees and organizers are sitting in a conference room at the Kodiak Inn Best Western discussing issues facing the region. And, of course, joking around.
The Alaska Tribal Conservation Alliance, or ATCA, came to Kodiak to promote the formation of tribal conservation districts. These districts are organizations formed by tribes and the Department of Agriculture. They declare a region that they want to be responsible for. Then use local and traditional knowledge in coordination with other organizations to address natural resource issues in their area. Robert Stephan Sr, ATCA’s former chairman, says tribal conservation districts can help communities tackle natural resource problems of almost any nature.
“Soil and water, land issues, energy issues, gardening issues, moose habitat, fish habitat. Whatever they could think of, we try to work on programs for em to help them in any way to sustain and help their land out.”
Currently, there are 14 of these districts in Alaska, but none of the tribes in the Kodiak region have established their own. Which is why ATCA is in Kodiak. To reach out and educate local community members about the benefits of establishing a tribal conservation district. After attending this conference, Qiilugaruaq Inga, a former resident of Old Harbor, says she felt empowered after learning about all the possible resources for communities.
“Our lifestyle when I was growing is a lot different than it is today. And we need to know about the help that’s out there available that will bring us to a point where we can be self sustaining.”
At the core of ATCA’s mission is to help communities enhance and preserve their natural resources and their traditional subsistence way of life. For ATCA’s executive director Angela Peters this value seems to hit close to home.
“You know really the way I look at it the subsistence life I lived when I was growing up created who I am today. I want my kids and grand kids to be able to be afforded to learn the culture I have so I hope others do to.”
Back at the Kodiak Inn, everyone is still cracking jokes as the meeting winds down. Since this was ATCA’s first attempt at holding a conference in the region there was not a big turnout. But they’re hoping to return to Kodiak in the future to continue reaching out to community members from across the region.