Sealaska Heritage


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March 31, 2014 


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture in April to unveil intriguing research on ancient herring populations in Alaska and Native people’s long-term reliance on the resource.

Lecturer Dr. Madonna Moss, professor of anthropology at University of Oregon, has studied herring bones at 16 archaeological sites in Southeast Alaska that date back 10,000 years. In her talk, she’ll reveal some of her findings so far.

Her work is important because current data on past herring runs and human reliance on them dates only to the mid 1900s, so her research will give a much clearer historical picture, said Dr. Chuck Smythe, director of SHI’s Culture and History Department. The study may be an invaluable tool to improve resource management of herring fisheries, said Smythe, noting herring are considered to be a depleted resource here.

“By looking longer term, we can learn more about how herring lived and survived and how they adapted to various climates and various bays and inlets in a different way,” Smythe said.

Herring is an important subsistence resource. Herring roe comes mostly from subsistence fisheries in Sitka, which supplies the eggs to subsistence users region wide. The decline of herring populations in Sitka in recent years has been of great concern to subsistence users across Southeast Alaska. In a separate project, SHI this year will help craft a plan to restore herring in places around Sitka and perhaps other areas that used to have herring runs but no longer do. SHI will work with Sitka Tribe of Alaska on that study, which is funded by the Alaska Native Fund.

The lecture is free but donations for construction of the Walter Soboleff Center will be accepted. It’s scheduled for noon, Tuesday, April 8 in the Sealaska boardroom. People are invited to bring their own lunch.

‹Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Chuck Smythe, Culture and History Director, 907.586.9282.