Tlingit-Haida fish camp teaches traditional ways

JUNEAU, Alaska — In Juneau, fishing is a hobby for some and a lifestyle for others. For 17 Alaska Native youngsters, fishing provided a way to get in touch with their centuries’ old roots — and get to know other middle-schoolers before classes start.

Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, a locally based non-profit focused on preserving and teaching Tlingit and Haida culture, put on its first ever middle school fishing camp last week, teaching kids 11- to 14-years-old traditional methods like gillnetting, trolling and setting crab pots.

John Smith, lead teacher for the week-long camp, said that besides being a great social opportunity, the goal of the camp is to teach children safe and legal ways to fish and to “take what you need.” He said he worries about a loss of respect for the earth in the younger generation.

“I really want to push that and teach our kids that,” he said. “Our people, many years ago, they did these things.”

On Thursday, the students were out on the water near False Outer Point, sinking crab pots and setting a gill net. Smith went out with the kids while camp coordinator Victoria Johnson and language specialist Martha Hotch set up camp on shore. When not fishing, students sipped hot cocoa and chattered with one another on the beach, nonplussed by the steady drizzle.

Thirteen-year-old Alex Eldemar said he signed up for the camp “to keep our culture going.” He said he also wants to learn how to fish in order to someday make money as a commercial fisherman.

Ivan Williams, 13, grew up fishing with his commercial fisherman dad, but said he can always learn more about traditional methods.

Eleven-year-old twins Kiara and Kiana Beierly said they joined the camp because it’s just plain fun. They especially enjoyed setting crab pots, they said.

Camp coordinator Victoria Johnson said the camp provides an opportunity that many urban Native children don’t get. Some of the methods taught last week have been used “since forever,” Hotch said.

“A lot of our students here in the big city do not get as much opportunity as a child from the village” to learn to fish traditionally, Johnson said. “We’re trying to bring a little bit of the village to the urban setting.”

Goldbelt Heritage has put on middle school camps on different topics for several years, Smith said. Last year’s was on civil rights issues surrounding the Native community, he said. This year’s camp is the first one that’s been hands-on, and although the camps are focused on Native topics, they’re open to everyone.

“To learn what your ancestors have done for centuries is a treasure,” Hotch said.

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Families seek to change wrongful death law

A bill would allow or parents or siblings who wish to pursue a suit for an unmarried, childless adult.

Most Read