Unit 4: Subsistence

Lesson 1: What is subsistence?

Objective 1: Students explore what subsistence means to them and their communities. Students are aware of the cultural, spiritual, and nutritional importance attached to the practice of subsistence for Alaska Native people. Students understand the importance of sharing and redistribution of subsistence food for Alaska Natives.

Objective 2: Students understand the definitions of subsistence in state and federal law and the nature of these definitions as delineating individual rather than group rights.

Lesson Ideas

  • Class Discussion: Have a class discussion about what subsistence means. Ask students to provide their understandings of subsistence and create a web of concepts, terms, and values that are included in students’ understandings of subsistence on the board.
  • Subsistence Interviews & Photos: Have students conduct interviews with members of their community (elders, hunters, gatherers, food processors) about what subsistence means, the cultural, spiritual, and nutritional aspects of subsistence, and the importance of sharing and redistribution of subsistence foods. Have students also take photos of subsistence foods, gear, and other images related to subsistence throughout the community. Have students create a collage with their subsistence photos and quotes/excerpts from their interviews with community members to hang on the wall.
  • Legal Definitions: Go over legal definitions of subsistence in state and federal laws in class. Have a class discussion about subsistence as an individual right and subsistence as a group (Alaska Native) right, and how students’ and the community’s understanding aligns or conflicts with the legal definitions of subsistence.

Lesson 2: Alaska Native Subsistence Rights

Objective 1: Students understand that part of the trust responsibility of the federal government toward Alaska Native tribes includes the protection of their subsistence rights, which would require an understanding of subsistence as a group right.

Objective 2: Students understand that aboriginal title was extinguished for Alaska Natives by ANCSA and what this means in terms of Alaska Native subsistence rights.

Objective 3: Students understand that upon the passage of ANCSA Congress stated its expectation that the State of Alaska and the Secretary of the Interior would take action to meet the subsistence needs of Alaska Natives, but that this was never done.

Lesson Ideas

  • Review and Class Discussion: Review materials from previous lessons that provide precedent for the existence of Alaska Native subsistence as a group right, then discuss the impact of the extinguishment of aboriginal title on this precedent. Provide an overview of the intent of Congress in terms of protection for Alaska Native subsistence after the passage of ANCSA and extinguishment of aboriginal title.
  • Opinion Pieces: Have students read selected opinion pieces from the Internet argue for and against Alaska Native subsistence rights, then have students write a short essay/opinion piece expressing their views on the matter.

Lesson 3: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Title VIII

Objective 1: Students understand the rural subsistence priority created by Title VIII of ANILCA and the circumstances surrounding its creation. Students understand that Title VIII was originally intended to create a Native subsistence priority to fulfill the expectations of Congress after the passage of ANCSA, but a compromise was struck with the State of Alaska to allow the state to manage fish and wildlife throughout Alaska.

Objective 2: Students understand the series of events that led to the dual fish and wildlife management system in Alaska, with ANILCA’s rural subsistence priority applying to federal land and equal subsistence access for all Alaskans on state lands. Students understand the issues involved with a dual management system for subsistence.

Objective 3: Students understand the implications of the rural subsistence priority for Alaska Natives and students understand that small, predominantly Native communities can be classified as non-rural for subsistence purposes by proximity to urban areas or through growth in population.

Lesson Ideas

  • Online Lesson: Have students visit the UAF Tribal Management Program’s webpage on the Subsistence (ANILCA 1980) and read the information presented. https://tm112.community.uaf.edu/unit-3/alaska-national-interest-lands-conservation-act-1980/
  • ANILCA Timeline: Have students develop a detailed timeline beginning with the passage of ANCSA and the extinguishment of aboriginal title and ending at the current day. The timeline should include the passage of ANILCA and subsistence being managed by the state with a rural priority, the McDowell v. State of Alaska case, and efforts to bring Alaska back into compliance with ANILCA to allow for state management of subsistence, and the continued existence of the dual management system. The items on the timeline should include detailed descriptions of the background information and reasoning for each event.
  • Opinion Pieces: Have students read selected opinion pieces from the Internet that argue for and against a rural subsistence priority, then have students write a short essay/opinion piece expressing their views on the matter.
  • Class Discussion: Have a class discussion on the implications that a rural subsistence priority would have for Alaska Natives. The discussion should include pros and cons of the idea of a rural subsistence priority, and issues such as the fact that many Alaska Natives who still rely on subsistence now live in urban centers.

Lesson 4: Katie John Cases

Objective1: Students know who Katie John is and understand the circumstances that led to her involvement in litigation to protect her ability to fish at her family’s traditional fish camp site.

Objective 2: Students understand why the Katie John cases are significant in terms of subsistence rights and federal jurisdiction over waters in Alaska, as well as the role and position of the State of Alaska in the litigation.

Objective 3: Students understand the lengthy history of the Katie John cases and the circumstances under which the cases were finally settled in 2014, as well as the general impacts of the final decision.

Lesson Ideas

  • Assigned Reading: Have students read the following summary of Katie John’s life and the circumstances surrounding her involvement in subsistence litigation by Heather Kendall-Miller: http://www.narf.org/cases/katie-john-v-norton/. Update students on the most recent ruling regarding the Katie John cases.
  • Overview of Case: Explain the details of the Katie John litigation in simplified terms to the students using information written on the board or on a Power Point presentation so that students understand the situation that gave rise to the litigation, the arguments of the parties involved, the evolution of the case over time, and the final ruling. Once students understand the case, have a class discussion about the implications of the Katie John ruling for the Alaska Native subsistence community.
  • Opinion Development: Have students watch the Alaska Federation of Natives’ press briefing following the latest Katie John ruling available here: https://vimeo.com/90997369. Have students then conduct Internet research to find opinion pieces or arguments in favor of the State of Alaska’s position on the Katie John case. Have students write a short essay/opinion piece expressing their views on the matter.

Lesson 5: Alaska Natives and Marine Mammal Hunting

Objective 1: Students understand that Alaska Natives have an exemption under the Marine Mammal Protection Act allowing them to hunt marine mammals for subsistence. Students understand that this exemption is a reflection of the federal trust responsibility of the U.S. government toward Alaska Native tribes. Students are aware of the blood quantum requirement for hunting marine mammals.

Objective 2: Students know that marine mammal populations are co-managed by Alaska Native marine mammal commissions/committees and federal agencies through agreements established under Section 119 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Objective 3: Students are aware of the different Alaska Native marine mammal commissions/committees that exist in the state and their role in representing the subsistence interests of tribes. Students are aware of any Alaska Native marine mammal commissions/committees their tribe is a part of and know who their representatives are in those organizations.

Objective 4: Students understand the role that Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Local Knowledge play in the co-management process for marine mammals.

Lesson Ideas

  • Explore the Law: Go over the language in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) that creates an exemption for Alaska Native marine mammal hunting, and have a class discussion about how this aligns with the federal trust responsibility. Then explain the blood quantum requirement set up by the federal regulations implementing the MMPA, which use the definition of “Native” provided by ANCSA. Have a class discussion on the implications of this for the continuation of Alaska Native subsistence and the potential community and cultural impacts.
  • Explore the Law: Go over the language in the MMPA that allows for the co-management of marine mammals between the federal government and Alaska Native groups. Have a class discussion on the concept of “co-management” and what it means in terms of power distribution and protections for Alaska Native subsistence.
  • Marine Mammal Commission Posters: Assign each student an Alaska Native marine mammal commission/organization to research and have the students create posters with information about the commissions/organizations, such as the communities they represent, their goals, the work they do, and the issues that are important to them. Hang the posters in the classroom for the information to be shared.
  • Traditional/Local Knowledge: Present students with various definitions of Traditional and Local Knowledge and have a class discussion with examples or experiences that students might have with gaining or using this knowledge. Have students brainstorm examples of how Traditional/Local Knowledge can be useful for the management of marine mammals.
  • Marine Mammal Commission Traditional Knowledge Work: Have each student expand on their research about their assigned marine mammal commission by developing a Power Point describing one or more Traditional Knowledge project the commission has conducted or been involved in.
  • My Marine Mammal Subsistence Representation: If students live in a community that is represented by one or more marine mammal commission/organization, ask the representative(s) from the commission(s)/organization(s) to visit the class and provide a presentation on their role as representatives and the issues that are important to that particular community which can be brought out during meetings of the commission(s)/organizations(s). Ask the presenter about the role/importance of Traditional/Local Knowledge in the management of the marine mammal resource. If meetings of the commission(s)/organization(s) happen to occur in the students’ community, ask for permission for students to attend and observe the meeting(s).