Kapuustaq, Turning the Tide
Our region’s coastal communities depend on the ocean to support our thousands years old continuum of nutritional, spiritual, cultural and economic lifeways. Unfortunately, our ability to engage in these practices has been severely disrupted in the last century through federal and state fisheries policies that curtail Alaska Native and coastal community access and legally sanction overharvesting by commercial fishers of community dependent species such as halibut. Environmental impacts from pollution and global warming place additional strains on our region’s waters and marine life. As our region’s abundance has declined, so have our communities.
Community leadership has articulated that we must work to re-establish our relationship as indigenous and community-based stewards and knowledge keepers. And as stewards, we must lead restoration efforts that support our communities and the marine environment that sustains them. We have traditionally harvested sea vegetables such as Kapuustaq (sea lettuce), Caritet (rockweed) and Nasquiut (bull kelp) for food and other uses. We see regenerative mariculture and in particular kelp farming as a primary means to begin to restore environmental and economic abundance and maintain our traditional practices.
The Kodiak Archipelago Leadership Institute (KALI) and our Alutiiq Grown communities are working with partners that include the Native Conservancy, the Native American Agriculture Fund and Alaska Ocean Farms LLC to build a regional network of Alutiiq and community owned kelp farms. Four of our communities including Afognak, Old Harbor, Port Lions and Ouzinkie are currently working on permitting farms along their coastlines and we are encouraging all of our tribes, communities and Alaska Native Corporation partners to consider investing in this emerging regenerative economy. With funding from The Native American Agriculture Fund, KALI and Alutiiq Grown are delivering a regionally-based comprehensive training program with the goal of establishing a network of at least eight Alutiiq owned kelp farms by the end of 2023. We are working collaboratively with the Native Conservancy to be part of their greater vision of an Alaska Native coastal alliance so that we can all work together to re-establish Alaska Native and community-based stewardship to support restoration and the return of abundance.