Native Rights Advocate Calls for Justice in Subsistence Hunting, Fishing
John Sky Starkey, an attorney with over 25-years of experience in Alaska Native hunting, fishing and tribal rights, addresses the Tanana Chiefs Conference annual convention Monday, March 11, 2013, at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks. Photo by Sam Harrel/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
FAIRBANKS — Under federal law, someone living in rural Southeast has the same subsistence priority to hunt caribou as a family that’s lived in Barrow for generations.
That’s one of many alleged injustices in both state and federal hunting and fishing laws that attorney and Native subsistence rights advocate John Sky Starkey called for Interior Natives to challenge Monday morning during the opening day of the Tanana Chiefs Conference annual convention.
Starkey said “a series of broken promises” or “death by 1,000 cuts” could summarize Native access to traditional fishing and hunting under American and Alaska governments.
Starkey spoke for about 30 minutes, sometimes interrupted by applause, about the various state and federal laws that have regulated Indians and Eskimos since Alaska’s territorial days.
The chain of broken promises is like that faced by his own Lakota people of the northern Midwest, he told the representatives from 42 Athabascan communities during a panel on hunting and fishing in which he was the main speaker. He encouraged subsistence users to advocate for tribal management of fish and game populations.
“I have worked in this area for about 25 years, but you all have lived in it forever,” he said. “My conclusion in this short period of time is that it will actually be impossible to maintain Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights that will provide for your way of life if you continue to be managed by other people.”
Despite his generally pessimistic picture of Native access to hunting and fishing, he said there are a few resources in Alaska that Natives have more of a say in regulating, thanks to favorable federal regulations, specifically marine mammals, migratory birds and halibut.
The Tanana Chiefs Conference’s annual convention takes place through Thursday at the Fairbanks Westmark Hotel.