Wolf Song of Alaska News

Wolf Control Makes Sense for a People Reliant on Wild Foods

Editorial / The Tundra Times /  February 15, 2008

Tribal constitutions geared to protect the subsistence way of life often include language such as, "To protect and preserve the wildlife and natural resources within the area under the jurisdiction of the tribe which its members rely on for subsistence."

Statements of such magnitude support the Alaska Board of Game and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wolf predator control program.

The state is merely taking precautions for the predator not to decimate the prey. We agree with former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, who said: "We've got a state to manage and a game population to manage, and we've got to do it not on a basis of emotion but on a basis of sound science."

The anti-fur attacks of the 1970s, '80s and '90s eliminated a traditional supplemental income source for many rural Alaskans after publicizing it as a "barbaric industry." Now, the same factions have united against aerial wolf hunting.

Many special interest groups have absolutely no clue about the "real" living conditions here in rural Alaska. Here on the frontlines, predators such as wolves and bears are taking a large toll on the animals such as moose and caribou we depend on for survival.

Please note that it is not that easy task to wean Alaska Native people from wild red meat in the hope that they might become compassionate vegans within a generation.

Thus, it is advisable that the animal rights community learns more about Alaska Native culture and traditions before attempting to impose changes that only do more harm than good scientifically and humanely speaking.

Just last fall, the residents of the Yukon River village of Marshall had marauding rabid wolves raid the village, killing 12 sled dogs, and approximately 20 or more dogs were put down for fear of a rabies outbreak. We are not alone: people near Fairbanks and Anchorage lost a few dogs to hungry wolves.

One major critic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is an organization that claims more than 1.8 million members. It is the largest animal rights group in the world.

It says, "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment."

This political engine is well-funded and even has Hollywood celebrities speaking on its behalf.

Their campaign also targets children. One graphic pamphlet, "Your Daddy Kills Animals," shows a cartoon father gutting a fish, accompanied by this text: "Since your daddy is teaching you the wrong lessons about right and wrong, you should teach him fishing is killing. Until your daddy learns it's not fun to kill, keep your doggies and kitties away from him. He's so hooked on killing defenseless animals, they could be next."

Do Alaska Natives have something to say on this matter? Simply and loudly, yes.

The Federal Subsistence Management Program quotes, "Subsistence fishing and hunting provide a large share of the food consumed in rural Alaska." The state's rural residents harvest about 22,000 tons of wild foods each year - an average of 375 pounds per person.

A 2004 Report on the Status of Alaska Natives by the University of Alaska Institute for Social and Economic Research indicates that our people in Western Alaska consume 640 pounds of wild food per capita. Fish makes up about 60 percent of this harvest.

Nowhere else in the United States is there such a heavy reliance upon wild foods. This dependence on wild resources is important to our cultural, physical, social and economic lives. Alaska's indigenous inhabitants have relied upon the traditional harvest for thousands of years and have passed this way of life, its culture, and values down through generations.

No one ought to threaten it.
Jason S. Isaac and Nick P. Andrew Jr. are president and administrator, respectively, of Ohogamiut Traditional Council of Marshall.

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