On Hoonah’s first TRAYLS Program

TRAYLS members assisted a scientific survey of fish population being performed in conjunction with the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership

Only 3 months ago, HIA received $50,000 in BIA funding to create opportunities for youth initiatives in natural resources and science careers. One month later, 5 youth leaders from Hoonah joined 65 college and high-school aged students from around the country to receive training through the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

The Training Rural Alaskan Youth Leaders & Students (TRAYLS) program members spent 2 weeks training and camping with the Student Conservation Association in the Chugach State Park in Indian, Alaska. (Photo: Sean Williams)

The Hoonah TRAYLS members (above, from left) Dawson Hollingsworth, Sam Sheakely, Ashlyn Gray, Rebekah Sawers, and Nick Treutel-Jacobsen learned a variety of skills during training, including wildlife safety & wilderness first aid, trail maintenance and building, camping and living in the outdoors, operating tools and technology required for environmental careers, and performing scientific assessments. The TRAYLS crew also learned about topics in environmental science and performing natural resources assessments and inventories.

Rebekah Sawers, the TRAYLS crew leaders, thinks the program is important because “our local youth get direction and exposure to skills and experiences that they can use to get jobs that are important to the Southeast Alaska. This program has taught me to appreciate all the hard work that goes into natural resource management.”

The TRAYLS members helped Student Conservation Association employees with rigorous trail construction in the Chugach State Park. (Photo: Sean Williams)

The Hoonah TRAYLS members sampled a variety of professional and scientific research experiences with the Hoonah Indian Association, the US Forest Service, the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership and the SCA. Activities ranged from shellfish population and biomass surveys, stream and coastal watershed ecological surveys, removing invasive plants, identifying native vegetation, gathering traditional foods, performing scientific experiments, learning about environmental topics and careers, and even building a smokehouse for culture camp.

Ashlyn Gray feels that she has had a lot of fun and learned many things during the program. “I didn’t know much about shellfish before, and I learned how to measure and weigh them so that we could see if they have toxins in them. I also really enjoy having the opportunity to see wildlife and hike around as a part of work.”

TRAYLS members preparing for a scientific survey of shellfish in the inter-tidal Gartina Creek, near Hoonah, AK. This area is traditionally used as a harvesting ground for subsistence foods. (Photo: Sean Williams)


Measuring and counting clams and cockles provides important information for monitoring paralytic shellfish poisoning, and sustaining traditional subsistence resource gathering areas. (Photo: Sean Williams)

The Hoonah TRAYLS members worked with the US Forest Service in the Hoonah Ranger District for 3 weeks, performing a variety of road maintenance and recreation projects, including alder thinning and making improvements to the Eight Fathom Cabin.

After their service with the US Forest Service, the TRAYLS members returned to work on projects being managed by the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership.

TRAYLS members assisted a scientific survey of fish population being performed in conjunction with the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (Photo: Rebekah Sawers)

Sean Williams, the Americorps VISTA working on the program as a leader, thinks the program is important because “there are so many different careers and opportunities out there for young Alaskans. With a little hard work, there are so many places you can go, so many new things you can see. There are so many jobs that you would never think that you are capable of until you step up to the plate and think ‘I can do this’. It is a real treat to show our TRAYLS members that they can achieve whatever they desire – and bring those benefits back to their community — if they are willing to work for it.”

Dawson Hollingsworth works on building a smokehouse for the 2018 HAA TOO YEI YATEE Native Culture Camp

We are extremely grateful to our partners, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Student Conservation Association, and the Americorps VISTA program for making this opportunity possible. We look forward to continuing this program into the future, so that all youth from Hoonah have an opportunity to learn about the many different careers available to them.

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