Community Event Blog Post
“Hoonah isn’t the Hoonah I grew up in” – Community Elder
A rapidly changing climate and environment may have major negative (and perhaps some positive) impacts to the natural resources and cultural way of life for Huna people. The most important thing we can do in this moment for our future generations is make a stewardship plan that we can stick to that helps ensure our way of life living from the land is healthy and prosperous for many generations from now. To meet that goal, Hoonah Indian Association has been working with several partners to craft our first climate adaptation plan that is rooted in Tlingit culture and local knowledge.
On March 3, 2023 HIA (including Ian Johnson, Brynn Presler-Marshall, Jeromy Grant, and Julian Narvaez), in collaboration with a team of students from the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (UM SEAS), (including Arianna Lapke, Anjali Pandey, Jillian Shrader, Megan Trapp, and Grace Whipkey, advised by Dr. Kyle Whyte) hosted a community adaptation event. The goal of this event was to learn more about the environmental changes that Hoonah locals have been noticing and experiencing, as well as hear what ideas community members have to address these changes.
We started out the night with some pizza and casual conversation then moved into a fun game of Jeopardy. The Jeopardy questions were about climate change and changes in local resources, such as halibut, salmon, berries, and deer. There were no questions that community members were unable to answer! This was reassuring and meant that we were in a good spot to move into our main focus for the night.
For our main activity, the UM SEAS team put together some poster prompts and event guests were able to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. We thought about five main things that are driven by climate change:
- Increased Air Temperature,
- Ocean Acidification,
- Increased Water Temperature,
- Sea Level Change, and
- Change in Precipitation.
Event participants were asked two questions:
- How do you feel this impacts you or Hoonah?
- How do you want to respond or adapt to these changes?
After everyone had a chance to reflect on each question, we had an in-depth conversation. As expected, fish and fishing were a hot topic for discussion. We heard opinions on trawling, farmed fish, and charter fishing, as well as changes in how deep people have to go to fish and their thoughts on farmed fish. For example, many people raised concerns about the various negative impacts trawling has on benthic ecosystems (the sea life on the ocean floor) and how it may be an unsustainable fishing practice. There was also a large discussion about the invasive green crab, which eats fish eggs and outcompetes local crabs like the Dungeness. It is very clear that these are among issues that Hoonah community members are very passionate about as they impact everyday life.
We also received some useful insight on different actions that can be taken to address some of these challenges. One idea we heard is to address the invasive crab before it establishes in our waters, we could start a green crab monitoring program. See a comprehensive list here. Another idea was to join efforts to stop trawling in the Southeast, which could be an effective way to improve fishing practices locally. Together, using your ideas and local knowledge alongside HIA Environmental’s, we will be able to help better guide our community into the future.
The conversations started at this community event are ongoing and HIA Environmental would love to hear your thoughts. We encourage attending our monthly environmental meetings (https://www.hia-env.org/environmental-legacy/currently-working-on/). Also, please feel free to reach out to HIA Environmental (https://www.hia-env.org/contact-us/) to learn more about the Climate Adaptation Plan’s progress or to provide input. Together, we will ensure Hoonah will be resilient against different environmental changes to maintain our special way of life.
Written by Anjali Pandey and Arianna Lapke