Over the last nine months I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to live and protect Our Ways of Life. As the Alaska Fellow of Native Peoples Action, I focused on Land and Water Protection (Should I not mention previous work?) and the practices of our peoples. Our campaign at NPACF focuses on outreach and involvement in protecting our ways of life including fishing rights, hunting rights, gathering rights, Indigenous representation in all forms of governing, and the ensuring of our Indigenous future. Beyond just protection of subsistence, the campaign we have worked on has heavily focused on stewardship that our people already bring to the table, the knowledge that we already carry and that hold us afloat and let us thrive. My mentor at NPA, Rochelle, shared with me the important message that our work comes from not just the board rooms and zoom calls where documents are drafted and speeches are spoken but that it comes from the quiet conversations on the riverside, they come from the alpine berry picking trips, the gatherings at WEIO, in fish camp, in living rooms with children running around. These are the places that our ways of life flourish, and these are the practices that this campaign aims to protect. Without our fish we have no fish camp. Without our caribou we no longer journey together. Without our foods our gatherings feel empty. Protecting Our Ways of Life is about uplifting our stewards to share stories of these important life practices, about protecting the rights to our ways that we have always done things, and about the love and stewardship where it all originates.
In my time at NPACF learning and crafting these understandings, I now want to be able to look forward to the future of Protecting Our Ways of Life. Now is the time to be able to share and uplift what practices we do have, what voices need to be elevated in order to share these ways of life we have lived. Recently we hosted a Community Experts Cohort that focused on elevating community knowledge and sharing the knowledge that brings Protecting Our Ways of Life to the forefront, including trainings on communications and policy in arenas of advocacy. In a future of POWOL, I would like to see more of these gatherings, more trainings, more building of Indigenous power, knowledge, and work for Native people, by Native people. We have the ability to reach Native People far and wide across our state to listen, learn, and share their stories while simultaneously elevating people into seats and training them for advocacy on local, state and federal levels – the Protecting Our Ways of Life campaign brings these things together for our better future.
I’d like to thank everyone at NPACF and beyond for allowing me this space to learn and grow while working on such an important topic, and I hope to continue sharing the message and information on Protecting Our Ways of Life beyond my time at NPA. Quyanaqpak, Gunalchéesh!
Gabe Canfield – Kungunna