Subsistence and Traditional Use of the Land

montage of four images; from left to right, showing strips of salmon hanging in a smoky room; a log framework near a lake; people fishing for salmon with hand nets; and Alaska Native youth kneeling in two rows before an elder

Subsistence and traditional activities dominate life in many rural Alaska Native communities

NPS Photos

a log building with salmon strips hanging inside, behind a pile of curling birch bark

Birch bark is used to smoke salmon for a particular flavor a the Robert Standifer, Jr. fish camp along Beshta Bay southwest of Tyonek.

NPS Photo / Karen Gaul

Alaska's abundance of natural resources form the backbone of life and economy of many people of Alaska.

Today, as in the past, many Alaskans live off the land, relying on fish, wildlife and other wild resources. Alaska Natives have used these subsistence resources for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, handicrafts and trade for thousands of years. Subsistence, and all it entails, is critical to sustaining both the physical and spiritual culture of Alaska Native peoples. It is an important tradition for many non-Natives as well.

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve was created in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which also provided for continued subsistence use of the park by local residents. Today many people continue to use the area's rich resources in a traditional way.

ANILCA stipulates that local rural people may continue subsistence practices on federal lands, including the park and preserve. Subsistence Resource Councils made up of local residents advises National Park Service staff on policy development and implementation.

The National Park Service coordinates with other agencies and Regional Advisory Councils from across the state in federal subsistence management. Learn more about subsistence use throughout national parks in Alaska.

Salmon fishing and processing is a family event.

Salmon fishing and processing is a family event. Local residents use methods that promote conservation and prohibit waste.

FWS Photo

Studying Subsistence

The Kvichak Watershed Subsistence Salmon Fishery Ethnographic Study (Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Bristol Bay Native Association, National Park Service) documented the fishing strategies of four families within the Park's Resident Zone Communities.

The communities shared information about the environmental and economic circumstances that factor into their subsistence. Also, the significance of salmon to their cultural values, social obligations, and commitments to community and culture.

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