Erin Gingrich

Five carved wood salmon without heads, painted with white bellies and dark blue backs and fins. Tail fins face upwards, and strands of small red beads hang downwards from where the head of the salmon would be.
Fragile Wealth, 2017
Basswood, acrylic, and glass beads

Erin Gingrich


Fragile Wealth

Basswood, acrylic, and glass beads

"The salmon we are given from the lakes, rivers, streams and the oceans sustained our peoples for thousands of years, and they sustain us even now. This resource was seen as wealth by our peoples long before western currency came to our shores. This wealth had the power to feed our people through the winters of the past and continue to sustain us now as one of the most nutritious sources of protein found in our oceans. The abundance of this resource also provides fuel for one of our most historically significant forms of transportation; our dog teams. These remarkable fisheries also provides for us work and cultural identity for fisher men and women of this state, give us meaning and the means to pursue our lives here in this beautiful environment.

This wealth is also fragile, though sustainable it is destroyable. Fisheries long conserved by our native peoples came to face danger when unsustainable corporate fishing practices brought tools and techniques, the likes of fish traps, to our waters. Historically healthy fisheries were fished out in a single season and vital salmon populations were decimated. Though these practices may lay in the past, it serves to teach us that this resource, this wealth is fragile. Our subsistence, economic, social and cultural reliance on this sustainable resource was damaged, and in some cases, destroyed by unsustainable corporate fishing practices in the past and it faces continued fragility in our current state of climate uncertainty. We must raise our voices in order to protect this fragile wealth that so many of our people rely on for subsistence, livelihood and cultural identity."

- Erin Gingrich
Photograph of artist Erin Gingrich.
Artist: Erin Gingrich

NPS Photo, Erin Gingrich

Erin Gingrich is a contemporary Alaska Native artist. Her work reconnects with the historically traditional beliefs stemming from her ancestors' value of the natural environment as gifts gathered from the land. Gingrich's childhood exposure to Alaska's biodiversity through the lens of sacred subsistence lifeways, fundamentally shaped her understanding of the value of Alaska’s ecosystems as both an immeasurable entity, and a gatherable gift cared for over generations dating back to her ancestors. To re-establish these beliefs, Erin’s work explores representations of these resources that make the environment unique through carved, painted and beaded sculptural mask forms.
Produced in Collaboration with National Park Service, et al.

Last updated: December 9, 2017

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