Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
TOGIAK: Informing the Future by Securing the Past
Alaska Region, February 11, 2008
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Traditional Ecological Knowledge Publication
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Publication - Photo Credit: n/a

Back in 2002, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge Fisheries Biologist Mark Lisac began to tackle a growing problem: preserving the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of many of the villages that use the resources of the Refuge and incorporating it with current western science practices. Five years later, with the assistance of many others and with just a few twists and turns along the way, that project is nearly complete.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge of 20th Century Ecosystems and Fish Populations in the Kuskokwim Bay Region was published in October of this year. The report, authored by Lisac, Robbin LaVine (Bristol Bay Native Association) and Philippa Coiley-Kenner (Alaska Department of Fish and Game), details a wealth of information regarding traditional fisheries uses and populations gleaned from extensive interviews with village elders from Quinhagak and Goodnews Bay.

The process was an extremely labor intensive undertaking that involved a large number of video and audio interview sessions conducted in Yup’ik by Refuge staff members. These interviews concentrated on seasonal observations throughout each elder’s life. Elders answered species specific questions about traditional use areas of harvest, gear types, harvest levels, seasons, abundance and methods of preservation and processing. Those primarily responsible for the interviews were Refuge Interpreter Jon Dyasuk and Refuge Information Technicians Pete Abraham and Ferdinand Sharp. Interview sessions were then painstakingly translated, in order to present the information as accurately as possible.

Copies of the publication, packaged together with two related database CDs, will be distributed to village councils and project cooperators and is accessible on the Office of Subsistence Management website. Mark Lisac’s hope is that perhaps someday highlights of the interview sessions can be made a part of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., with subtitles to translate the unique insights these people were able to share. Lisac commented, “Today’s observations are tomorrow’s traditional ecological knowledge. There’s a lot of knowledge out there that’s being lost faster than we can record it. Searchable databases are a tool to preserve that knowledge, but we need them in place now, in a way that allows them to be added to as more information is compiled and recorded.”

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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