Friday, May 17News That Matters

Alaska Native Mutual Aid Network: Thousands of Years Strong in Tackling the Climate Crisis


The Arctic is experiencing rapid warming, causing dire effects for indigenous communities in Alaska. In September 2022, Typhoon Merbok caused extensive damage in more than 35 communities along Alaska’s west coast, leading to the destruction of food, fishing gear, and camps used for subsistence harvesting for generations. Additionally, warmer water temperatures have resulted in low fish numbers in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, leading to closures or severe limits on fishing that disproportionately affect Alaska Native communities.

In the midst of these struggles, the Smokehouse Collective, a mutual aid network founded by Ruth Łchav’aya K’isen Miller and Deenaalee Chase-Hodgdon, aims to address food insecurity and promote indigenous sovereignty. The collective was formed from a need for food security rooted in indigenous practices, as climate-related disasters threaten traditional foods, cultures, and lifeways.

The collective has a vision to revitalize ancient indigenous trade practices and redistribute wealth, return land and water in Alaska to indigenous stewardship, and demonstrate the coexistence of a healthy economy and clean environment. They aim to create a gathering place and network for Alaska Natives to harvest, preserve, and give away salmon and other traditional foods.

Recognizing the impact of the climate crisis on traditional food sources, the Smokehouse Collective seeks to create a traditional fish camp in Bristol Bay, complete with communal fish processing facilities and housing, gardens, a smokehouse, sauna, and community kitchen. The collective also hopes to grow produce, harvest meat and berries, and engage in trade across regions to provide healthy, sustainable traditional foods to communities.

Through strategic partnerships and fundraising efforts, the collective is making strides towards realizing their vision. They have already purchased a portable fish-processing plant and are in the process of acquiring land in Dillingham, on Bristol Bay, for a permanent facility.

In the face of ongoing climate change and its effects on traditional food sources, the Smokehouse Collective is dedicated to preserving and sharing indigenous practices and foods with the broader community. Their efforts offer hope for strengthening the resilience and cultures of Alaska Native peoples in the face of a changing climate.