Like many, Alaska Quakers have been sad to see bitterness and division as our state struggles with the current issues surrounding subsistence uses of fish and game. Together with the American Friends Service Committee, we formed a project to gather small groups of Alaskans to learn about the experiences and values at the heart of the subsistence debate. Participants and "listeners" alike have challenged ourselves to hear the human story of those with differing views. By listening fully to each other we hoped to find values we all hold in common.
We began with many meetings of either rural or urban groups. Then, from Jan. 26-28 in Fairbanks, we brought participants from different cultures together. The two dozen urban and rural hunters and fishers who participated from Anchorage, Buckland and Fairbanks found hope and common ground in the following:
n As Alaskans, we are stewards of a remarkable natural bounty. We share a sense of wonder, respect, and responsibility for the future of Alaska's wild places and rich gifts of fish and wildlife.
n Through our Alaska heritage of hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering we are part of wild Alaska. We value respectful and sustainable use of wildlife, fish, and other resources.
n Each of us has a personal responsibility to learn about and understand human involvement in Alaska's land and animals.
n What we learn from elders and written history, families and communities creates our personal values. We want to teach new generations to hunt and fish with humility, to use resources without waste, and to share foods generously.
n Many Americans lead lifestyles which distance them from the natural world. Direct experience on the land teaches us about our dependence on our environment and strengthens our commitment to protect our home for generations to come.
n Alaskans can work together for sound management of hunting and fishing. Local people have deep understanding of resources and harvest patterns in their areas. Those who travel to hunt and fish have a wide view of Alaska's resources. Biologists contribute scientific tools for studying wildlife and its changes. We support advisory bodies in which local people, other Alaskans and resource managers use all these sources of knowledge to reach shared decisions.
n We are heartened by what we are learning from one another. Both our similarities and our differences can be opportunities for deeper understanding. We look forward to the questions we take with us from here.
Two dozen Alaskans is a small number. And there are difficult questions which the project has not yet explored. Yet the participants so far did not know they had so much in common. We hope that over time, more and more Alaskans from different backgrounds can build understanding and trust by listening to what we each care about the most.
Cynthia Monroe is the director of Alaskans Listening to Alaskans about Subsistence, a project of the American Friends Service Committee. More information about the project can be obtained by sending an e-mail to
email@example.com or by calling (907) 278-2582.
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