Nov. 22, 2001 Alaska Newspapers Inc. finds parallels between Thanksgiving and subsistence debate

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2001

Alaska's legislators could learn a lot from their children this Thanksgiving.

They could learn about how the Indians taught the Pilgrims to live happily off the new land, and how the two sides sat down together to give thanks for the fall bounty of 1621.

And they could learn that the spirit of Thanksgiving, of cultural cooperation and respect for food and animals, is very much in practice today.

If they ever mandated a state history course, they might also learn that the Thanksgiving spirit has been alive and well in Alaska for centuries.

In fact, it's still being practiced all around the state. In Cordova, seal hunters share harvest data with federal scientists. In Barrow, whalers have helped federal resource managers better estimate the size of the bowhead whale population.

The spirit of Thanksgiving was alive in Point Lay on July 2, when subsistence hunters herded a handful of beluga whales into the shallow waters at Kasegaluk Lagoon so scientists could attach satellite transmitters to the whales' dorsal ridges.

Those kinds of cooperative efforts are yielding new information about where and how far marine mammals travel, information that can help answer questions to ensure a continued good harvest.

Like the Thanksgivings of old, those harvests are shared with everyone in the village, from elders to children, from residents to strangers.

So as Alaska's legislators search for a solution to the subsistence debate, they should remember the spirit of Thanksgiving. Indians and Pilgrims can work together in harmony.


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