On this edition of Bay Native Circle Tony Gonzales Interviews Chief Gary Harrison. BNC is weekly program presents special guests and explores today’s Native issues, peoples, cultures, music & events with rotating hosts Morning Star Gali, Tony Gonzales, Eddie Madril and Janeen Antoine.
This rough transcript was made using the built-in transcription A.I. in Microsoft Word. There may be errors in this transcription. To listen to the original audio, go to https://archives.kpfa.org/data/20230215-Wed1900.mp3 to listen or download.
Pictured is Chief Gary Harrison on the left and Tony Gonzales on the right.
00:00:45 Tony Gonzales
Anpetu Thayetu Waste Mitakuyapi, good evening relatives and welcome to Bay Native Circle here on KPFA and online at kpfa.org. This is Tony Gonzales your host tonight, February 15th. As you might have read or heard…Berkeley unnamed, its 5th building my relatives That’s right! There at Berkeley, UC Berkeley, founding fathers, who was Bernard Moses, 19th century intellectual and of course, his name was one of the buildings there—one of the philosophy buildings that’s now been changed, my relatives. Now it’s just called Philosophy Hall! Name changes are coming down in that fear of racism and what it surrounds. In the US, we heard, for example in Fresno County, now we have Yoka Valley instead of the S**** valley and the S**** ski resort has been changed to Palisades [ski resort]. Well, right here at UC Berkeley, these names are coming down, and that includes, as you well know, John Bolt
Bill Hall has now been changed. Also, the slaveholder John and Joseph Laconti, who they fought in the Confederacy that that has been changed there in the physics building, including the early UC President David Prescott Barrows, that’s now changed the social science building in anthropology at UC Berkeley, the pioneer, Alfred Kroeber, the famous anthropologist that has also changed at all across the Bay, including here in San Francisco, UC Hastings is no longer my relatives. It’s now UC College of law, and so is that name changing is going on and in sports as well.
My relatives, you might have seen the Super Bowl game that was held just this past Sunday with the Kansas City football team, where there was a protest there outside of the stadium about a mile away, that is. That’s where the protesters or people for the rally against the issue of the mascots that are portrayed in Kansas City were held. And this is the continuation of mascots and sports, there’s time for that Kansas City team to change. Of course, on their culture, perpetuating racism, as you saw the Tomahawk chop was on display singing the Woo Woo that the people are involving—these are all gestures of racism that we have to continue to educate the public. We’ll hear more about this, and I want to salute the people that were there, Manny Pino, and of course, Amanda Black Horse was helping to lead the charge. There will continue to hear more about the progress to change the Kansas City football team name.
And this evening we will be speaking with Chief Gary Harrison of Chickaloon Village, Alaska. It is near Palmer and he’s at the Baskin and Chief Gary Harrison has a lot of information on how Indigenous peoples in the Arctic region, in particular, have focused on their issues and where to be effective, and that includes the work that he’s involved in at the regional, national and the international arena. My relatives, [this is] very important information on how they also work in the Arctic Circle with the Arctic Council of Governments. There’s about five or six different governments involved with Indigenous peoples in that region including Russia, the United States, Canada, the Scandinavian region. Very good dialogue that goes on after the protection of the natural resources against mining and oil industries and protecting the salmon and importantly, the Porcupine Caribou In that region, particularly on the northeastern slope of Alaska, the Anwar region or the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, so pay particular attention to that my relatives, as it is very insightful.
But before that I want to let you know about the passing of a great warrior woman. That is Hinewirangi Kohu Morgan of the island of Aotearoa [New Zealand]. And she is also a board member with the International Indian Treaty Council. She has been a longtime advocate for human rights. Particularly for Māori peoples of Aotearoa—New Zealan that is, [since] the 1848 Treaty of Waitangi. So more information will be coming, my relatives, but her passing on Tuesday she will be missed, my relatives… And so now let’s [talk] to Gary Chief Gary Harrison and his advocacy in the National and International arena.
Aho all my relations here now I have asked Chief Gary Harrison of the N Alaska, the Chickaloon village and Chief Gary Harrison has been representative of Chickaloon village. Well, you know, since the 1980s and 90s were well represented at the. Different forums, both international conferences and at the United Nations Arena and various bodies, and Gary is here in the Bay Area for a few days and I haven’t seen him in the ceremony and taking the opportunity later to invite you to the show tonight. Chief Gary Harrison, It’s an honor for you to be here and welcome please. If you were to introduce yourself as well.
00:06:11 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, thank you, Tony, I’m Chief Gary Harrison. I’m a traditional Chief from Chickaloon Native Village where Athna Athebaskan people…and maybe I could just say (Chief Gary Harrison greets Tony and the radio audience in his native language spoken by the Indigenous Peoples of Chickaloon Village, called Nay’dini’aa Na’, in Athna) which basically [translates to] good day I’m Gary Harrison, I’m Water Clan and I’m from Chickaloon. And yeah, I’m the traditional Chief of our people.
00:06:45 Tony Gonzales
Chief Gary, I wanted to ask you if you would please give our listeners a little insight as to your representation if you will outside of the village itself or chick alone, but as a representative advocate at various levels and in the more recent times you attended the COP or the Conference of the Parties, what is number 27 said that in Egypt?
00:07:17 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, it was in Sharma, Sheikh.
00:07:19 Tony Gonzales
Please can you share with us what occurred there in summary, yes.
00:07:25 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, I can only tell some stuff. A lot of the stuff I wasn’t really a part of. I was on a couple of side panels, and it was incredible because it is an environmental gathering, right? Well, the carbon footprint just to make the place was incredible. And then to have all of these thousands of people descend on this area, I mean it, it was…
00:07:51 Tony Gonzales
…A contradiction of [it’s values].
00:07:53 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, it was. It was kind of really different because of the, you know, you got everybody there from all over the world trying to sell you their environmental products or what is some of them supposedly environmental and…
00:08:08 Tony Gonzales
…This is the climate change conference…
00:08:09 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, the COP on climate change. What do they call it? Compromise of the parties? Yes, that’s not what it is, but that’s basically what generally happens. There is a compromise of the parties and…
00:08:27 Tony Gonzales
Conference of criminals.
00:08:28 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, that could be too, but what happens there is you got a bunch of the countries that wanted to still do economic development at the detriment of the environment and not just the environment that they’re in there, but the larger environment because of the carbon footprint that a lot of these things do, for instance, coal mining, oil and gas, I mean they have a big influence on many of these countries because that’s what their countries revenue depends on.
So, it’s not in their interest in the short run, but in the long run it’s in the interest of all of humanity to start cutting your carbon footprint and a lot of them are very short sighted, which is why there’s such a big argument when you get down there between the different states. They call them states, but they’re countries. So, you got like, all of these countries arguing about. Well, we don’t want to, you know, we want to cut down the melting or the [temperature] raised by 1 1/2 degrees. Even that could be very tragic for a lot of places.
There are a lot of low-lying places that would be flooded, even at the raise of 1.5, and you can also see that it’s raised some already. You see these horrific storms there used to be storms, but not as horrific as the ones that they have been seeing this now.
00:10:03 Tony Gonzales
That you went to that conference itself, how did your resolve in those workshops and the outcome match with the UN’s 20-30 Sustainable Development goals? We advocate there are Indigenous. Peoples involved in that 2030 goals.
00:10:22 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, there’s a lot of people that came down there and it’s incredible how many people and how many places are being affected. And it’s almost like we’re all being affected basically and by the same type of people like the oil companies want to come in and pollute the land. You got coal companies, you got the other mining that comes in and takes out the resources and leaves a mess. And if you even mention revenue sharing with the Indigenous people, people think you’re [crazy.] That’s yet we sit there, and we have the coal companies come in, the oil companies, the mining companies come in and they just take what are our resources and leave us nothing but a mess. And it’s incredible when you even mention it, how they think you’re insane.
It’s like, wait a minute…If somebody came into your house and took your coffee table and left, what would you think? Oh and broke a bunch of stuff on the way out and peed on the floor and crapped on the floor and took off. What would you think? Only they don’t think of it in that method. They think of it “well, it’s ours Manifest destiny You know, it’s all ours.”
00:11:36 Tony Gonzales
And Chief, Gary, you take those outcomes of conferences like that for example to other bodies that you associate with at the international level to provide them with this kind of attitudes and perspectives you know. To share with them as well. See what can you tell us that other international Arctic body that you are associated with?
00:12:05 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, we try to, but a lot of times, many of the actors are at both places, so that’s when you try and cross over a lot of times. You got to be very specific on things that both have agreed upon to try and push them into doing what’s right and you’re talking about the Arctic Council, which is made-up of eight northern countries, the US because of Alaska, Canada, Denmark, because of Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, and Russia. And in that they have permanent participants, which is the Indigenous peoples, and there’s six of them, there’s the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which is in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia.
There’s the Saami Council, which is in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, that there’s a Russian Indigenous peoples Congress, which is 30, some different Indigenous peoples in Russia. And you got to be in either two different countries or in more than one group in one. So, then there’s the Gretchen International, which is in Alaska and Canada, there’s the Alured International, which is in Alaska and Russia, and then there’s the Arctic Athabaskan Council, which is what I’m presently the international chairman of, which is in Alaska and Canada, and it’s supposed to be a very unique situation. They’re the Indigenous people. The permanent participants sit with what they call the senior Arctic officials of the eight different countries, and we don’t really have a vote, but we kind of have a veto. So, if we say, well, no, we don’t really want that to happen and we stick together, well then, the Arctic Council has to try and figure out how to deal with that, rather than just move on.
So, it’s kind of different and since the war things have changed a lot because they’re supposed to come to us with whatever is going on and talk with us, and we’re supposed to be part of the discussion and conversation, and they’ve been having discussions, not meetings. But discussions without the Indigenous people there and the reason they’re not having meetings is because Arctic Council’s on a pause and when it’s on a pause, you can’t really have any official meetings. But they’ve been talking back and forth because right now Russia has a chair.
The chairmanship changes every two years, so we’re coming up on the end of the two years that Russia has been chair. So, for the last year since the war, we haven’t been able to really do anything. Norway is the incoming chair, so the senior Arctic official chair from Russia has been talking to the incoming senior official chair to try and have a transition. And right now, at the IPS the Indigenous People Secretariat, which was formed before the Art Council and even the Art Council secretariat, it rotates between the six Indigenous peoples organization and it. It’s now with ICC and nuclear circumpolar conference, but it’s supposed to switch next to the Russian Indigenous Peoples Congress next.
Is problematic with this war going on, so we’re trying to figure out a way to work our way through this and also how to make the Arctic of Council function without including Russia—and Russia, has about 49% of the Arctic. So, it’s pretty hard to do and so right now there’s a lot of problems there with how things are going to be going. People don’t know, we’re not sure, we wish the war would get over soon for more reasons than one, you know, because there’s a lot of human lives being lost. They’re unnecessarily in many of our thoughts, and so we, and we also need the other Council to get back to what its original mission was, which is a high-level environmental group or however you want to call it. It’s not part of the UN, but it is an international body.
00:16:42 Tony Gonzales
And should the war come to terms and some kind of peaceful resolve is still to be reckoned with as a as a body within that Arctic? Yeah, circle council.
00:16:54 Chief Gary Harrison
But if that happens, then, then we’ll, you know, we’ll. We’ll deal with it, and I think that it’ll be closer to getting things back to normal. Whatever normal is going to be anymore after the war because some of the country officials that I’ve talked with are like, not sure how the different various governments are going to deal with. Russia after this? So, it’s kind of a complicated, difficult, and also…
00:17:32 Tony Gonzales
…It’s the bear in the living room, Chief Gary undeniable.
00:17:40 Chief Gary Harrison
It’s very complicated because we don’t need to offend Russia and make things worse, you know, and some people get offended very easily and we don’t want to do that. That is because the Arctic Council needs to get back to what it was originally planned on doing, which is to help work on the environment.
Which is one of the things that they talk about the Sustainable Development Goals. I don’t remember how the how it’s all pronounced anyhow part of it is in the environment and that’s what the conference of the Parties on climate change is about is about how to. Do that so the two bodies do recognize each other and try and incorporate in their work the different things that each body puts out for the for the good of the environment.
00:18:39 Tony Gonzales
And Chief Gary how do you bring this advocacy back down to the Community level and reckon with some of the issues as well? You know, [those issues] you deal with?
00:18:54 Chief Gary Harrison
That’s also a very complicated issue because a lot of people have no idea what the Arctic Council is about, and when they do, they don’t recognize it as a working body that can do anything. But they’ve made several different agreements, which in essence will affect the different areas. One of them is in emergency preparedness, like for instance, when they have these big storms, or someone gets caught out on the ice, or something like that. They’ll do search and rescue for, you know, on an international scale in the morning and they help each other out, and it’s already happened in the past.
For instance, when Nome [Alaska] was running out of fuel oil and none of the Ice Breakers would make it in there, the Russians came in with an ice breaker and broke away into Nome so that they could get fuel on the community and the community wouldn’t freeze to death or whatever else. Because almost everything nowadays is run on fossil fuels, and that’s one of the areas where they’ve been complementing each other on one or the other areas. In as much of the scientific research that goes on because, there’s a lot of scientific research that the Arctic Council does, so that they can actually come to a realistic solution to some of these problems, which are still ongoing there. I don’t think anybody’s found the magic wand yet that’s going to fix everything, because as I mentioned, when you go to the COP, you got various different states arguing over not only resource extraction—but then you know a lot of different things.
00:20:53 Tony Gonzales
And what has been part of your determination through the many years of your advocacy, even at that international arena level, to Gary, and I think bringing more credence to those roles that you’ve been involved in. For example, those two arenas in particular that we just referred to. You put in more emphasis and credibility to that recent UN body that you’re now associated with—along with the International Indian Treaty Council that is, and a colleague—having to do with fish. If you can explain that to us, please?
00:21:27 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, the Treaty Council is in the International Planning Committee at the UN Food and Agricultural and it’s made-up of various different parts and I’m involved in the fishing part of. It is the United Nations Food and Agricultural International Planning Committee. A working group on small scale fisheries at the Committee on Fisheries. I think there’s some more acronyms and stuff in there, but I don’t always get them all right.
So anyhow, with that is all of the countries have committed to the voluntary guidelines and the voluntary guidelines talk about things on a human rights basis. And basically, it comes in from that and it’s not just Indigenous peoples human rights, it’s all of the basically small-scale fisheries which make up a small percent of the total harvest—because the big producers, the commercial fishing producers are the ones who break most of the harvest in. But the small-scale fisheries are very important, especially to the communities, and you know, the fishing communities. And to a lot of the Indigenous people and the poor and marginalized people and women are a big part of that. As many people know, in many cases they’re the backbone to the fisheries, even though sometimes the men may go out and get it when they bring it back in, who takes care of a lot of this well? A lot of times it’s the women.
00:23:11 Tony Gonzales
What percentage of the fishing industry, for example?
00:23:18 Chief Gary Harrison
I’m thinking, I don’t really know the percentage, but it’s a very small percent, like maybe 2%, but it’s a very big deal. And right now, they’ve got this report out they call the hidden harvest—which I don’t really like the name of it—but what it does is it shows the how many times the small-scale fisheries help the communities like number 1 it brings in food number 2 it brings in lives goods and feeds the people and all of the attributes that come from that. I can’t think of them all right now. But you know, that’s basically what it’s about.
But in some places when you have different fishing groups pitted against another one and you bring in something that says the hidden harvest. It’s like “I knew you were you were hiding something!”
And so, in some communities, it’s going to create some confusion and some animosity but that’s not what it’s intended to do. It’s intended to point out the good things that come from the small scale fisheries.
00:24:32 Tony Gonzales
And yet your competition, if you will, are large scale fishing companies. Give us a little description if you can like for example, during the harvesting season if you will.
00:24:46 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, there’s a couple of different ones, for instance. In the Gulf of Alaska, they got this spot that’s called the doughnut hole, and that’s an international area where people are aren’t supposed to be fishing.
And most of the international have agreed to it because it’s where a lot of the fish go to reproduce are not reproduced, but well, some of them probably.
00:25:10 Tony Gonzales
And how sure is that?
00:25:10 Chief Gary Harrison
But they but they grow, I don’t know, but anyhow.
00:25:14 Tony Gonzales
00:25:15 Chief Gary Harrison
And then you have these different vessels that come in and have 30-mile Nets and they can wipe out whole run right there. And the fish there, if it’s salmon…they’re not fully developed either. So, they’re taking them before their time even, and then when they come back—for instance, to Alaska—they come up the different rivers and then you have the commercial fisheries that’s at the mouth of the rivers which scoop up the salmon before they even get into the river.
And most of the subsistence fisheries is on the river system upstream, and we take less than 1%, and yet we’re some of the first ones who are cut off. And we also have to compete obviously with commercial fishermen. But then we have to compete with the sports fishery as well, and now they got the personal fisheries, which is the subsistence fishery, is subordinate to all of these different fisheries.
So, when it comes time, they want to cut off the subsistence first, and the subsistence as I mentioned before, I don’t really like that name because of what sustenance is and we need sustain. And it’s not somewhere below that, but it has international connotations. So, we still use the word subsistence and the Indigenous peoples.
What we really need is we need to set aside in front of all of the other fisheries because, in many cases, we used to trade salmon, and in the history books, it shows where they used to have dried Yukon [Salmon] they would trade on the coast. So, we had an economy of fish, but it wasn’t like, oh, “scoop it all up and take it out of here”. No, we would take it, we would dry it, process, fish ourselves and in that manner, you wouldn’t take as much as these people are just scooping it out and gone, which is the reason why we still had fisheries.
Another when the colonist showed up and started taking everything, and that’s another thing they never decolonized Alaska. In the proper form under the UN, because the United States was part of the agreement, making the agreement for the International Treaty on the UN Charter, they were part of the group that made that. And then they signed it and ratified it, and in that they were supposed to decolonize certain areas.
They never decolonized Alaska and Hawaii in the manner that they had agreed upon in the UN Charter. As a matter of fact the only the original people were supposed to vote when it came time for decolonization. And they were supposed to have different things on the ballot besides statehood. There’s free association, Commonwealth or something like that.
But anyhow, there were several different ones, but they didn’t have that on the ballot in Alaska, nor Hawaii. And in Alaska they had a prerequisite. The voting that if you were native, you had to prove that you spoke English and you had to have five white people sign that you were competent. So well, this was on the books when they voted for statehood. And so, who voted for statehood? It was the colonists and the military. The military got paid 5₵ or $5 extra if they could prove that they voted in this.
The Indigenous people, my cousins were not allowed to vote. They got in a fist fight and can’t roll over it, and I thought it was in the papers, but I’ve been trying to find it in some of the old newspapers, but I can’t find it. And so, it was probably just a little clip, but I know a guy who was a young he was a not a child, but a young guy at the time, a teenager, and he witnessed the fight at in Cantwell at the voting between my relatives and the colonists.
So, it’s a real thing that this happened, and a lot of people don’t want to realize it, which is one reason why the land claims came later, which was a genocidal. Correct, and it was meant to destroy the tribes in Alaska, and it also left out the children, which is another plank of genocide. So, it’s a double plank of genocide and what’s going on now is many of the corporate leaders, in my opinion, have got like what you would call the Stockholm syndrome.
00:29:57 Tony Gonzales
That was the Alaska Land Claim settlement of 1971.
00:30:02 Chief Gary Harrison
And now the corporations are now trying to take a lot of the tribes rights and responsibilities, which is filicide, which means you’re destroying your own people. And that’s what’s happening now is we’ve not only got genocide happening, but they’re also pushing our own people into filicide.
00:30:23 Tony Gonzales
And in the process of the Alaska settlement was the creation of the 14 corporations…as opposed to the reservations?
00:30:34 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, here, here’s what happened during the negotiations, they said. We don’t want them to be the same as the reservations down the states. We don’t want them to have the same rights as the reservations have down there because they started to realize that the reservations were—even though they put them on reservations and took everything else later on, it also proved that the people were even there because later on the calling us down in the states were saying, well, prove to us you were even here because we’re taking this land. It’s ours now.
So not only did that happen, but also that was the same thing that happened when they gave out native allotments. It also was there to break up the land base and but it also later on proved that they [the Indigenous People] were there because there were native allotments. So, they didn’t want that to happen in Alaska. So, what the feds did is they confiscated all of the land. They gave 1% to the people who were already there. And bought land from the federal government cause and then they gave a bunch of land to the state of Alaska. And then they made the 13 corporations and they said you natives if you want anything, you’re going to have to become part of these corporations. And not all of my family got in there, only about half of them did so there’s also a big fight about that half the time because half of my family is not in there and half is and it’s….
00:32:15 Tony Gonzales
In fact, there [are] several communities that have retained their somewhat autonomous and traditions, like Gwich’in people which in Arctic village. How about Chickaloon itself?
00:32:29t Chief Gary Harrison
In some cases, they have and haven’t to varying degrees. Because when they wanted to use their land and tax it like they used to, they went to court, and they lost. So, there’s a certain amount of stuff, but we all still fight, and we’ve never given up our sovereignty. We’ve never given up our land. We’ve never given up any of our rights. So, what’s happened to us is they’ve all taken it. So, we’re still striving and struggling for sovereignty. [Our territory], yeah, unceded [our land has] never been ceded.
So, and but like I said, now that we’ve got these corporations, it makes things even more [complicated]. And now [these corporations] want to say…”we want to work together”. Well, their idea of working together is that the corporations get more rights and more money and more, while the tribes get less. [The corporations] are basically trying to take some of the tribes rights and resources [for themselves]. And you’ve probably seen it in this COVID money where the corporations ended up getting a bunch of the tribes COVID money. And there was a big lawsuit about it and the Corporations won and they got a bunch of the COVID money. And I don’t mind them getting money, but it needs to be their own money, not on the backs of the tribes, which is the problem.
And a lot of people say, well, you just hate the corporations. Well, in a way, yeah. But I also realize what kind of economic driver they are for our people. And so the way politics and everything is now, I don’t want to see them go down, but I don’t want them taking any more of the tribes rights either. And that’s the problem. So, when I talk about that, they think, oh, you’re just you just want to take away all the corporations and all that. And that’s not really true. I just want them to operate in a proper manner and I want them to operate for all of our peoples, not just the chosen people who are leading the corporations.
00:34:36 Tony Gonzales
Well, Chief Gary Harrison, given all that knowledge and the representation that you bring, and now clarifying it further, within this new body within the UN, the Food Agricultural Organization, presenting this particular knowledge, it really begins to pave a way for an additional wider arena, where more Indigenous peoples can get involved and present. You know, these [environmental] calamities in their particular regions [are getting] closer to the countries [previously unaffected by those environmental disasters]. To begin to change their policies at that level, you know, given all that and bringing that home to Arctic village itself. Can you tell just a little bit about what you’re confronted with at the ground level? I know there’s a coal mine that’s a big industry in, in your region. Please if you can come back to that, you were going to say something.
00:35:31 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, first I wanted to also bring in the intercept fisheries. And the bycatch because they got these big trawlers out there. Dutch and Fish and the bycatch, a lot of it is salmon and like they get 50,000 kings as bycatch, they just throw it away. And I think that at minimum they should be giving it to the Indigenous people up and down the river who are now not allowed to catch any king salmon because they’re so low in numbers yet, the trawlers and the bycatch, you know it’s craziness on what’s going on out there in the fishing industry. So I wanted to get to that before I got back to—what was the question you asked?
00:36:18 Tony Gonzales
Your involvement of these arenas, many that you’ve brought for our listeners, your involvement with the International Treaty Council at the sub body of the file, the Food and Agriculture Organization. You know, bringing this advocacy, but I wanted to bring it back home to your home front in Arctic Chickaloon village, yourself and what you’re confronted with. If you can give us a little history of, for example, the mining industry, the coal mine that was major, is it still operating at the same extent?
00:36:52 Chief Gary Harrison
No, it’s not, thank goodness. But what happened was during World War One, they found the world’s highest-grade coal in my community in Chickaloon and they drilled nine tunnels in the side of the hill and, then hey brought in the train and the train came from Seward and up to Chickaloon. They fueled the Pacific fleet with the coal out of Chickaloon and it was melting down the boilers.
So they went further down to a spot called Moose Creek. We have our own Indigenous names for him [Moose Creek], too, but this will suffice. And they built a railroad up there and they mined some lesser grade coal to mix with the higher-grade coal, so that it wouldn’t melt the boilers on the warships. And when they did that, they in both places, it messed with the salmon. And number one, in Moose Creek, it created a fall [in the Salmon population]. So, there was only the salmon at the mouth of the river and in Chickaloon it was close enough to the mouth that [after] they mined there long enough, it basically wiped out the salmon there. And there’s salmon coming back now, but it’s been over 100 years, and they’re not coming back in the numbers that they should repopulate to where we can then fish salmon for our sustenance.
So, we have to go over to Copper River, which is also part of our people there and the peoples where my grandfather is from over there and my grandmothers from in between. And so, we go over there to my grandfathers, traditional—or my great grandfather actually—his traditional fishing camp, which is under threat right now too by the Catholic church and it’s kind of a messed-up deal.
They bought it for $10 and now they want to sell it back to a small village—which they’re our relatives, but it’s not our village—for about $2,000,000 and in the meantime they built a school there and you know what happened in Catholic schools, all of the molestation and everything else.
The Catholic boarding school anyhow, it burnt down and left a big toxic mess, so they had to clean it up. And so, they want to charge this $1,000,000. At least it’s what they say or almost $2,000,000 to the village to take it back because they got to pay for the cleanup cost. Catholic Church is the richest organization in the world, and it still is praying upon the poorest people in the world because that village and us, we’re not we’re not rich people. We don’t have a bunch of money, and we rely on catching fish and we’re not allowed to sell them anymore…You know, it’s ridiculous the way the Catholic Church is dealing with us and our people and our fish camps. So, our Fish Camp is on that land, so we’re very unsure on whether we’re going to be able to continue our traditional fishing there or not, because how the Catholic Church is treating the land anyhow, that’s another [thing].
00:40:10 Tony Gonzales
Well, yes, in shedding light on the remains of the waste left by. The mining in your area, and your region and coal in particular, which in other regions is still going on from what I understand.
00:40:26 Chief Gary Harrison 00:40:27 Chief Gary Harrison
Well after World War One, they converted the ships into oil. Or, you know, diesel oil, fuel. And so the mining fell off. There was some mining still left around because a lot of the people still had coal-fired furnaces. But then coal started being hard to get. It wasn’t very good coal, and so the coal mining dropped off and everybody else switched over to diesel fuel furnaces and things. And then you got the gasoline cars and so on. So, everything has moved over to petroleum-based stuff.
Then on top of it. You got the plastics these plastics are a real problem…a very big problem in the ocean. Because in places like New York, they used to—and some people say still do—send barges of trash out into the open ocean and dump it. Well, all of that plastic and trash doesn’t just stay in one spot, and now there’s a lot of plastic in the oceans. And this is not including the fish nets and stuff…that are made out of nylon and things like that petroleum base which doesn’t break down for many, many years, and they’re still fishing on the bottom of the ocean, some of those old fish nets.
But now they’ve done some studies, and this is one of the things that they’ve done at the Arctic Council. They’ve done some studies on how much plastics in the animals in the Arctic, there’s a lot of plastics it’s showing up in everything. So that’s one of the things that the Arctic Council has a special thing…and hopefully they’ll get around to not only figuring out how to advocate for the other countries to clean up the plastics, but they’ll also do a lot of it themselves. Because sometimes a lot of it is, they just do a bunch of studies and pass it off to someone else. And I’m of the of the type of person that it’s like, OK well. Let’s do something about it. Rather than just study it.
So, I’m hoping that we’ll get around the Arctic Council will get around to that as well. And that comes back to the health of our people as a whole, not only in Alaska but the fishing community around the world, and that’s bringing some of this stuff home on what’s happening in some of these international arenas. And then you have climate change involved, which is what that other was about and how the climate change is. Well, not only changing the weather to where you have these horrific storms. But also, it’s melting the permafrost, which has a detrimental effect on a lot of different things, like for instance, the traditional trails. If you can’t go on these trails anymore, how are you going to get to some of your food sources?
00:43:25 Tony Gonzales
And talking about food sources and as we’re culminating this time with the interview Chief Gary Harrison, the Porcupine Caribou and of interest as a traditional food, sustenance, subsistence. Food for the witch and peoples and many others described the listeners a little bit about the Porcupine Caribou and how it’s important that it be sustained there.
00:43:55 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, the porcupine Caribou herd is one of the biggest migrations left in the world, and it migrates from the Arctic plains, the coastal plains in what they call the Arctic. Anyhow, it’s over to Canada and the Gwich’in people are in most of the area where these Caribou are at and they depend on these Caribou for a livelihood. Also, the Inupiat are also on the on the on the North Slope up by where Anwar is as well.
00:44:29 Tony Gonzales
Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
00:44:33 Chief Gary Harrison
And what happens is the Caribou go there and they calf and they cave there for several different reasons. Number one, in the summertime there, the weather is nice. To where they it’s warm enough for them to cap, and the winds and everything there keep the bugs down. And also there’s not as many predators there as there is in other places, at least not big predators that can take them out so.
That’s why it’s imperative for them not to drill in Anwar, because not only would it leave a big bus, but they’ve also found out from some of the reindeer herders, which some of the Indigenous people knew already, that the vibrations and just the things. Of oil and gas development bother the Caribou when they’re trying to calve, and things which causes a lot of miscarriages and things like that with the with the Caribou, and that’s one of the reasons why Anwar is so important is because. It’s where the as I mentioned, one of the world’s largest migrating herds are. That’s where it’s beginning of life is.
00:45:52 Tony Gonzales
Is there a number approximately Chief Gary Harrison of the Porcupine Caribou and that migration is considered the northern Serengeti, similar to Africa and the migration of the wildebeest, for example, we were talking about maybe half a million throughout? And there’s pockets of herds, like a stream.
00:46:05 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, probably. I don’t really know. Through public pockets are around Alaska as well. But that’s one of the biggest herds left. There’s no China herd that goes in between the Talkeetna Mountains and the White Mountains in Canada, the Talkeetna Mountains. Alaska and I happen to live there in the Talkeetna Mountains, so I know about that. And there’s also mountain Caribou that lives there, and they’ve been decimated. To where there’s. Hardly any of them. And the Nelchina heard has not only been decimated, it used to be about 130,000 or 120,000, whatever. And now if it gets up to 60,000, they say, “oh, that’s too many, we got to shoot it back down to 30,000.”
00:46:59 Tony Gonzales
Interestingly, Chief carriers in the Porcupine Caribou very much a part of the culture of the peoples of the Arctic, including those of Alaska, and it ties the other regions that you mentioned as well you know that are involved in that Arctic Council.
00:47:18 Chief Gary Harrison
Yeah, and yeah, and that is part of it, is how it’s kind of complicated, how it all ties together and works together.
00:47:25 Tony Gonzales
Yes, and how is the porcupine Caribou again threatened among that relationship? For example, do you have any information on Sweden and the Saami? Peoples, I understand that there’s a new, not discovery, but of a finding of rare minerals such as lithium, perhaps that that may cause disruption of…
00:47:51 Chief Gary Harrison
…the Saami Reindeer herding. Saami are the Indigenous people of the north and Norway, Sweden, and Finland…And when we were in school, they [used to] call them Laplanders, but they’re Saami, and they still migrate with their herds too. And because as most people who raise cattle and horses and things, if you can over graze an area and so you can’t just stay in one spot. You got to move and then let it rebuild and you know, come back later. And that’s the way the Saami do reindeer herding as they move from area to area and in some of these areas is where they not only have one mine, like for instance in northern Sweden and Kiruna, there’s an iron mine and when it started out, it took the Samis reindeer herding area out of that area.
They know it’s such a big deal that there was a town there. When I went there that they tore down the town so that they could continue mining the iron ore under the whole. And that’s just one of the things also they talk about renewable energy, but they don’t talk to the song me about where they want to put these windmills because they found that the windmills bother the female Caribou when they’re trying to calve, and it bothers them all. Because of the sound. And the vibrations which we can’t feel it, but they can. And so, they don’t propagate as much and when they do, they have more miscarriages and things like that.
So, it’s very detrimental on where they put even some of the renewable energy and then they find the lithium and the other rare earths, and they want to mine that and most of them are in these pasture areas for the Caribou. They haven even wanted to mine uranium in one of my friends pastures. And so, there’s a lot of pressure on the Saami and the reindeer hurting people there. And so that’s one of the things that we talked about at the Arctic Council as well. There are all of these things, these pressures. There’s on the different peoples that live in the Arctic.
00:50:15 Tony Gonzales
And did you recently come from the Arctic Council Conference or similar?
00:50:23 Chief Gary Harrison
Council is on a pause now because of the war. We went to the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø Norway. We’ve had some discussions, but we haven’t had any meetings because you can’t have meetings if it’s on a pause and the problem is it’s very complicated with the war and the chairmanship.
00:50:46 Tony Gonzales
With the Ukraine and Russia, yeah.
00:50:49 Chief Gary Harrison
And the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, now being in Russia, as you said, transferred to Norway, and that’s complicated. And now the Inuit Circumpolar Conference has the chairmanship for the Indigenous People Secretariat, and that’s supposed to transfer from the Inuit to Ripon, Russian Indigenous peoples Congress. But with the war on, that’s very complicated, too. And we’ve been trying to figure out a way through these, you might say, Gordian knots to try and have the Arctic Council still function as a working Council that works for all of the people in the Arctic.
We are there so that they can still continue us to be a part of the Arctic—because you know how when they when they come into a environmentalists come into an area and they want to say, oh, we want this to be pristine. Well, the reason that it’s anywhere near pristine now is because most of the time it’s because of the Indigenous people are the ones who have been taking care of it. That’s where the most biodiversity is in the world is in these areas, it’s very, very good.
00:52:04 Tony Gonzales
Chairman Gary Harrison. You know, I really much appreciate your insight and you’re describing your work both at the regional, national, and international arena providing that insight, any closing words [that] you have here for Bay Area and across the World Wide Web?
00:52:25 Chief Gary Harrison
Well, I happen to be chairman of our tribe right now too, but I’m really the Chief and there’s a big difference. I’m the traditional Chief and that goes back to our traditional laws and things like that. Whereas the chairman is more of the new way that the United States government wants to deal with the tribal people so that it’s easier for them to push us around.
And what I got for the for the Bay Area people. Well, is you’re going to be affected too [by climate change], as you haven’t noticed all of the big rainstorms that have been here and washed a lot of places away and that and prior to that the drought because the weather is changing all over and it’s like the old adage “it’s either feast or famine” and that’s what’s going on here. Either you have rain, or you have drought, and that’s due to the changing weather patterns because of climate change.
00:53:25 Tony Gonzales
Well, thank you for those closing words, Chief Gary Harrison.
00:53:29 Chief Gary Harrison
Thank you, Tony.
00:53:30 Tony Gonzales
All my relatives, I want to thank Chief Gary Harrison for that information, very valuable and knowledgeable person that he is and [and for how] continues to advocate, how he provided us with insight on how the struggle for their self-determination continues. Let’s pay particular attention to the Saami people that he referred to. And there in Sweden, the mining industry that is tending to dislocate the Saami peoples from their traditional homelands and threaten the reindeer that they follow through in that Arctic region.
And my relatives, let’s continue to push hard for the freedom for political prisoner Leonard Peltier. As of February 6th, this past week or so begins his 48 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Go to his website and know more about him and how you can lend to freedom for his release. And that’s WhoisLeonardPeltier.info and [also] call the White House immediately and call on President Joe Biden. Leave a message to provide executive clemency to our friend, our elder Leonard Peltier.
Also, my relatives be sure to see Eagle and Condor on Sundays at TV channel 29 in San Francisco. They have public access channel or see it live streaming at sfc.tv or you can go to the American Indian Movement Website at AIM-west.org. That’s Sundays at 3:30. Sometimes it moves to 4:00, o’clock by relatives. But it’s live streaming. Check it out this coming week will be a brief discussion on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo February 2nd. And I’ll have a guest in the studio, and that’s Doctor Jose Cuellar, AKA Doctor Loco. Professor Cuellar will guide us through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Comments will go into a webinar that is facilitated by Doctor Armando Rendon. He’s the author, also of the book Chicano. Manifesto 1971 set the tone for the Chicano movement and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Shortly after that will be a video called Reflections. This is a testimony interview, if you will, with Lenny Foster. He’s also the spiritual advisor for Leonard Peltier, but Lenny will walk through the American Indian movement campaigns he’s been involved in, and that includes his relationship with Leonard. Not too long before he was incarcerated and his advisor up to the present. And leading up to the 50 year anniversary coming up of wounded knee in South Dakota 1973, where men and women went there to the village to protest the mining and uranium, and to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie, 1868. And hence the siege 71 days they were surrounded by the US military forces and several people were wounded and killed there. So, let’s listen in on that
be sure that you consider February 27th coming up as the significant date for the wounded knee that set the tone for the American Indian struggles today. The American Indian movement flag waves at every campaign and the spirit of the struggle and justice and honoring treaties continues. My relatives and that said…this is Tony Gonzales and you’ve been listening to Bay Native Circle. Of producer Janeen Antoine. Music was L Frank Manriquez mixed with Ras K’Dee, Robert Maribel and rare tribal mob. Thankyous go out to Diane Williams for the opening prayer. We also thank our musical artists; our guests and you are listening to audience for your continued support. We want to give a shout out to our brothers and sisters on the inside, especially those on death row. Thank you to creator, to the Indigenous peoples whose lands we occupy, to ancestors and to those yet to come, blessings.
To listen to the original audio, go to https://archives.kpfa.org/data/20230215-Wed1900.mp3 to listen or download.