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Alagnak Wild River (Alaska), Indians of North America -- Alaska -- Alagnak Wild River


This report represents a thematic summary of findings from the Alagnak Wild River Resident Users Study, the final project in a larger series of studies conducted for the National Park Service (NPS) as part of the Alagnak Wild River Visitor Use Project. The National Park service administers the 56 miles of designated Wild River along the Alagnak in collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which manages fish and wildlife populations along the river. The NPS is charged with managing the river’s natural and cultural resources, as well as preserving the river’s lands and resources for current and future generations. Alagnak River has long served as a home and resource procurement area to Native Alaskan peoples. Though these peoples have relocated to villages nearby in the region, descendents of Alagnak’s former occupants as well as their fellow residents from nearby communities have continued to seasonally occupy Alagnak’s riparian zone and to hunt, fish, gather plant materials and participate in social activities. In recent years, non-resident visitation of Alagnak Wild River has escalated, especially for recreational fishing, but also for recreational hunting, boating, rafting, and other pursuits. In some cases, these non-resident uses of the river have been reported to conflict with Native Alaskan uses of the river. In an effort to best manage the natural and cultural resources of Alagnak Wild River, as well as to judiciously balance the needs of different visiting constituencies, the National Park Service requires additional information regarding the past and present uses of Alagnak River by Native Alaskans, as well as the observations and perspectives of Native Alaskan river users on non-resident visitation and its possible impacts. Using a variety of principally qualitative data sources, the current report seeks to thematically compile information relating to these themes.

This report describes the transformation of the Alagnak River corridor from center of Native Alaskan habitation to a peripheral resource territory that is still used by descendants of its original inhabitants today. Relying primarily on ethnographic data focusing on the experiences of residents from Levelock, Igiugig, King Salmon, Naknek, South Naknek, and Kokhanok, the document also outlines the use of the Alagnak River as a place of enduring importance within Native Alaskan subsistence traditions. Individual sections provide summaries of hunting, fishing, and berry gathering, as well as trapping and other economic pursuits. In addition, this document provides an overview of concerns expressed by Native Alaskans regarding the potential impacts of visitors on the river, including: crowding, motorboat use, and their effects on public safety; the displacement of resident users and the possible cultural effects of this displacement; the possible effects of increased non-resident visitation on water quality, fish and game populations; possible increased threats associated with brown bears; and impacts on lands, allotments, and plant resources. This document also provides a an overview of what some Native Alaskans perceive as the positive effects of non-resident visitation, such as employment and land lease opportunities, as well as the availability of NPS cabins for emergencies along the Alagnak River corridor. The veracity of Native Alaskans’ claims pertaining to visitors impacts is not critically explored using biophysical methodologies, but this information is organized thematically so as to aid the National Park Service in natural and cultural resource planning for the Alagnak River corridor, to identify further research needs, and to assist that agency in anticipating concerns that may emerge in future consultation with Native Alaskan communities that are historically associated with Alagnak Wild River.


* At the time of publication Douglas Deur was affiliated with the University of Washington

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