South Puget Sound Community College’s Anthropology Club spent the two week break between summer and fall quarters on a trip through British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.
Six students and two advisers explored the Pacific Northwest Coast bio-cultural region to its fullest northern extent partially by land and partially by sea.
Advisors Dale Croes and Kathleen Hawes facilitated student fundraising in hopes of taking the proposed trip for two consecutive school years prior to the venture. According to club member Trevor Yunker, administrative approval came a month before the club was scheduled to leave on the trip.
“These plans had been in stone for months,” according to club president Rachel Lee.
The trip included visits to tribal and community museums, totem pole parks, visits with First Nations communities, and a special meeting with Rosita Worl, Sealaska Heritage Corporation’s vice chair.
Croes said his favorite parts of the trip were the unexpected lessons and surprises between the items on the agenda.
“We got really lucky. We kept happening upon the right things wherever we were,” said Croes.
Randy Scott, a local resident and friend of Croes, had his uncles meet the group in ‘Ksan, British Columbia, to show the club around their home’s territory. Scott is a member of the Gitksan First Nation.
The Gitskan Nation’s name translates to “people of the river of mist” and ‘Ksan translates to “river of mist.”
The region is marked with several major river convergences and some of the highest peaks in British Colombia.
Tom, Joe and Jim Lattie, or “the uncles” as they became named by the travelers, showed the club members Kispiox Totem Park, Historic Hazelton, and traditional sites where local Gitksan have gathered together and fished for thousands of years, including specific points along the jade-blue Skeena River.
Club member James Holmberg said he felt most enriched by experiencing the different combinations of tribal government and land ownership, and how different peoples maintain identity through adaptations of modern systems.
“In B.C., several of the bands we encountered preferred to be called ‘First Nations.’ This sort of goes along with victories in the areas of rights to self-determination and access to traditional subsistence areas,” he said.
The Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act, signed into law in 1971, grants control of a large portion of traditional lands to tribal corporations with ancestral ties to the areas.
In contrast to Canada’s “reserves,” which are akin to U.S. reservations, regional and village corporations maintain claim to much of the state’s forests and watersheds.
SPSCC adjunct faculty Kathryn Fulton, who did her dissertation work with the Kake (AK) Tlingit, joined the club in Juneau to meet with Dr. Worl for a talk on ANCSA from the perspective of Sealaska Heritage Corporation.
Dr. Worl is a pioneer of applied anthropology. She began her talk by expressing approval of Fulton’s dissertation, according to Yunker.
Juneau also provided outdoor opportunities a short distance from the metropolitan center. Club member Eva Marie Fuschillo made special mention of the photograph opportunities in the various landscapes along the way. Mount Roberts overlooks the city and is accessible from street level in downtown Juneau.
“I’ve never hiked sub-alpine before,” said Fuschillo, an archaeological photography student.
According to club member Nels Whipple, a day in Haines, AK allowed the group to visit Klukwon, one of the more remote and “conservative–in the non-industrialized, non-Westernized sense–” villages of Southeast Alaska.
While Haines was the northernmost stop on the ferry trip, advisers and students agree that there were many more adventures and experiences on the way back to Olympia of note.
Other highlights of the trip included visits to Hope, B.C. (site of the filming of Rambo: First Blood), ‘Ksan/Hazelton, B.C., as well as Wrangell, Haines, Sitka, and Ketchikan, Alaska. To hear and see more about Anthropology Club’s travels this summer, join them for an on-campus presentation Nov. 3 at noon to 1 p.m. in Building 22, room 200A
Submitted by Cassie Johnson