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Where “Subsistence” means giving 87% of it away: Tlingit distribution of herring eggs from Sitka Sound, Alaska

College Hall
Room 125
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About the event

Department of Anthropology Colloquium

  Where “Subsistence” Means Giving 87% of it Away:

Tlingit Distribution of Herring Eggs from Sitka Sound, Alaska

Dr. Tom Thornton

Dean of Arts & Sciences, Vice Provost for research & Sponsored Programs

University of Alaska Southeast

Tlingit and other NW Pacific Coast Indigenous Peoples are “Salmon Cultures” that also recognize herring as a foundation and cultural keystone species. Herring are best appreciated and maintained in superabundance, and nothing signifies this more than giving herring eggs away through sharing, gifting, and exchange. Herring egg circulation emanates most richly from Sitka Sound, from whence Tlingit “Herring Culture” came of age and distribution thrives, touching nearly every part of Alaska and even Washington, when the commercial herring fishing sector does not take too much. This presentation examines the many values and benefit flows that come with giving herring eggs– “first fish” of the season–away, and how they are misrecognized and under-supported in state fisheries management.

Bio: Tom is currently Dean of Arts & Sciences and Vice-Provost for Research & Sponsored Programs at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS).  He came to Alaska in 1989 to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence, while completing his PhD in anthropology at UW. He joined the Faculty of Social Sciences at UAS in 1994. From 2008-18, he was Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor of environmental social science at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, where he directed the Environmental Change and Management MSc/MPhil program and still serves as an affiliate professor in the School Geography and Environment and School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. His research and publications focus especially on the peoples, lands, and waters of Southeast Alaska and the North Pacific. His forthcoming book (with Madonna Moss) is titled: Herring & People in the North Pacific (University of Washington Press).


All are welcome!