Hunter-Gatherers and Fishing Rights in Alaska and Siberia: Contemporary Governmentality, Subsistence, and Sustainable Enterprises

Book Chapter

Thomas F. Thornton,Nadezhda Mamontova

Chapter title: Hunter-gatherers in a Changing World
Published by: Springer International Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-3-319-42271-8

This paper examines processes by which Alaskan and Siberian indigenous peoples have been rendered as political subjects, “traditional” hunters-gathers, and sustainable enterprise owners amid their respective colonial and post-colonial industrial economies. The comparison is instructive because, despite being part of diametrically opposed (Soviet versus USA) national political organizations, policies and the exercise of biopower towards indigenous peoples have proceeded along similar lines. In the post-colonial era, these lines have converged around neoliberal and social development policies which support indigenous “self-determination” through minimal subsistence rights and the creation of ethnic enterprises and partnerships with non-indigenous capitalist corporations. On both sides of the North Pacific, however, this transition has come about without formal recognition of the well-developed systems of aboriginal marine tenure and fishing rights, as has been the case in other indigenous-state Treaty regimes (e.g., Canada and New Zealand). The lack of such protections, we argue, has led to poor management of coastal zones as social-ecological systems, making sustainable indigenous livelihoods and small enterprises based on marine resources difficult to develop or maintain. We examine, in particular, the relationship of Sakhalin and Southeast Alaska indigenous hunter-fishers as strong, independent peoples whose salmon fishing rights were usurped and their corporate groups reorganized to fit notions of modern industrial and neoliberal social-economic organization. Further, we argue for more synergistic policies between indigenous subsistence and commercial economies to reduce ‘black market’ transactions and conserve valuable fishing knowledge, skills, and cultural practices which are vital to heritage, livelihoods, and wellbeing.