Upper Kobuk Fishing Oral History to be Recorded

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by Marissa Silver

Anchorage - For thousands of years Alaska Natives have been passing down fishing knowledge and practices, but it has never really been recorded.

 
Until now, it was all just word of mouth.
 
"We didn't have libraries, elders are the library," said Paul Ongtooguk who is a Professor at UAA.
 
And some even believed it not to be true.
 
"A lot of the knowledge that, the knowledge that elders and other Inuit Alaskans have is that it's considered to be amusing folklore, until time and time and time again it turns out to be accurate," Ongtooguk said.
 
But now thanks to a recent grant from the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund, the fishing knowledge and practices of the Upper Kobuk River can be documented.
 
"Elders have surprising detailed knowledge about fish and their behavior that most fish biologists have no idea about," said Ongtooguk.
 
And they hope by recording the native fishing practices, that whey learn will benefit biologists today.
 
"They understand the cycle of the fish population much better and the interaction of the fish populations with each other much better than most fisheries people because they're doing it from thousands of years of knowledge and the biologist is coming up from Idaho trying to figure out what's going on," Ongtooguk said.
 
And the recorded information will allow for fishing hot spots to be protected and the wellbeing of the river to be upheld.
 
"Part of the benefit is understanding that Alaska has unique knowledge about lands and waters and the more we know about what that unique knowledge is, I think the more rich it is to be part of this Alaskan experience," said Ongtooguk.
 
In addition to taking down oral history the documents will include inventories and surveys from the community and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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