How Tsimshian Nation is Succeeding
Terrance H. Booth, Sr. – Tsimshian
Lax Kw’Alaams and Terrace, British Columbia engaged in lumber and timber industry and making great economic strides to bring prosperity to their people. This year Lax Kw’Alaams and Metlakatla, Alaska joined forces in the salmon industry paving the way for even more economic gain by both Tsimshian Communities. This partnership can be looked at culturally for the Tsimshian Nation are known as “The People of the Salmon, “ and “The People of the Fish Trap.” Even greater economic strides can be made by the Tsimshian Nation both in Alaska and British Columbia. The economic efforts is beginning steps into global market places with their raw products and this writer encourages even greater strides in the seafood industry whereby all of the Tsimshian Fisheries villages and communities work collectively; much like the beginning steps formed by Lax Kw’Alaams, Terrace and now Metlakatla, Alaska.
The current business picture of the salmon industry the tribes have been active in harvesting and processing. The efforts of harvesting and processing is the Native communities and villages work for seafood buyers or a seafood companies and are locked into set prices established by these very large seafood companies. Those that the Natives work for reap more profits from our Native raw seafood products. Example at one of the large grocery stores one Alaska Sockeye Filet sells for $28 dollars; while the fisherman in Washington State sockeye for 2011 was $9 dollars a pound. At another grocery store chain 8 – 6 ounce cans of pink salmon sells for $10.89. So what is wrong with the picture? Once seafood buyers and seafood companies Natives work for they put their labeling on the seafood products and they value-add for higher prices.
This writer sees that when Tsimshian Nation decides to make a greater economic impact in the seafood industry and participate in the seafood market places with Tsimshian Nation labeling of our salmon harvest and by participation in marketing and direct sales of our Tsimshian salmon the Tsimshian Nation can and will become very successful. Why? For since time began and over centuries the Tsimshian having a direct cultural tie with our seafood and it is reflected in their arts, dances, songs and stories. The Tsimshian can readily establish a Tsimshian Nation Native Niche and rapidly establish a presence or positioning Tsimshian Nation seafood products simply because of our cultural attachment to our Tsimshian Seafood. Compared to our competitors they cannot match our cultural perspective in marketing and sales for they are “newcomers” compared to Tsimshian cultural ties to their seafood. For further substantial economic gain by the Tsimshian Nation they should give consideration in formation of a seafood alliance. A review of other First Nations in seafood industry readily shows they all have an abundance of seafood, work for outside companies, active involvement in harvest and have no processing, marketing, sales or value-adding ability. Amid the British Columbia coast other First Nations have the ability to harvest; but have no ability to process their salmon harvest. Haida of Alaska, Haida Nation, Tlingit of Southeast Alaska doing harvesting and process, other Tsimshian Nation Bands or villages harvesting and processing, and other First Nations along the British Columbia Coast and especially on Vancouver Island give consideration of formation of Native Nations Fisheries Alliance for specific purpose of creating an abundance of seafood to market to the global market places. This writer commends the efforts made by Tsimshian Nation, with Mr. Calvin Helin, originally from Lax Kw’Alaams leading First Nations on a trade mission to Beijing, China. In November 2008 100 First Nations delegates participated with the trade mission seeking investors, joint ventures or partnerships for the development of their tribal natural resources or tribal projects. Some of the First Nations came away from the trade mission with $100s of millions of dollars for their tribal projects.
Metlakatla, Alaska can put into place a tribal initiative by establishing an International Harbor with the designation of a “Free Trade Zone.” The “Free Trade Zone” can also cover their dormant airport. The Tsimshian Nation can take the lead in seeking Free Trade by making amendments to North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) not only for the Tsimshian Nation but for all Indigenous of North America so Natives have product or goods in global market places to bring prosperity to all Indigenous people of North America. The Tsimshian Nation can open the global markets by making amendments to NAFTA and regain economic status for the good of the entire Tsimshian Nation and for the Indigenous of North America. Making amendments to NAFTA will bring great economic gain to the Tsimshian Nation that is already working with China and Metlakatla, Alaska has long standing trade with Japan for herring, herring roe and salmon roe.
The Free Trade Zone harbor and air cargo distribution center if Metlakatla Indian Community Tribal Council makes a tribal initiative to seek going into the freight business both shipping and air cargo can be of great economic benefit for the Tsimshian Nation for other potential projects can be implemented. As it now is seafood products are already shipped by air freight or barge and tug all the way to Seattle/Tacoma Harbors. Lax Kw’Alaams and Terrace are in the lumber business internationally and with the designation of International harbor and air cargo freight distribution center based on Annette Islands Metlakatla can establish a custom cutting sawmill cutting wood to specifications of customers; for in the news recently, China is seeking to do 36 million homes. Lax Kw’Alaams and Terrace already in the wood business can include Metlakatla to do custom cutting of wood. Another potential market is Indian Country, USA only during construction season early spring to fall is only capable of doing 1500 homes during construction season; while their waiting list keeps growing for new homes. Since Lax Kw’Alaams and Terrace already working with China they can inquire of wood specifications for homes. This writer does know that there is technology available to build home robotically and with robots such an operation can build 1500 homes per month. All of the Tsimshian Nation can join forces for each Band of Tsimshian have designated forestry areas and Tsimshian Nation can prosper with each Band participating and stepping back into being in the center of commerce. Or to even gain additional economic wealth is formation of Native Nations Lumber and Timber Alliance to value-add wood products instead of selling raw wood products to wood customers. Among First Nations this lumber and timber alliance can see who has the expertise in value-adding wood products or necessary harbors to send their wood products to the global market places. In a key note address at annual meeting of Tsimshian Nation this writer was given a quote by his late father, Ira C. Booth, former judge, community leader, Tsimshian Historian, he said, “To really look at tribal economic development it would be a rediscovery of ourselves.” Then he explained the aboriginal trade route of the Tsimshian People. Let us take steps to prosper one another and bring great wealth to the Tsimshian Nation and as the traditions of giving prosper others, too.
By promoting who we are as Tsimshian People cultural tourism can bring substantial economic gain for our entire Tsimshian Nation. A look at ourselves we have many artists some known around different parts of the world, excellent tribal dancers, storytellers, musicians, and with the Tsimshian people very knowledgeable of themselves can present to the large number of visitors to both British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. For Southeast Alaska 35% of all the visitors coming to Alaska are looking for a cultural experience. Here again, Tsimshian Nation can take the lead for an Inter-tribal Tourism Alliance in British Columbia and Alaska by joining forces tapping into the First Nations Artists, tribal dancers, storytellers, keepers of the tribal wisdom, musicians, and others who are knowledgeable of their cultures. By joining forces in simply presenting who we are to all the visitors this brings about more jobs, more opportunity to create awareness and understanding of who we are as First Nations and tribal people of Southeast Alaska. This writer envisions inter-tribal cultural pavilions incorporating all of the First Nations in northern British Columbia and for Southeast Alaska the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian promoting themselves as tribal people. Ketchikan has targeted tourism and receives daily from May to September 35,000 visitors. Metlakatla, Alaska with its new road to the north end of Annette Island add two more ferry boats and schedule them to bring in tourists from Ketchikan during the summer months. This writer envisions the cultural pavilions being large enough for all three tribes of Southeast Alaska to do their cultural performances, several working studios for the Native Artists, display area for the Native Artists, storytellers of each of the Southeast Alaska giving tribal history of the area of Southeast Alaska. For each of the Southeast Alaska tribes this potential cultural project the tribes can have their own carving sheds for totem poles and other cultural items for the visitors to see and experience. Off season the cultural pavilion may be used as cultural learning center or the artists getting ready for the next tourism season.
In Annette Bay, alongside the cultural pavilion have a destination hotel resort, featuring charter boating since there is an abundance of salmon to catch, if fish trap is near enough to Annette Bay a tour of the fish trap in operation. Build a very large hotel resort to specifically tap into tourism and large enough to hold conferences with large conference rooms. Build an additional road to head of the bay where hotel resort can be situated and creating more jobs and financial improvements to the local economy of Metlakatla. Between all Southeast Alaska Tribes Memorandum of Agreements be put into place and replicate what is already happening between Lax Kw’Alaams and Metlakatla, Alaska work together to help improve each other’s tribal economies. For the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian this same project can be replicated in Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, and Haines or other sites having large number of visitors. This writer has put down these thoughts for there is strength in knowing who we are as tribal people and it is to develop these strengths to prosper our tribal people.