“Alaska is a place of divided people,” writes Taylor Evenson, an entrepreneur and commercial fisherman from Anchorage and Kenai. “We are divided by distance. We are divided by a lack of development. We are divided by mountain ranges, rivers, and bodies of water. We are divided by harsh weather. But we are also divided by our mindset. Skills that have made Alaskans great in this divided landscape are exactly what divide us now. But we are entering a time where we have to come together, a time where we are stronger in cooperation than complete independence.”
Evenson is one of 16 new Alaska Salmon Fellows selected this week to begin an 18-month program at Alaska Humanities Forum. He sees the program as an opportunity to bridge the divisions across our state by facilitating demanding conversations about salmon issues among leaders from a cross section of salmon policy, management, industry, activism, research, and cultural sectors. The Fellows represent commercial, sport, and subsistence fishing; they are fishermen, scientists, lobbyists, educators, and most of all, people who care about salmon and its critical role in our state’s culture and economy.
The Forum’s model develops individual leadership capacity with an emphasis on equity and collaboration, and connects diverse stakeholders to form and grow a network of leaders who can address the complex economic, social, and political issues across Alaska's communities. This program, in its second year, is currently focused on salmon as a bellwether of Alaska’s economic and social health, although the model could apply to climate change, healthcare, or any number of challenges facing the state. This new cohort joins an initial group of 16 who launched the program last year and will finish their fellowship in October, 2018.
The Fellows will take part in four gatherings across the state, beginning in late April in Petersburg. Between sessions, they will complete readings, pursue connections, and develop innovative initiatives that promote a strong future for Alaska’s salmon and people. Each Salmon Fellow will receive a $10,000 award. Additional funds will be available to advance the ideas developed by the Fellows.
“Most of us are used to sitting in meetings and talking about these issues,” reflects Meagan Krupa, a member of the first cohort, as she looks back on the past year as a Fellow. “We’re not used to sitting in people’s homes and talking about them; or in boats, or sitting by rivers.” Ben Stevens, also in the first cohort and a Tribal Advocate for Tanana Chiefs Conference adds, “We’re having real conversations, saying what needs to be said, what wouldn’t normally be said. We have the opportunity to change history. We do. And I think we’re going to do it.”
“The Forum is excited to be leading this initiative,” said Alaska Humanities Forum President and CEO, Kameron Perez-Verdia. “It supports our mission to connect Alaskans through stories, ideas, and experiences that positively change lives and empower communities. We serve as host and convener for this challenging and important topic; participants will grow as leaders and learn about their different perspectives. They will work to find common ground to shape the way that we address salmon and also to carve a pathway for addressing a range of complex issues that affect the lives of all Alaskans.”
Please visit akhf.org/alaska-salmon-fellows for full bios of the Alaska Salmon Fellows.
(The yellow dots on the map represent cohort 1 Fellows; the blue dots represent cohort 2 Fellows.)
2018-19 Alaska Salmon Fellows:
Program Coordinator, Gulf Watch Alaska| Homer, Kachemak Bay
Assistant Director, Alaska Department of Fish and Game | Juneau
CATHERINE M. BURSCH
Commercial Fisherman, Naturalist, Educator, Artist |Homer
Commercial Fishermen and Activist |Anchorage / Old Harbor
TAYLOR HAUK EVENSON
Entrepreneur and Commercial Fisherman |Anchorage / Kenai
Director of Fisheries and Coastal Communities, Ecotrust |Anchorage
FRANCES H. LEACH
Executive Director, United Fishermen of Alaska and Commercial Fisherman |Juneau
Land Manager- Kenai Peninsula Borough |Kenai
STEPHANIE N. QUINN-DAVIDSON
Fisheries Scientist, Director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission |Anchorage
Project Director, Alaska Wild Salmon Fund and Alaska Engagement Partnership |Anchorage
MICHELLE E. RAVENMOON
Summer Program Director, Igiugig Village Council |Pope Vannoy
Communications and Outreach Director, Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association | Anchorage
Commercial fisherman, writer, and Museum Director, Kodiak Maritime Museum |Kodiak
Alaska Fisheries and Riparian Program Leader, Bureau of Land Management |Wasilla
Mother, UAF Fisheries student, Traditional Fisherman |Fairbanks
Assistant Professor of Applied Business; Owner/Operator, Alaska Marine Guides | North Pole