The Herring Protectors are hosting a Herring Gathering on Saturday, April 10 at 1:00 p.m. in Totem Square. This public event will bring people together to honor the sacred relationship that the Tlingit people have with the yaaw (herring) and their integral role in our way of life – haa kusteeyí, to affirm the need to protect this keystone cultural and ecological species, and to build community. The Herring Gathering will provide a space for connection and good relationships after a difficult year of distancing and isolation.
Guests will be nourished by ceremony and song, enjoy art demonstrations, listen to speakers, receive gifts and enjoy complimentary seafood chowder prepared by Our Town Catering. At 3:00 p.m., beautiful new Kik.sádi ceremonial objects (at.óow) and a song in honor of the yaaw will be revealed. The at.óow is the work of Tlingit artist Jennifer Younger and ally Carol Hughey and features form line design from Tlingit artist Charlie Skultka Jr. and many hours of loving craftsmanship by volunteers.
We are committed to taking care of each other at this event. We ask all guests to wear a mask. We will have tents, seating and blankets available for elders and others who need them, and we plan on hosting a warming center at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi house across the street.
Sheet’ká Kwáan has always been known for its herring eggs. Oral accounts document Sheet’ká Kwáan as a gathering place for our relatives to come share in this food, which is sustainably harvested on branches set during the spring spawn. Herring nourish the whales, the salmon, the seals, and all the foods we have eaten since time immemorial in this place. Herring are sacred; all our relations celebrate and share in the bounty they bring.
Sitka is also home to the last sac-roe fishery in Southeast Alaska, after the closure or collapse of other herring fisheries up and down the coast. The Herring Protectors attest that the sac roe fishery is wasteful and violates Indigenous rights. We call for herring management by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in accord with "yáa at wooné" (respect for all things) that acknowledges past decline, pursues future abundance, integrates Indigenous science and works collaboratively and respectfully with local tribal government, and considers value of herring in a holistic manner.
The Herring Protectors
The Herring Protectors is a grassroots collective that organizes to protect the herring that sustain us all. The Herring Protectors are Indigenous led and stand for Tribal Sovereignty and in support the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s decades long fight for conservative management of the herring. Over the past three years the Herring Protectors have supported the Kiks.ádi in holding two Yaaw Koo.eex’ (ceremonies) and have organized protests, testimony, and art as part of a diverse movement to honor the herring.