• Assessing effects of climate change on access to ecosystem services in rural Alaska

      Cold, Helen S.; Brinkman, Todd J.; Hollingsworth, Teresa N.; Brown, Caroline L.; Verbyla, David L. (2018-12)
      Across the planet, climate change is altering the way human societies interact with the environment. Amplified climate change at high latitudes is significantly altering the structure and function of ecosystems, creating challenges and necessitating adaptation by societies in the region that depend on local ecosystem services for their livelihoods. Rural communities in Interior Alaska rely on plants and animals for food, clothing, fuel and shelter. Previous research suggests that climate-induced changes in environmental conditions are challenging the abilities of rural residents to travel across the land and access local resources, but detailed information on the nature and effect of specific conditions is lacking. My objectives were to identify climate-related environmental conditions affecting subsistence access, and then estimate travel and access vulnerability to those environmental conditions. I collaborated with nine Interior Alaskan communities within the Yukon River basin and provided local residents with camera-equipped GPS units to document environmental conditions directly affecting access for 12 consecutive months. I also conducted comprehensive interviews with research participants to incorporate the effects of environmental conditions not documented with GPS units. Among the nine communities collaborating on this research, 18 harvesters documented 479 individual observations of environmental conditions affecting their travel with GPS units. Environmental conditions were categorized into seven condition types. I then ranked categories of conditions using a vulnerability index that incorporated both likelihood (number of times a condition was documented) and sensitivity (magnitude of the effect from the condition) information derived from observations and interviews. Changes in ice conditions, erosion, vegetative community composition and water levels had the greatest overall effect on travel and access to subsistence resources. Environmental conditions that impeded travel corridors, including waterways and areas with easily traversable vegetation (such as grass/sedge meadows and alpine tundra), more strongly influenced communities off the road network than those connected by roads. Combining local ecological knowledge and scientific analysis presents a broad understanding of the effects of climate change on access to subsistence resources, and provides information that collaborating communities can use to optimize adaptation and self-reliance.
    • Faunal analysis of the historic component at Healy Lake Village site, Interior Alaska

      Hilmer, Hilary A.; Potter, Ben; Clark, Jamie; Reuther, Joshua (2019-08)
      The historic period in Interior Alaska was a dynamic time that led to many cultural changes for Native Alaskan communities across the state. Starting in the early 1700s, Russian and Euroamerican explorers began interacting with Native Alaskan groups living on the coast and by the end of the 18th century - early 19th century, Interior Alaskan groups were being directly affected. Due to western influences, Native groups, such as the Upper Tanana Athabascans, began to rely on a cash economy, causing them to settle to year-round villages, trade with the Euroamericans for non-local goods (i.e., flour, guns, buttons, glass, and nails), and work on construction projects in order to provide for their families. All of these changes appeared to cause a division between the traditional way of life and the new Euroamerican way of living. Healy Lake Village site (XBD-00020) is a multi-component site with occupations spanning the terminal Pleistocene into the Holocene. It is located approximately 100 miles southeast of present day Fairbanks on the shores of Healy Lake in the Upper Tanana Athabascan territory. The village was a summer fishing camp until ~A.D. 1910; it became a year-round village soon after the construction of a trading post at Healy Lake. The well-preserved faunal remains excavated from the Upper Cultural level (dating to A.D. 1880 - 1946) at Healy Lake Village site provide a significant opportunity to address fundamental questions relating to subarctic hunter-gatherer subsistence economies. This research employs concepts from human behavioral ecology and world-systems theory to address questions relating zooarchaeological patterns in the data in terms of taphonomy, human procurement, and processing decisions, as well as historic period land use strategies and trade practices. In this thesis, I explore the possibility that the residents at Healy Lake Village site were affected by Euroamerican influences, specifically in regards to their subsistence economies. However, the results suggest that hunting practices were not drastically altered. The residents still relied heavily on local game as their primary source of subsistence with minor inclusions of western goods, such as canned meat and flour.
    • Salmon, cosmology, and identity in Elim, Alaska

      Raymond-Yakoubian, Julie M.; Schweitzer, Peter; Koester, David; Plattet, Patrick; Carothers, Courtney; Lowe, Marie (2019-05)
      This dissertation is the result of sociocultural anthropological research in and about the community of Elim, Alaska. Elim is a small community of approximately 330 (primarily Inupiaq and Yup'ik Eskimo) people in Norton Sound. This research began with a focus on the topics of salmon and identity in the community. The focus on salmon was particularly important because the communities of this region have often traditionally been understood in the social sciences through the lens of relationships with marine mammals. The research involved participant observation in the community, a variety of forms of ethnographic interviewing (free listing, structured, and semi-structured interviews), focus groups, storytelling sessions, and archival research. Over 80 adults in the community participated in the project through interviews. I also completed extensive photo-documentation of the community and various aspects of peoples' relationships with subsistence activities. Much of this work began with inquiries about the importance of salmon to people in Elim, as well as an examination of other things which were important to Elim residents, and how people come to understand themselves. In this I also examined and learned about aspects of Elim residents' relationships with fish and other animals, with the environment, with the spiritual world, and with each other. This process led me to insights not just about identity in Elim - what matters, what is meaningful and valued, how people understand and define themselves and their community, and so on - but it also led to me an understanding of how Elim residents think about the nature of the world in general (i.e., cosmology). My main argument in this dissertation is that my research in and about Elim revealed that identity and cosmology are co-created - and it revealed how this is the case. I discovered that salmon are 'good to think with' in order to see that. This co-creation of identity and cosmology occurs within a particularly visible hybrid cosmological landscape of (primarily) 'traditionally Indigenous' and Christian ideologies. This landscape in lived culture and context is marked by a patterned heteroglossic 'condition' which includes a dominant (and indigenized) Christian discourse. This heteroglossia is constituted, represented, and evidenced by a (markedly) heterogeneous multiplicity of discourse, practice, and belief. This cosmological landscape and its heteroglossic condition are visible, and made, in various respects in co-implicated, co-indexical, interlocking instantiations of human-animal relationships, spirituality, systems of proper behavior, place attachments, and identity processes and formations.