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Harriman Expedition Retraced


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Elaine Abraham

The Alaska Native Science Commission

I was born June 19th, 1929 in Yakutat, exactly 30 years after the Harriman expedition visited Hubbard Glacier. I am of the Raven moiety, the clan of Copper River, and from the Shaman's Owl House. Mt. St. Elias is my clan crest.

My mother, Susie Bremmer, was born near Dragonfly Lake just west of Katella. Her father was John Bremmer, the son of John James Bremmer from Scotland, the guide for Lt. Allen that explored the Copper River area. He also helped with mapping. Named in his honor are Bremmer River, Valley, Glacier and Mine.

My father was a Tlingit from Yakutat from the Brown Bear Moiety, TeiKweidi Clan from Sea Lion Island near Ketchikan. He was about 15 years old and was at the Hubbard Seal Camp with his sister Jennie Abraham when the original Harriman Expedition visited there.

Yakutat did not have a high school so I went to boarding school at Sheldon Jackson High School/ College. After graduating, I went to the school of nursing at Ganado, Arizona, in the heart of the Navajo Indian Reservation. I later worked as a nurse with the Indian Health Service in Window Rock, Bethel, Sitka and Anchorage.

After retiring from nursing, I graduated from Alaska Pacific University with a Bachelor in Arts in Human Services, and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Multi-Ethnic Education. Currently, I am a candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Health.

I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Yakutat Native Corporation, and past member of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribes Council and Commissioner of the Alaska Native Science Commission (ANSC).

On the Commission, I assist the Native community to encourage state and federal agencies to cooperate and dialog with Native elders and hunters so they may use Native knowledge in areas such as conservation of harbor seals, sea lions and environmental protection. I also do this to give value and recognition to traditional Tlingit laws about prohibitions on needlessly killing or molesting animals, marine mammals, fish or birds. What I hope outside agencies will take from Tlingit thought is the consideration of spiritual aspects of these animals. The ANSC helps to teach and give value to Native ways of knowing and to build partnerships between the community, agencies and researchers.

The Alaska Native Science Commission's Mission is to endorse and support scientific research that enhances and perpetuates Alaska Native cultures and ensures the protection of indigenous cultures and intellectual prosperity.

There are seven commissioners representing six Alaskan tribes. Patricia Cochran is the executive director with several support staff and research staff also hired according to projects. Concerns of Native people are addressed through traditional talking circles at regional meetings.

An Athabascan regional meeting was held in Fairbanks, Alaska in May 2000. Representatives from thirteen communities attended. Some of the concerns and observations they shared had to do with the increase in beavers they thought were due to the warmer winters. The lakes and rivers do not freeze to the bottom and that increased the numbers of beavers that blocked the streams, rivers and lakes so salmon could not spawn. Another concern was the large numbers of wolves hamstringing moose and caribou. At another regional meeting, held in Nome, representatives from twenty-one communities -- spanning a region from St. Lawrence Island to Kodiak -- also spoke about the increase in wolves and beaver populations as well as high levels of PCBs and DDT in King Salmon.

The Alaska Native Science Commission networks and collaborates with projects such as The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), established in 1991, that monitored and assessed the effects of selected anthropogen pollutants in all regions of the Arctic. Their report covers a collaborative effort involving national and international monitoring programs with 8 Arctic countries: Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the former USSR/Russian Federation and the United States.

One of ANSC's main aims has been to link traditional and scientific knowledge. To resolve concerns and issues of Native people depends on finding this link and finding solutions.

An ANSC project that has been completed is the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic, Inuit, Saame and the Indigenous People of Chukatka. This was completed with the Institute of Social and Economic research, University of Alaska, Anchorage, The Environmental Protection Office, Region X, the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air. The final report for this project is not complete.




For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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