Throughout Alaska’s vast land lies a small city on Admiralty Island named Angoon, which is also known as the “Fortress of Brown Bears”. The only permanent settlement on the island, just south of Juneau, has a declining population of 523 people. Although it has a low population, it has the densest population record for brown bears and eagles throughout the entire state. This community is based on the rich Native Tlinglit culture that has seeped Alaska’s roots for decades relying on the commercial fishing and subsistence lifestyle. Given this, the area is surrounded by the pure nature of the Tongass National Forest, which is proclaimed to remain as an undeveloped wildlife sanctuary home to many tree and wildlife species. None the less, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States, and is also one of the biggest tools used in confronting climate change.
On the spectrum, the community is much smaller than the wildlife ratio. Among the families, there are less than 20 homes where they paint indigenous tribal art for everyone to see. Upon using natural resources, water is scarce sometimes as well, as their water is provided by the Tillinghast Lake reservoir. Luckily, most of their homes have complete plumbing, so the water treatment plant is able to pipe water through the community. As demand for many goods and services are very low, they only have access to one general store, but no restaurants or shops other than that one store. Education is low, as well transportation. When it comes to transportation, most families own one car per household, and since the area is so small, the majority of people living in Angoon walk to their destination. In retrospect, the average employee in Angoon has three times less of a commute than the average employee in the United States. As quoted on the Law Earth Center, they state, “The median property value in Angoon, AK is $140,000, and the homeownership rate is 57.4%. Most people in Angoon, AK commute by walked, and the average commute time is 8.38 minutes. The average car ownership in Angoon, AK is 1 car per household.” There is only one way to get to Angoon, which is by boat or plane, in which Alaska offers a floatplane daily that travels between Juneau and Angoon. Due to this, there is very limited supply of goods, including food. Since Angoon is sometimes a desired place for tourists, they are advised to stock up on goods before leaving Juneau.
In comparison to other southern islands in Alaska, Angoon receives far less precipitation levels than the rest. When Angoon became settled, Native Tlinglit took the lower rain levels to their advantage as fur trade was their main drive in the economy throughout the 1800’s until mid 1900’s. Once this trade began to fade, Angoon relied on the fishing industry for their economy and own subsistence. The climate in Angoon is described by having cool summers (ranging from 45-61 degrees) and mild winters (ranging from 25-39 degrees). The winters have had records in the past with very strong winds causing rough seas that affect the settlement. Because Angoon’s economy is based on the coastal water, there are many variables that are taken into place. Naturally, seafood production and consumption have increased significantly.
The economy of Angoon employs a total of 292 people in industries such as manufacturing, mining & oil & gas extraction, along with fishing and hunting. Although, this aspect is being hit hard by mining companies elsewhere. The Green Creaks Mining Company has encroached the land of the Hawks Inlet, infesting it by dumping their waste in the water. This has raised the issue of health concerns in the seafood. Dangerous minerals are leaked into the water, putting a huge risk to marine life and those who live off of the coastal waters. Of course this mine is essential to most of Alaska’s economy, but it is directly impacting Angoons sea life, and those who are ingesting the seafood with extremely high levels of bad minerals like mercury.
Yet, the biggest question concerning Angoon is what is being done about the excess mineral waste flowing in the water. As the mines have been requested to clean up their messes, instead they paid the fines issued to them and ignored the requests. Due to this, Alaska Natives have come together to create The Angoon Community Association and put a stop to this before they reap the drastic measures this could create for the future. The Native tribes deserve the land and feel comfortable fishing for their own food as well as selling it. All in all, Angoon has been self reliant for years. Now that the fishing industry is so large and in demand, they need to address this issue at hand as this could collapse their economy. In the best efforts, Law Earth for Angoon describes this fight, “the people of indigenous demand retribution for not only themselves, but the land that has been abused, ask for representation in future projects relating to their territory or resource, and have the right to their traditional culture”.