Port Heiden Adapts and Sustains
“Everyone contributes: elders watch the reindeer, kids get food for the reindeer and bottle feed piglets; everyone is helping. We put all our stuff on Facebook, websites, Instagram, and created a food movement for our people. Our kids are really excited about it. We’re remembering our subsistence practices.” – King Salmon LCC Workshop Participant
The Native Village of Port Heiden initiated several projects aimed at sustaining the local community, economy and environment. These projects include a farm, salmon processing plant (in development), and a construction and environmental remediation company. Meshik Farm started in 2014 as a response to high shipping costs, a changing climate, and a desire to promote healthy eating. Port Heiden is now cultivating a garden and raising reindeer, pigs, chickens and rabbits. Although the farm has benefited the community in many ways, it has presented challenges:
- Blending agriculture and subsistence means managing a major agro-ecosystem to maintain genetic diversity. How do you actively manage the land to keep shrubs out of critical berry producing habitats, for example?
- Agriculture can introduce invasive species, disease, blight, or other challenges to maintaining the health of the existing ecosystem and fitting new species into natural ecosystems.
- Agriculture and herding are hard work and require a time commitment; not everyone will be interested in doing it.
- Experimentation and training are required to see what grows and how best to manage herds in local environments.
- High tunnels can extend the growing season for crops, but have a cost to build and may require heating or ventilation.
- Animal husbandry requires veterinarian services, possible fencing and other equipment that must be maintained.
- In production-level farming, workers must be paid a competitive wage. A community garden requires volunteers, equipment, and grant funding.
- Agriculture reduces the mobility of a village; villages used to be very mobile, with seasonal fish camps.
Meshik Processing Center is currently in development. When operational, it will provide a local processing option for salmon fishermen. Aniakchak Contractors, LLC is a tribal subsidiary that specializes in rural building construction, environmental remediation and road construction. The tribe worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the former Fort Morrow Military Base Radio Relay Station in Port Heiden and used the opportunity to train their local community in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) courses, asbestos abatement, hazardous material management and placarding, sampling and survey field techniques; they also helped drivers get their Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) and Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) endorsements. After completing the remediation and removal of POLs and PCBs in addition to groundwater monitoring of the site, the tribe has maintained its construction company to offer similar services locally and in other communities in the region.
Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL): A common acronym used to describe the contents of tanks and associated piping that contains these materials. It also refers to a Dept. of Defense program to clean up petroleum spills or leaks.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): A group of toxic, persistent chemicals formerly used in electrical transformers and capacitors for insulating purposes and in gas pipeline systems as a lubricant. They are classified as a possible carcinogen. The sale and new use of PCBs were banned in 1979. Prior to that time, PCBs were commonly found in oils used in electrical equipment and hydraulic fluids. The compounds were also used in heat transfer liquids, hydraulic fluids, plasticizers, and caulking materials. PCBs strongly attach to plants, soils and sediments. PCBs found in soil can very slowly migrate to groundwater or surface water.
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