Markle Ewan, Bacille George, Louise Tansy & Fred John Looked To The Future

In 1963, Three Men & One Woman Were Visionaries Of A Better Life In The Copper River Valley & Interior Alaska    Long ago, Native Am...

In 1963, Three Men & One Woman Were Visionaries Of A Better Life In The Copper River Valley & Interior Alaska  

Long ago, Native American leaders from small rural villages throughout the Alaskan Interior met at Tanana.

The object of their meeting was to discuss problems affecting village life and the economy. The meeting took place almost 60 years ago, yet discussed topics and solutions that still are relevant today. 

Delegates came from many communities, including Galena, Fairbanks, Nenana, Tanana, Kaltag, Holy Cross, Stevens Village and Minto. 

Four delegates came from the Copper River Ahtna villages: Fred John of Mentasta, Markle Ewan of Gulkana, Bacille George of Copper Center, and Louise Tansy of Cantwell. 

Here are excerpts from statements released to the public by the conference. The conference was called "Dena Nena Henash," and their message was reprinted in the Tundra Times, a Fairbanks newspaper dedicated to Alaskan Native news. (Note: This has been edited for length): 

June 17, 1963 

The principal problem facing our people concerns our land. In the past year the Alaska Task Force of the Interior Department has stated that natives in Alaska should be granted only small areas of land.

We strongly disagree with the statement because from time immemorial we have required large areas of land for our livelihood and will continue to require such areas. 

The Native People of Alaska should have the jobs in their villages for which they are qualified, and train those who are not.
Government contractors, Federal State Agencies should hire native labor where there are qualified equipment operators, common or skilled labor.

Most Natives of Alaska today exist by hunting and fishing throughout the year. The hunting situation has been getting more difficult as the years go by. The reason is that the game laws are regulated in such a way so that open season for certain animals are bunched together into a short period of time.

In the State of Alaska moose season opens on August 20. While the meat is good at that time of year, there is no way of keeping it from spoiling because most villages have no refrigeration. When the weather gets cold enough, moose can be taken in November, but the meat is not fit to eat because of the mating season.

We would like to have the laws changed so we can hunt moose by use of game tags issued and controlled by the village council so we could take our moose when needed.
During springtime there is usually a shortage of meat... Each village should be allowed to fix its season because they know best when to take animals without wastage... We recommend that villages in each unit form Fish & Game Advisory Committees to state their recommendations to the State Fish & Game Department.

This is a story by the Copper River Country Journal celebrating Native Heritage Month, 2021. It's for everyone in the Copper Valley, but especially for the many members of the John, Ewan, George and Tansy families who live here today. 


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