Sitka Tribe of Alaska and partners celebrate fifth annual Sitka Herring Camp

A Mount Edgecumbe High School student examines herring gills under a microscope. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Goodrich)

Students in Sitka schools have been diving deep into the study of herring during Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s fifth annual Herring Camp. The Herring Camp programming was centered on the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring and timed to coincide with the arrival of herring in Sitka Sound. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff spent a week at both Mount Edgecumbe High School and Sitka High School studying herring anatomy and collecting oceanographic data. Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff also examined marine food webs with Blatchley Middle School and will present a “Herring in the Hallways” microscopy event at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School next week.

A Sitka High School student collects plankton aboard a Sitka Herring Camp research cruise. (Photo courtesy of Tara Racine)

Students and teachers have responded positively to the herring programming. Chohla Moll, MEHS science teacher said, “The STA Herring Camp curriculum is an amazing integration of science and traditional ecological knowledge. It illustrates to students the strong connection between the knowledge of their elders and the scientific information they are learning in school.”

The purpose of Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Herring Camp is to invest in youth skills, providing students with hands-on science experience and exposing them to Alaska-based career opportunities. Kyle Rosendale, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Fisheries Biologist said, “We hope students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their local ecosystems and be motivated to become the next generation of stewards for important cultural and ecological resources like herring.”

Students who participated in the Herring Camp learned scientific techniques, gained exposure to traditional ecological knowledge, and connected with Sitka professionals working on natural resource management. The week-long high school camp sessions included dissection labs, discussions on cultural connections and herring ecology, oceanographic and morphometric data analysis, an introduction to fisheries management techniques, career path discussions, and a research cruise during which students applied a variety of field observation and data collection skills.

Herring provide a rich topic of study for local students. Sitka Sound is the last remaining population of herring in the state that consistently provides a significant subsistence herring egg harvest. Sitka herring eggs are shared widely throughout Alaska. Herring are a forage fish and a critical part of the marine food web, providing food for other important species such as lingcod, coho salmon, king salmon, halibut, sea lions and humpback whales. Coastal archeologist Iain McKechnie called herring the “central node of the marine ecosystem”, adding “they aren’t the base, they aren’t the top, but they are the thing through which everything else flows.

Herring Camp (aka, Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo, or Knowledge of Herring Camp) was started in 2014 and was originally held at Sitka National Historical Park. Now in its fifth year, the Herring Camp has grown to reach classrooms in four local schools and is made possible through collaboration with MEHS, the Sitka School District, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, the Sitka Conservation Society, the Sitka Sound Science Center, and Allen Marine. Rosendale explains, “Collaboration is absolutely critical to the success of Herring Camp; we couldn’t do it without our collaborators, all of whom have made important contributions to herring outreach and education in Sitka.”

Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s work with Blatchley students was also a part of another community collaboration on herring and food webs. In addition to working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff, BMS science teacher Stacy Golden also planned lessons with Charlie Skulkta, Jr., St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaska Raptor Center, and a boat trip to St. Lazaria.

Financial support for this initiative was generously provided the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

This year’s camp is held in loving memory of Michelle Ridgeway of Oceanus Alaska. Michelle was a passionate scientist and youth educator. She helped get the Herring Camp off the ground in 2014 and was an integral part of the camp every year until her passing in January of 2018. Her creativity and enthusiasm are deeply missed.

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Sitka Tribe of Alaska to host annual Sitka Herring Festival Community Potluck on April 12

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska will host the annual Sitka Herring Festival Community Potluck Dinner at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall, and will celebrate the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring.

The potluck is open to the community — please feel free to invite anyone you think may be interested. Please bring a dish to share.
The event also will feature talks on recent work on herring genetics and traditional ecological knowledge by Dr. Lorenz Hauser and Eleni Petrou of the University of Washington. Dr. Hauser will present “What can population genetics do for herring management?” and Ms. Petrou will present “Genetics and traditional ecological knowledge detect herring diversity in Puget Sound.”
Dr. Hauser is a Professor with the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Principal Investigator of the Marine Population Genomics Lab at UW. In addition to his work on herring genetics in Puget Sound, Dr. Hauser has also collaborated with the Alaska Salmon Program to estimate reproductive success of sockeye salmon. Ms. Petrou is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Hauser’s lab and her interests include investigating marine connectivity and exploring the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems. She is integrating traditional ecological knowledge into her study of the population genetics of Pacific herring.
For a bit more context, here is a brief article on Dr. Hauser and Ms. Petrou’s work with herring population genetics and traditional ecological knowledge, https://wsg.washington.edu/elder-memories-ancient-dna-and-the-fate-of-the-herring-2/.
For more information, contact fisheries biologist Kyle Rosendale of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resources Department at 747-7241.

Third annual Sitka Herring Festival kicks off March 18 with month of events

 

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Spring is right around the corner in Sitka, and nothing says spring in Sitka like the arrival of the herring. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska‘s third annual Sitka Herring Festival kicks off on Friday, March 18, with a month of fantastic event for adults and kids alike.

This year the festival kicks off at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 18, with the Blessing of Herring Rock (Yaaw T’eiyí) in front of the Sheet’ka Kwáan Naa Kahídi. Herring Rock is a cultural landmark of the Kiks.ádi clan, and a member of the clan leads this annual ceremony. Please note this event date and time have changed since first announced.

Derby FlyerFor those kids who like a little competition, there’s the Sitka Herring Derby. As in previous years, the Herring Derby will be a fun event for kids and parents. The Derby starts on Saturday, March 19, and continues through Saturday, April 9. Weigh your biggest fish every day (from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday and from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday) at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resources Production Office at 429 Katlian Street. May the best (biggest) fish win. The awards ceremony will be April 12 at Blatchley Community Swim Pool.

Also on Saturday, March 19, is a herring-themed Discovery Days program at the Sitka Sound Science Center. Discovery Days is a youth educational program from 10 a.m. to noon that meets every other Saturday, and this event will feature Sitka Herring Festival coordinator Jessica Gill discussing the life cycle of herring.

The Sitka Whalefest and Sitka Sound Science Center will host the annual food web cruise fundraiser for the Whalefest from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 26. This is an Allen Marine harbor cruise that usually features some of the best whale-watching of the spring. The cost is $55 per person, which includes a light breakfast spread. Tickets are available at Old Harbor Books.

This year’s Wearable Arts Show, sponsored by the Greater Sitka Arts Council, will feature a new attraction as local artists team up to dedicate a piece about the growing problem of waste in our oceans.

On April 1, is the ArtiGras Art Walk and logos are due for local high school students to submit their Sitka Herring Festival logo designs. In addition to the usual art found in Sitka galleries and businesses during the art walk (hosted by the Greater Sitka Arts Council), the Sheet’ka Kwáan Naa Kahídi will host a variety of community artists and herring dishes from around the world from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, April 1.

Also like last year, Sitka Community Schools will host the Herring Fun Run. The run will start at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, and will feature a couple of loops of the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park. Herring swim in schools, so bring your friends.

The Sitka Herring Festival community potluck is from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, at Sweetland Hall at the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Bring a dish to share. The guest speaker, Ilona Kemp-Noordeloos, is a PhD. student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who will give the presentation, “Herring and the Human Element in the Bristol Bay Fisheries.”

More info for all these events can be found online at http://sitkaherringfestival.wordpress.com or at the festival’s Facebook page. Or you can email sitkaherringfestival@gmail.com or call 747-7168 for info.

• 2016 Sitka Herring Festival calendar of events

• Sitka Herring Festival logo contest rules and entry form

• 2016 Sitka Herring Festival Kids’ Fishing Derby flier

• Second annual Sitka Herring Festival kicks off March 16 with month of events

Festival Flyer

You feel it in the air; you see it in the lengthening days; you smell it with the changing tides. That’s right, herring season (and Spring!) is right around the corner. And with the arrival of the herring comes the Sitka Tribe of Alaska‘s second annual Sitka Herring Festival, a month of fantastic event for adults and kids alike.

First, for the adults. This year, we’ve been able to bring an excellent speaker from Stonybrook University in New York thanks to a generous donation from Sealaska. At the community potluck from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, at Harrigan Centennial Hall, Dr. Ellen Pikitch will present on herring management and conservation throughout the world. Dr. Pikitch was one of the leading scientists on the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, is a pioneer in ocean conservation, and is a leader in ecosystem-based management of fisheries. This event will be a potluck style, so please bring a dish to share. We’re very excited to have her here during the herring season.

In addition to the community potluck, there will be a talk at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus from Dr. Shingo Hamada. Dr. Hamada is an anthropologist at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan. His talk will be on Herring Fisheries and Food Culture in Japan. Mark your calendars for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 23, in UAS Sitka Campus Room 218. This is a partnership from the Natural History Seminar Series with UAS and the Sitka Sound Science Center. All are welcome, but be sure to bring your questions.

But what would a festival be without fun activities for the kids? This year’s festival will also include Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo — The Knowledge of Herring Camp, hosted by the Sitka School District and the Outdoor Foundation, in partnership with Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Sitka National Historical Park. This is a free, hands-on spring break camp connecting kids to culture that will take place from March 16-20 at Sitka National Historical Park. Middle school youth (grades 6-8) are welcome and encouraged to participate in this free camp. More information can be found at Sitka National Historical Park. Feel free to or pick up an application at the main office of STA or at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center.

Derby FlyerFor those who like a little competition, there’s the Herring Derby and the Herring Run. Like last year, the Herring Derby will be a fun event for kids and parents. The Derby starts on Friday, March 20, and continues through Monday, April 6. Weigh your biggest fish every day (from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday and from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday) at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resources Production Office at 429 Katlian Street. May the best (biggest) fish win. Also like last year, Sitka Community Schools will host the Herring Run. The run will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 4, at Harrigan Centennial Hall and will wind through the Totem Park trails before returning to Centennial Hall. Herring swim in schools, so bring your friends.

There will be more fun and educational events during the Festival, including a 4-H class through Sitka Conservation Society, Herring in the Hallway at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Discovery Days at the Sitka Sound Science Center, and the showing of a herring film showing at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 27, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 28, at the Sitka National Historical Park  For the dancers among us, there will also be a Herring Hop from 6-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 28, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Fellowship Hall. The Herring Hop is a fundraiser for the Cape Decision Lighthouse Society. The Herring Festival will also feature a Food Web Cruise on Saturday, March 21, as a fundraiser for another fantastic festival, the Sitka Whalefest.

More info for all these events can be found online at http://sitkaherringfestival.wordpress.com or at our Facebook page. Or you can email sitkaherringfestival@gmail.com or call 747-7168.

• 2015 Sitka Herring Fest calendar of events

• Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo will teach middle school students about herring during spring break

2006 Herring collection 007

HerringBranchesThe Sitka School District and the Outdoor Foundation, in partnership with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Sitka National Historical Park, will host a free, week-long marine science and culture camp during spring break, March 16-20, for 20 sixth-grade, middle-school students. (NOTE: On Feb. 23, this program was opened up to all middle school students, grades 6-8, and the priority deadline was extended to March 6.)

Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo — Knowledge-of-Herring Camp — provides students the chance to explore the cultural and ecological importance of herring in a hands-on camp. Participants will use cutting-edge technology while working with renowned marine ecologist Michelle Ridgway to study Pacific herring in the field and in the lab. Students who participate in the camp will gain valuable experience conducting scientific research and will gain a deeper understanding of the critical role herring play in Southeast Alaska’s marine ecosystem, as well as the cultural significance of this keystone species.

Daily camp activities will include observing herring and other marine wildlife during marine field trips, conducting research throughout Sitka Sound and in the lab, learning about herring’s cultural significance from Native elders and culture bearers, exploring Sitka’s coastline to learn about critical herring habitat and using advanced scientific technology. Each daily session, held from 12:30-5:30 p.m., will conclude with a presentation or field activity lead by scientists, Native elders or local herring experts.

Applications are available at the Sitka National Historical Park visitors center, 106 Metlakatla St., at Blatchley Middle School, or they can be downloaded at http://www.nps.gov/sitk. All applicants must be in the sixth grade. Interested participants should submit an application by Feb. 20 to receive priority consideration. Completed applications should be returned to staff at Sitka National Historical Park’s visitor center. The hours of operation for the visitor center are Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For additional information, please contact Ryan Carpenter at 747-0121.

• Sitka Tribe of Alaska to host inaugural Sitka Herring Festival on March 17 to April 12

Herring_Fest_Flyer

HerringBranchesThe inaugural Sitka Herring Festival will feature a variety of events from March 17 through April 12, when the herring return to Sitka to spawn. The event is sponsored by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department.

“The festival is a collaborative event to promote the importance of Pacific herring on the ecosystem and the culture of Sitka and the North Pacific Ocean,” event coordinator Jessica Gill said. “A few events to note are: kids’ herring derby, herring dip, fish printing, an educational unit in the schools, and a community potluck scheduled for April 4th. I am currently working on bringing in a scientist from Oxford to give a talk on herring for the potluck, but that will be dependent of funding.”

HerringFestSchedule of Events2Among the scheduled events include a blessing of herring rock on a day TBA, the Yaa Khusgé Yaaw Woogoo herring camp for middle school students from March 17-21 at Sitka National Historical Park, a herring fishing derby for kids ages 2-17 from March 23-April 4, a herring class for the Alaska Way of Life 4-H club on March 28, a herring splash swimming event on March 29, a community potluck dinner on April 4, the herring community school fun run on April 5, and a Discovery Days event on April 12 at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

To learn more, please contact Jessica Gill at 747-7168 or by email at sitkaherringfestival@gmail.com. In addition to the event’s new website, there is a Facebook page.

HerringFestDerby Flyer 2014

• Sitka Herring Festival to host benefit dinner on Sunday, Nov. 17

Herring_Fest_Flyer

The inaugural Sitka Herring Festival will host a benefit dinner at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Sitka Elks Club.

The Sitka Herring Festival will take place in the spring of 2014, when the herring return to Sitka to spawn. The event is sponsored by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Resource Protection Department.

“The festival is a collaborative event to promote the importance of Pacific herring on the ecosystem and the culture of Sitka and the North Pacific Ocean,” event coordinator Jessica Gill said. “A few events to note are: kids’ herring derby, herring dip, fish printing, an educational unit in the schools, and a community potluck scheduled for April 4th.  I am currently working on bringing in a scientist from Oxford to give a talk on herring for the potluck, but that will be dependent of funding.”

To learn more, please contact Jessica Gill at 747-7168 or by email at sitkaherringfestival@gmail.com. In addition to the event’s new website (still under construction), there is a Facebook page.