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The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture wants to improve Alaska Native representation on the federal board that manages subsistence use on the state’s lands and waters, according to a proposal the department announced on Feb. 15.

The Departments are proposing to add three additional members to the eight-member Federal Subsistence Board who will be nominated by federally recognized tribal governments in Alaska. The board currently has five members from federal agencies and three public members.

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The new members appointed by the Secretary of the Interior with the concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture, would bring to the board personal experience with subsistence uses in rural Alaska, according to the department’s press release.

“Since time immemorial, subsistence practices have played a central role in meeting the nutritional, social, economic, spiritual and cultural needs of Alaska Native people," said Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. Haaland discussed the proposal in remarks at the National Congress of American Indians Executive Council Winter Session this week. "By strengthening Indigenous representation on the Federal Subsistence Board, we seek to not only preserve these important traditions, but to fully recognize Tribal sovereignty and ensure the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge for future subsistence-related planning. When Indigenous communities are at the table, everyone who enjoys a subsistence lifestyle has more opportunities to thrive.”  

“Honoring our general trust responsibility and fostering greater collaboration with our Indigenous partners is a key goal for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the proposal enhances collaboration with our Indigenous partners.

“Incorporating Indigenous knowledge that has been gained over millennium into our Federal Subsistence decision-making is an important step in that effort,” he said.

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