Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Village march honors subsistence champion Katie John


Klukwan villagers on Saturday afternoon held a march in honor of Native subsistence champion Katie John.

John, an Athabascan elder who won a landmark lawsuit defending her family’s traditional salmon-fishing site, died May 31 at age 97.

Speaking at Saturday’s march, Chilkat elder Joe Hotch said John’s actions helped all subsistence users, not only Alaska Natives. “Our children and grandchildren will benefit from her work,” he said.

Appealing to federal subsistence law outlined in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), John successfully argued that the State of Alaska had denied her traditional use of a fishing spot off the Copper River.

A federal court agreed, ultimately leading to federal management of subsistence fisheries on waters in Alaska passing through certain federal lands. (Subsistence fishing in Haines and Klukwan is managed by the state, as fishing here occurs on waters under the state’s jurisdiction.)

Klukwan’s Katie John march was organized by Joanne Elsie Spud on behalf of SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention and Chilkat Indian Village. Eighteen villagers participated.

Village pastor Jones Hotch said an opening prayer and villager Katrina Hotch wore a beaded necklace made by Katie John.

Spud said afterward that she considered the march an honor to be involved in. “I was honored to give back to a woman that I never met who told the world that I meant something to her. Not by my name or even by my tribe’s name but in the fact that she stood strong for her subsistence rights, which are tied to mine.”

“The march was important to me because it’s one of those things that – someday – my children or grandchildren will say, ‘My mom or my gram was a part of that march, so subsistence was important to her and honoring and respecting people was important to her.’”