“Woven” is a new digital and print publication by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. (Photo courtesy of Sustainable Southeast Partnership)

“Woven” is a new digital and print publication by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. (Photo courtesy of Sustainable Southeast Partnership)

Woven Peoples and Place: ‘We are tired of being resilient’ — Introducing ‘Woven’

New name emphasizes the interconnectedness, strength and balance of our communities.

“We are tired of being resilient.” Our community has told us this time and time again. Yes, Southeast Alaskans — and Alaska Native peoples in particular — are strong. They stand today as an act of resistance to colonialism, attempted erasure and systems that were not built to benefit Indigenous communities. It’s not easy for anyone to live in the remote, rural and rainy — or to stand hopeful in the face of social and environmental uncertainty.

The word “resilient” envisions growth in the wake of trauma. However, centering trauma, and defining Southeast Alaskans by an ability to withstand impact, does not represent the complexity and beauty of our identity. This is why the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) is changing the name of our monthly column from Resilient Peoples and Place to Woven Peoples and Place.

By choosing the name Woven, we emphasize the interconnectedness, strength and balance of our communities. We believe that our identity is more than our ability to survive, but our inherent worth, the vibrant tapestry of our shared experiences, and our continued power to thrive.

As SSP Program Director Marina Anderson explains, “Alone, as warps and wefts, we are fragile. Woven together, we are strong enough to lift our communities.”

We are collaborative and creative. We are joy and laughter. We are self-determined. We are not just responsive to impact, we hold the power to shape our circumstances. That power comes from the tight weave we share across generations, communities, landscapes, disciplines and more. The name Woven celebrates the richness and intricacy of our connections to one another, and to the lands and waters we love.

Each year, the SSP will release a magazine in limited print, and available digitally that compiles stories, perspectives, artwork, and photographs that illustrate the wide work of this collective impact network. Our first edition, ‘Aasgutuyík Tuwa.aax̲ch — Lingít for “We hear the sound of the forest” is now available at sustainablesoutheast.net/stories-from-southeast.

To celebrate, we share a visionary piece published in this first edition from the perspectives of Sustainable Southeast Partnership Program Director Marina Anderson and Steering Committee Member Anthony Mallott describing, respectively, ‘What we are working for’ and ‘What we are working toward’. We hope you enjoy this piece, stay tuned for our continued monthly storytelling, and enjoy our annual publication under our new name.

What are we working for?

Sgaahl Siid Xyáahl Jaad, Marina Anderson

Program Director Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Shaan Seet Incorporated Board of Directors, Native Peoples Action Steering Committee, 2023 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Awardee

We are working for each other.

Beyond the formal partners, the SSP is people. Our catalysts are as diverse as the network itself. They are retired teachers, aunties, artists and business owners. They sit on local boards, fill buckets with berries, put up fish, check in on elders, and write their local Assembly members. We have young people who just graduated from college, others starting new families and building homes with their own hands. Our catalysts are often seen as leaders within their communities and the diversity of backgrounds they bring, as well as the collaborating partners they work with, gives us our strength as a partnership.

Sgaahl Siid Xyáahl Jaad, Marina Anderson explains the wide work of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership by answering the question “What are we working for?” (Photo by Bethany Sonsini Goodrich)

Sgaahl Siid Xyáahl Jaad, Marina Anderson explains the wide work of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership by answering the question “What are we working for?” (Photo by Bethany Sonsini Goodrich)

The work is diverse — Community Forest Partnerships, youth programs, greenhouses, Lingít language classes, entrepreneur coaching, fish camp and culture camps. Some of the most important work doesn’t look like work at all. It looks like being present. It looks like bringing a casserole to a potluck when someone passes away, supporting a fundraiser for the basketball team in the darkness of winter, or creating a meal train for someone with a newborn baby. That’s where the relationships and trust come from — engaging with and being part of community.

The challenges are not small. Our communities are separated by ocean and mountains with many of our goods being barged in. Some communities lack high-speed internet and hospitals. Climate change and greed threaten the plants and animals that sustain us. The impacts of colonization still grip us today — wounds to our Indigenous languages and the knowledge embedded within, the impacts of boarding schools, racism, scars on our bodies and on our lands. But if colonization proved anything, it was that our Indigenous values are stronger. “Respect for all things,” seems obvious, but sadly it is not a value held by everyone. When we practice and share our values, when we heal ourselves and our homelands, that positive impact echoes. That strength gives me hope in our ability to face any challenge. We survived the tsunami, so we can withstand these flash floods.

We do this work for our communities — our home villages and towns, but we also work for our global community. The Tongass is special: when we take care of our home we take care of our shared Earth. We work for the plants and animals, for our ancestors, for our future generations — our nieces and nephews and their grandchildren. We work so that they can continue to thrive in this area in a healthy relationship to all living things, including these lands and waters.

At the end of the day, we work AT institutions and tribal governments, but we work FOR each other. Like a lesson shared in the Shanyaak’utlaax Salmon Boy story, our work is so important that we would never stop.

What are we working toward?

Gunnuk’, Anthony Mallott

Sustainable Southeast Partnership Steering Committee, Spruce Root Board of Directors, Former President and Chief Executive Officer of Sealaska Corporation, First Indigenous Recipient of the Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award

We work toward balance.

When I first started at Sealaska, the regional Native corporation, I participated in annual roundtables that frustratingly, would always end the same — against a wall. We were working with communities on economic development and heard great ideas, but ultimately threw our hands up and said “We wish we could fix the cost of energy.” Other frameworks in the region also struggled. Entities would walk into a gathering, yet sit in their own corners — conservation focus here, industry over there, government here and Native communities sort of circling around. The result felt more like negotiations and a trading game than earnest collaboration — our communities lost the most.

Gunnuk’, Anthony Mallott explains the visionary work of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership by answering the question “What are we working toward?” (Photo by Bethany Sonsini Goodrich)

Gunnuk’, Anthony Mallott explains the visionary work of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership by answering the question “What are we working toward?” (Photo by Bethany Sonsini Goodrich)

These frameworks failed because they lacked balance. Balance in representation, approach, and mindset. They upheld an unbalanced definition of a “successful community.” Economic development is critical, yes, but our communities also need healing, strong schools, clean and affordable energy, cultural pride, and access to healthy foods.

SSP came at a point in time when people were ready to move beyond spinning in circles. It pulled people out of those corners and helped to establish a balanced vision for the region that diverse entities could align with. It balanced getting work done with the slow work of building the relationships and trust on the ground. The growing vision sparked curiosity and problem solving that allowed us to close the feasibility gap of community projects. Increasingly important projects were undertaken, as entities learned to listen while lending their unique resources and networks to get work done. That success was contagious and as progress grew, entities that were once isolated started to move closer and closer — until we were sitting at the same table.

While there is a lot to celebrate, we can never be complacent. Trust can evaporate before your eyes and the work of relationship building is constant. We must stay curious, stay humble, stay vigilant and continue to do the hard work of working toward balance. For the SSP that means continuing to cultivate frameworks that strengthen relationships and maintain healthy collaboration. It’s constantly asking whose voice is missing and why. It’s catalyzing more resources to do work that is desperately needed in Southeast Alaska.

Working toward balance as community members means healing inward and supporting each other on a journey toward collective health. There is no silver bullet that gets us there. It is complex work, deep work and critical work. It involves striking a balance between addressing systemic inequality while moving beyond a sense of victimhood that can keep communities trapped. It looks like balancing healing with acknowledging bad actions that need to stop. It looks like leaving our fragility behind and balancing when to step back and when to step up. It looks like balancing consumption and conservation — rectifying what we need versus what we want. It looks like balanced leadership, balanced representation and balanced approaches.

Working toward health and well-being for people and communities is as constant as it is complex. We have a foundation of values from more than 10,000 years living symbiotically with the lands and waters of Southeast Alaska. Curiosity and progress are driven by working toward a purpose so important that we would never stop.

• “Woven Peoples and Place” is the monthly column of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP). SSP is a dynamic collective impact network uniting diverse skills and perspectives to strengthen cultural, ecological, and economic resilience across Southeast Alaska. Follow along at sustainablesoutheast.net; on Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook at @sustainablesoutheast; and on YouTube @SustainableSoutheastAK.

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