For thousands of years, we have relied on fish from Tikahtnu – Cook Inlet – to feed our families. Salmon have been swimming to us since the earliest days, and remain central to our culture and identity.
Today, we operate a fishery on tribal land at the mouth of the Kenai River through a permit issued by the State of Alaska. We have operated the net since 1989 and celebrate its annual opening with a celebration on May 1, when hundreds of tribal members gather at the beach to catch up with friends and share stories.
The net remains open through summer and into fall. Tribal members wishing to gather food for the year can schedule times to fish the net, and many fish are given to Elders and others who can no longer fish for themselves. We share the fishery permit with members of the Salamatof Tribe.
But the net gives us more than food. It preserves the culture and traditions established by the early Dena’ina. It brings us together, with our children and Elders, creating a sense of unity. It represents the resiliency of our people.
We also incorporate the net into summer fish camps as part of our educational curriculum. Youth, Elders and guests practice traditional methods of setting the net, identifying salmon species, cleaning fish and preserving them for winter.