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Sustainability 2013, 5(10), 4406-4427; doi:10.3390/su5104406

Sustaining Sanak Island, Alaska: A Cultural Land Trust

1,*  and 1,2
1 Department of Anthropology, Idaho State University, Stop 8005, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA 2 Idaho Museum of Natural History, Idaho State University, Stop 8096, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 July 2013 / Revised: 9 October 2013 / Accepted: 10 October 2013 / Published: 17 October 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Islands—A Pacific Perspective)
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Sanak Island is the easternmost of the Aleutian Islands and was inhabited by the Aleut (Unangan) peoples for nearly 7000 years. The past few centuries of Sanak Island life for its Aleut residents can be summarized from ethnohistoric documents and extensive interviews with former residents as shifting local-global economic patterns beginning with the sea otter fur trade, followed by cod and salmon fishing, fox farming, and cattle ranching through waves of Russian, American, and Scandinavian authority and/or influence. As the industries changed and the island absorbed new peoples with new goals, Aleut identity and practices also changed as part of these shifting economic and social environments. Sanak Island was abandoned in the 1970s and although uninhabited today, Sanak Island is managed as an important land trust for the island’s descendants that serves local peoples as a marine-scape rich in resources for Aleut subsistence harvesting and as a local heritage site where people draw on the diverse historical influences and legacies. Further, this move from an industrial heritage to contemporary local subsistence economies facilitated by a commercial fishing industry is a unique reversal of development in the region with broad implications for community sustainability among indigenous communities. We find that by being place-focused, rather than place-based, community sustainability can be maintained even in the context of relocation and the loss of traditional villages. This will likely become more common as indigenous peoples adapt to globalization and the forces of global change.
Keywords: Aleut; Sanak Island; fisheries; sustainability; resilience; historical ecology; land trust Aleut; Sanak Island; fisheries; sustainability; resilience; historical ecology; land trust
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Reedy-Maschner, K.L.; Maschner, H.D.G. Sustaining Sanak Island, Alaska: A Cultural Land Trust. Sustainability 2013, 5, 4406-4427.

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