A movement by the Ketchikan Indian Community to have Ketchikan reclassified federally as a rural area is the topic of a federal hearing on Wednesday evening that has the community in southern Southeast Alaska abuzz.
Ketchikan Indian Community has asked the Federal Subsistence Board to retract the non rural classification of Alaska’s First City. This would have implications for the distribution of fish and game in the area, with preference for rural residents.
The hearing is at 6 pm at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, and an additional hearing will take place in Klawock at a later time.
In March of 2022, KIC passed a resolution declaring its territory as rural, “to the greatest extent allowed under federal law, all lands, islands, waters, airspace, and surface and subsurface interests located within the current geographic boundaries of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.”
The request to the Federal Subsistence Board, a function of the Department of Interior, says that the population for the Ketchikan area has declined in each of the last three censuses.
Further, the organization says that there are other factors “creating pressure on food security for our isolated community including the loss of one of three local primary food vendors, COVD-19, inflation in food prices, fuel prices, and the constriction of the supply chain discussed in more detail below.”
“Ketchikan lies on the traditional territory of the Tlingit Aani, specifically the lands of the Saanya Kwaan and Tanta Kwaan. Ketchikan has a long standing history of Indigenous occupation well before colonizers ever stepped foot in Alaska. The community of Ketchikan (which is a Tlingit word that roughly translates to the ‘Thundering wings of an Eagle.’), and its home on Revillagegado Island are essentially separated and isolated from the rest of
the world. Ketchikan – a community that is comparable in size to both Sitka and Kodiak, Alaska and smaller in population that Bethel, Alaska, all three of which enjoy FSB’s rural designation – is heavily reliant on the natural resources in our immediate area including fish, wildlife, and terrestrial/aquatic plants. Whether indigenous or not, the residents of Ketchikan have strong ties to the food resources that can be gathered here. The area that we are proposing for rural status designation includes the entirety of Revillagegado Island, Pennock Island, Gravina Island, the southern portion of Cleveland Peninsula, and the surrounding waters in this area. This area is the footprint of both Ketchikan Indian Community and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough,” the proposal reads.
Ketchikan was a more populated community until the federal government ended commercial logging in Southeast Alaska through the Tongass Roadless Rule, which made the timber industry all but disappear. It is currently home to about 8,200 people and has a vibrant fishing and tourism economy, and is also the home of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
The proposal to the Department of Interior: