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Wood products for cultural uses: Sustaining native resilience and vital lifeways in Southeast Alaska, USA


Audrey E. Clavijo
Glenn Hamar
Deborah-Aanutein Head
Andrew Thoms
Wayne Price
Arianna Lapke
Lillian Petershoare
Andrea Cook
Sienna Reid



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


Forests. 12(1): 1-26


Ongoing revitalization of the >5000-year-old tradition of using trees for vital culture and heritage activities including carving and weaving affirms Alaska Native resilience. However, support for these sustained cultural practices is complicated by environmental and political factors. Carving projects typically require western redcedar (Thuja plicata) or yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) trees more than 450 years of age—a tree life stage and growth rate inconsistent with current even-aged forest management strategies. Herein, we qualitatively assess the significance of wood products to rural communities and Indigenous cultures with implications for natural heritage sustainability. In partnership with Alaska Native Tribes, we engaged local youth programs to lead community discussions throughout southeast Alaska to provide specificity to the suite of cultural activities linked to regional forest lands. Results from 58 discussions across 11 southeast Alaska communities (primarily Alaska Native participants) highlighted the cultural importance of forest products including totem poles, dugout canoes, longhouses, woven hats, and woven baskets. Findings indicated spiritual well-being, health, education, tourism, and livelihood significance attributed to these products. Participant-suggested management strategies for increasing supply and expanding access to trees on public lands included: engaging local artisans in forest planning, selecting and delivering specific trees to roads as part of ongoing timber sales, allowing bark removal prior to forest-timber sales, simplifying the tree-acquisition permit process, and setting aside cultural forest groves to sustain trees seven generations into the future. By facilitating discussions, this study fostered relevant place-based youth and community engagement, benefiting youth and enhancing community knowledge transfer while simultaneously summarizing the significance of forest products for resilient culture and heritage activities. Forest management plans aiming to support Alaska Native lifeways may benefit from improved understanding of Indigenous perspectives and worldviews; designation of “culture market values” and “culture targets” can help deliver a broad array of ecosystem services.


Johnson, Adelaide; Clavijo, Audrey E.; Hamar, Glenn; Head, Deborah-Aanutein; Thoms, Andrew; Price, Wayne; Lapke, Arianna; Crotteau, Justin; Cerveny, Lee K.; Wilmer, Hailey; Petershoare, Lillian; Cook, Andrea; Reid, Sienna. 2021. Wood products for cultural uses: Sustaining native resilience and vital lifeways in Southeast Alaska, USA. Forests. 12(1): 1-26.


Publication Notes

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