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Ch’a ldakát át a yakgwahéiyagu kudzitee.

In everything there is a spirit.

The Herring Protectors is a grassroots movement led by Indigenous women. 


We use the original teachings of the Kiks.ádi women — ceremony and collective organizing — to stand up to unjust legacies of colonization and genocide that have led to the devastation of the yaaw (herring). 


Protecting the yaaw honors the importance of the Kaxatjaashaa: the flipping ladies or herring ladies. The yaaw are the foundation of our cultural, spiritual and ecological ecosystem, and commercial fishing has violated tradition through destroying their population. The extraction of the female fish roe as a capitalist resource parallels the genocide of our matrilineal structures and knowledge. We fight for the yaaw because their survival is paramount to our own fight for sovereignty. 


We use our original instruction to remind us why we are doing this work:  “[the herring] spirits were joyful.” Through our fight to exercise our sovereignty, we are returning to this spirit of joy, and will take our rightful place stewarding the land. When we protect every spirit on this land, our own spirits can be truly joyful.


Banner photo: Lee House

Southeast AK Map_Lee House

Gunalchéesh to photographers Muriel Reid, Caitlin Blaisdell, Bethany Goodrich, and Lee House for generously sharing their images.

In response to the movement protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and the ensuing violence against Standing Rock, Water Protectors, and the historic Oceti Sakowin Camp, many Sitka community members were seeking ways to express their support and solidarity from afar in 2016.

A handful of concerned citizens met up to plan a single fundraising and awareness event so as not to duplicate or overlap anyone's efforts. The resulting event sent pounds of food, banners, and full funds raised to Standing Rock. After the successful event, many of the organizers turned their eyes locally to Sitka. In our very own backyards, we acknowledged a similar conflict with an extractive industry: the commercial harvest of herring. From there we began organizing locally under the name Herring Protectors.


Graphic: Lee House (2016)

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Portrait photos from the 2018 Herring Koo.eex' courtesy of Bethany Goodrich

Since 2016, Herring Protectors have been advocating for the protection of herring. In the lead up to the 2018 Board of Fisheries (BoF) meeting in Sitka, AK, we organized educational events, protests, and comment writing sessions. Over 100 people showed up to testify in support of herring protection. We hosted our first Yaaw Koo.éex' (Herring Ceremony) to coincide with the BoF meeting, inviting BoF members to join the gathering and begin to understand the Indigenous relationship to herring.

Since the 2018 BoF meeting, Herring Protectors have continued to work and grow, organizing more demonstrations, educational sessions, and Yaaw Koo.éex's.


Below: The 2018 Yaaw Koo.éex' (Herring Ceremony).

Right: Herring Protectors protest outside the Alaska Department of Fish & Game offices.

Above Right: Herring Protectors Testifying at the 2018  Board of Fish.

Photo: Bethany Goodrich

Protestors at ADFG_Lee House.jpg

Photo: Lee House


Photo: Bethany Goodrich

It is important to acknowledge and honor the elders, culture bearers, and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska who have been doing this work for over 30 years and continue to do this work today. We humbly add to their efforts and work in support of this decades long movement. To those working on protecting the herring from the past, present, and future, we say gunalchéesh (thank you).

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