Subsistence Living

In Alaska, subsistence means the customary and traditional uses of wild, renewable resources by rural Alaska residents. Subsistence resources are highly valued and central to the customs and traditions of many cultural groups and rural communities in Alaska . Alaska Natives in Cordova and surrounding villages have a long history of harvesting the natural resources of the Copper River and Prince William Sound for subsistence purposes. Subsistence and commercial fishing are central to the community’s culture. Subsistence continues to be the backbone of community life in Cordova and the surrounding villages.

Sharing of subsistence resources is prevalent in Cordova. Sharing occurs when a household takes an abundance of a particular resource, or more than they can effectively use in a season. Subsistence hunters and fishermen traditionally share with elders in the community, community members that aren’t able to participate in subsistence activities, and extended family members. Subsistence foods and resources are shared with relatives and friends that live in other areas, including urban centers.

In Cordova, subsistence activities revolve around the harvest and processing of fish, game, and other wild resources. The most used wild resource in Cordova is fish, primarily salmon and halibut, but also crabs and clams. Deer and moose are also important to the community, as well as ducks, geese, grouse, ptarmigan, and snowshoe hare.

The ability to participate in commercial fishing is vital to the survival of many Cordova area residents. The income gained from fishing allows residents to take time to participate in subsistence activities during the off-season. Many families use subsistence activities to spend time together and to pass on traditional ways of life to children.