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The Economic and Cultural Importance of Driftwood in Coastal Communities of SW Alaska

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Title: The Economic and Cultural Importance of Driftwood in Coastal Communities of SW Alaska


1
The Economic and Cultural Importance of Driftwood
in Coastal Communities of SW Alaska
  • Presented by Drs. Bob Wheeler and Claire Alix
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Cooperative Extension Service

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Communities Visited
  • Sand Point -Aleut culture
  • Togiak - Yupik culture
  • Hooper Bay - Yupik culture
  • Scammon Bay - Yupik culture

5
Coastal Communites in SW Alaska
  • Native Alaskan communities practicing subsistence
    lifestyles.
  • Region of recent declines by salmon based
    economies.
  • Region of high unemployment and high energy
    costs.
  • Region of very limited natural timber resources
    other than driftwood
  • Driftwood is important for a variety of uses to
    these communities.

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Factors contributing to Driftwood
  • Animal activity
  • Declining Forest Health
  • Wildfire
  • Insect Mortality
  • Incidence of Disease
  • Forest Products Industry
  • Climate Change

9
One important source of driftwood is from the
Yukon River drainage.
ICE and Wood After Break-up On the Upper Yukon
River
10
ICE
Action of the Ice as seen after break Up
Kuskokwim River
11
Undercutting erosion Example of the Yukon River
12
Driftwood on the Tanana River, High water season
13
Erosion is enhanced by seasonal Floods
14
Driftwood is produced by beaver activities
Cottonwood tree, Tanana River bank
Cottonwood tree, Norton Sound
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To develop an understanding of sustainable and
economic use of driftwood, We needed to assess
for each community
  • Where the driftwood is found in good quantity
  • (How much is available?)
  • What is the rate of its arrival
  • (How often does the wood accumulate and at what
    time
  • of the year?)
  • What are the species of trees found in the
    driftwood
  • (Do you know where these trees come from?)
  • How long does the wood stay sound once it is
    deposited on the beach
  • (How fast does the wood decay)

23
  • Preliminary inquiries indicated that several
  • species of driftwood are found throughout
  • the region.
  • We sought to identify what species
  • Where did the driftwood come from
  • What is producing Driftwood?

24
Driftwood Tree Species
  • Thuja plicata - Western red cedar
  • Picea sitchensis - Sitka spruce
  • Tsuga heterophylla- Western hemlock
  • Tsuga mertensiana - Mountain hemlock
  • Chamaecyparis nookatensis -Alaska Yellow Cedar
  • Salix sp. - Willows
  • Populus tricocarpa - Black cottonwood
  • Populus balsamifera - Balsam poplar
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii - Douglas-fir
  • Picea glauca - White spruce
  • Alnus rubra - Red alder

25
Driftwood Tree Species
  • Quercus sp. - Oaks
  • Betula sp. - Alaska paper birch or Kenai birch
  • Picea mariana - Black spruce
  • Abies sp. - True firs
  • Bamboo

26
Factors influencing driftwood deposition
  • Winds
  • Tide
  • Currents

27
General observations
  • Since the end of WWII there has been a change in
    the collection and use of driftwood regionwide.
    Prior to the war driftwood was a communal
    activity - after the war it became an
    individualistic activity.
  • Driftwood is less abundant today than it used to
    be but there were even years of shortage of
    driftwood during the 1930s.
  • Driftwood remains an important resource to the
    region.

28
Sand Point
  • Located on Popoff island on the South side of the
    Alaska Peninsula
  • Population 919
  • Unemployment - 30.8
  • 44 native Alaskan
  • Less than 25 of homes have wood stoves
  • Cost of heating fuel

29
Sand Point
  • Driftwood is obtained primarily by boat
  • Driftwood accumulates in small coves.

30
Interview Comments
  • Herbert Macallum - Driftwood is like salmon.
    Any place where the salmon goes to shore is a
    good place for wood any place where there is
    driftwood is a good place for fishing.

31
Interview Comments
  • Cottonwood is the most valuable to me - was
    abundant at one time but now you have to go far
    out and only big logs are left that you need a
    chainsaw to cut. Herbert Macallum.

32
Interview Comments
  • Bruce Foster Sr. - Wind patterns seem to be one
    of the major elements influencing the presence of
    wood on a beach - It all depends on the way the
    wind comes.

33
Togiak
34
Togiak
  • Population 804
  • 93 native Alaskan
  • Unemployment 26.8 with 67 of adults not in
    the work force.
  • Fuel Costs 2.40/gal.
  • Less than 25 homes have wood stoves.

35
Togiak
  • Over 200 homes in the community have steam baths
    fueled by driftwood.
  • Community has a native arts and crafts center for
    selling crafted items.

36
Uses of Driftwood in Togiak
  • Birch and spruce were used to make kayaks, sleds,
    and bows.
  • Arrows and fish traps were mainly made from
    spruce.
  • Kayak parts, bowl bases and laddles, and spear
    throwers were made out of the stump.
  • Spoons and bowls were mainly made of birch.
  • Squirrel skins were traded for wood. About 52
    skins were required to make a parka. 104 skins
    would be traded for a kayak frame.

37
Togiak
  • Wood has traditionally been used for heating and
    for sauna and smoking fish.
  • Other uses have included for carving and for
    kayaks, dolls, utensils, and bowls.

38
Togiak
  • wooden laddle carved from driftwood

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Artifacts from old Togiak village included
wedges for spliting driftwood.
41
Togiak
  • Driftwood collection is primarily by boat
  • Locally there is not much driftwood on the beach
    at Togiak
  • Collections are done primarily to the west on
    islands in Bristol Bay

42
Togiak
  • Southwest winds and high tides are two key
    elements in the delivery of driftwood to Togiak
    (Annie Blue)
  • Driftwood comes when heavy rain accompanies a SE
    wind.
  • Northern winds take driftwood back to sea. (Marie
    Active.)

43
Togiak
  • Upriver beaver activity has contributed to the
    driftwood in Togiak.
  • Driftwood debris includes beaver wood chips.

44
Togiak
  • Wood species are influenced by the Togiak and
    Kuskokwim rivers.
  • Evidence of driftwood from SE Alaska - Western
    red cedar, A. yellow cedar, and hemlock

45
Hooper Bay - Land of Driftwood
46
Hooper Bay
  • Population 1,075
  • 96 Native Alaskan
  • Fuel Cost 2.82/ gal.
  • Unemployment 37 with 66 of all adults not in
    the work force.
  • Community is seeking to open the Naparyarmiut
    Arts and Crafts Cooperative.

47
Hooper Bay
  • Stormlines of driftwood are found throughout the
    area.
  • Heavy concentrations of driftwood are found on
    the beaches nearby.
  • Community has high level of dependence upon
    driftwood as a sustainable resource
  • Nearly every home has both an oil and wood stove
    for heating.

48
Hooper Bay
  • Driftwood is collected by ATV and by snowmachine.
  • During winter travel may take up to 40 miles to
    find quality dried wood.
  • Driftwood is sold for about 20 per snowmachine
    load.

49
Hooper Bay
  • Steam baths take and arm load of wood for 2-4
    hours.
  • An oil burning stove uses about 5 gal./day at a
    cost of about 14.
  • Burning wood saves about 1/2 the cost of the
    heating oil. A 6 monthuse of driftwood would
    save about 900

50
Hooper Bay
  • Collection of driftwood involves stacking and
    drying the wood in piles.
  • Care is taken to assure the wood is solid and
    dry. They usually notch the wood to test it.

51
Scammon Bay
52
Scammon Bay
  • On the banks of the Kun river
  • Population 491
  • 97 native Alaskan
  • Fuel Costs 3.15/g.
  • Unemployment 13 with 56 of adults not in the
    work force.

53
Scammon Bay
  • About 1/2 of homes have both oil and wood stoves.
  • Typically, firewood collection is done in the
    Black river area about 20 miles north.
  • Wood collection is by boat or snowmachine

54
Snowmachine and sleds transport driftwood in
winter.
Driftwood is collected by boat during the summer.

55
  • Products from Driftwood
  • Wooden spoons
  • Knife handles
  • Wooden Masks
  • Harpoons and spears
  • Kayaks and boats
  • Wood for smoking salmon
  • Wood for sauna
  • Sleds
  • Snowshoes
  • Doll faces
  • Wood stove for heating

56
Driftwood - An Important Resource to Communities
in a treeless region.
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