SOUTHEAST ALASKA INDIGENOUS TRANSBOUNDARY COMMISSION
Protecting Tribal Lands and Waterways for Future Generations
THE TRANSBOUNDARY WATERSHED REGION
The Transboundary Watershed Region is an area of northwest British Columbia and Southeast Alaska that includes the Tatshenshini-Alsek, Chilkat, Chilkoot, Skagway, Taiya Taku, Iskut-Stikine, Unuk and Whiting watersheds.
The rivers flow through the 32 million acres of high alpine tundra, boreal forest, temperate rainforest, and the island marine environment of Southeast Alaska.
The entire watershed region is a complex, interconnected web that depends on the salmon's abundant annual return. For tens of thousands of years, these shared rivers have held cultural significance to Alaska Native People and First Nations in British Columbia.
“The land provides everything for us. The land is who I am. And we are part of it.”
― John Morris Sr, Douglas Indian Association
“The Taku, Unuk, and Stikine are the lifeblood of Alaska”
― Trixie Bennett, Ketchikan Indian Community President, SEITC treasurer
“Once I was on the Taku River with a member of the U.S. Forest Service; he asked me to point out sacred sites on the River. I told him that this whole place is sacred. I imagine all twenty tribal governments in Southeast Alaska share that feeling.”
― John Morris, Sr, Douglas Indian Association
T'aaḵu Héeni (Taku River)
The T'aaku River, its headwaters deep within British Columbia's boreal landscapes, flows through Alaska into the Pacific Ocean.
The river runs through the Tongass National Forest, providing habitat for a variety of wildlife, including seals, bears, bald eagles and nearly two million wild salmon that return to the vast 1.8 million hectare watershed annually.
Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian have deep cultural and spiritual connection to the river, and it has served as a source of sustenance, travel, and trade for thousands of years.
The majestic and immense river has great cultural significance; the adjacent headwaters of the Stikine, Skeena River, and Nass Rivers in the Klappan Range are known to the Tahltan as Klabona, the Sacred Headwaters.
For thousands of years, the river's passage through the Coast Mountains has been used as a trade route by Indigenous peoples. The lower Stikine and Iskut rivers are home to a high number of cultural heritage sites, including old villages, legend sites and traditional fishing areas.
From its headwaters in a heavily glaciated area in British Columbia, south of the lower Iskut River, the Unuk flows west and south for 80 miles, crossing into Alaska and emptying into Burroughs Bay, an inlet of Behm Canal. In Alaska the river flows through the Misty Fjords National Monument.
The Unuk River supports large runs of salmon, including chinook, coho, pink, chum, and sockeye in addition to Eulachon (ooligan). The river is central for traditional and cultural practices and food sovereignty.