Women in Alaska Fisheries | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Women in Alaska Fisheries

  • Collection DOI:
    Principal Investigator:
    Anna Lavoie, Kim Sparks, Jean Lee, Sarah Wise
  • This oral history project focuses on Native Alaska women engaged in Bristol Bay fisheries. Women play a major role in maintaining set net permits and are critical to sustaining small-scale fisheries in Alaska and the communities who depend on them. Interviews were conducted with women of various ages who have participated in commercial and/ or subsistence salmon fisheries.

Interviewee Description Interviewer Date of Interview Location of Interview Affiliation Collection
CarolAnn Hester, MegAnna Schlais and Elizabeth Hester

CarolAnn Hester, MegAnna Schlais, and Elizabeth Hester represent three generations of women fishing in Naknek, Alaska. CarolAnn and MegAnna are a mother/daughter team who commercially fish, and all three women participate in subsistence fishing.  In this interview, CarolAnn, MegAnna and Elizabeth talk about how they got started in fishing, the products they produce and their participation in the subsistence lifestyle, which includes gardening. They also talk about their strong work ethic, and what motivates them to fish.

Kim Sparks , JudyJo Matson Nakenk, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Anne Shankle

Anne Shankle grew up in Michigan, and moved to Naknek Alaska in 1996 while building her own house from scrap parts leftover from seafood processors. She subsists off the land, and lives off the grid with her dog sled team. Ann has extensive knowledge of medicinal and native plants, and discusses how she has subsisted in Naknek, which includes harvesting berries, plants and herbs from the tundra.

Sarah Wise, Kim Sparks Nakenk, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Wassiliisa "Deedee" Bennis

Wassiliisa (Deedee) lives in Dillingham, Alaska and is the Chief Administrative Officer at Bristol Bay Native Association, where she has worked for over forty years. In this interview Deedee describes how she grew up fishing with her father, who was a commercial fisherman, and how she values family engagement in the fishery.

Kim Sparks , Jean Lee, Christopher Maines Dillingham, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Apayu Moore

Apayu is an artist based out of Aleknagik, Alaska, who grew up subsistence fishing. Apayu recounts her memories of fishing with her father as a child and her return to subsistence fishing after college. Apayu addresses complex questions, such as the meaning of a subsistence lifestyle and what it means to her to be Yup’ik.

Kim Sparks , Christopher Maines Dillingham, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Lindsay Layland

Lindsay Layland is a commercial fisher based in Dillingham, Alaska, and also works as the Deputy Director at United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB).

Anna Lavoie, Jean Lee Dillingham, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Annette Caruso

Annette Caruso is a retired fisherwoman who has participated in both the drift and set net commercial fishery. In this interview Annette talks about environmental changes she’s witnessed, including tundra fires, increased bear activity and increased tundra cotton. She also discusses her personal history in the area, including how her grandparents and mother grew up, as well as how she got started drift netting with her father.

Kim Sparks , Kitty Sopow Naknek, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Joanne Nelson

Joanne Nelson has been a resident of Dillingham, Alaska, since 1952. She wrote Guide to the Birds of Southwest Alaska and has taught courses on home canning and smoking salmon through the Marine Advisory Program.  In this interview Joanne recounts her memories of moving from Idaho to Alaska as a young woman to work in a hand-pack cannery on Nushagak Bay. She also shares some of her knowledge of local medicinal plants and talks about her family’s experiences practicing subsistence.

Anna Lavoie, Jean Lee, Christopher Maines Dillingham, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Esther Ilutsik

Esther Ilutsik is the Director for Yup’ik Studies for the Southwest Region Schools in Dillingham, Alaska. She learned to set net fish as a child and commercial fished throughout her life at her family’s fish camp in Ekuk. In this interview Esther recounts her experiences of fishing with her mother and the social and environmental changes she has observed in Ekuk.

Anna Lavoie, Jean Lee, Christopher Maines Dillingham, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Rhonda Wayner

Rhonda discusses her history in the fishery, environmental changes she's witnessed, as well as family bonds that are created through fishing. This interview is part of the Alaska Native Fisherwomen of Bristol Bay oral history project, a partnership between NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Bristol Bay Native Association.

Kim Sparks Naknek, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries
Rhonda Wayner, Harmony Wayner and Betty Bonin

Betty Bonin (grandmother), Rhonda Wayner (mother) and Harmony Wayner (daughter) represent three generations of Alaska Native fisherwomen in Naknek, Alaska. In this interview, these ladies discuss their family heritage of having strong, female fishers in the family, the physical nature of fishing, and family roles in the fishery. Rhonda participated in a follow-up phone interview where she further discusses her history in the fishery, environmental changes she's witnessed, as well as family bonds that are created through fishing.

Kim Sparks , Kitty Sopow Naknek, AK Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center , Bristol Bay Native Association , NOAA Preserve America Initiative Women in Alaska Fisheries