Wade Martin has become one of my best friends here in Sitka, Alaska. I met him on assignment in December, 2014 working on an exhibition for the Sitka Historical Society. The story explored modern traditional marine mammal use from the hunt to the craft (skin sewing). Coastal Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt and use marine mammal fur and parts. Wade is a Chilkat Tlingit. He spends more time on the waters around Sitka than anyone. From his aluminum skiff called the Raven, Wade makes his living from the land. He hunts, fishes, and forages.
On that first uneasy trip, I watched the marine mammals (otters and seals) I have worked in the past to rehab and protect, be hunted and skinned. It was a difficult journey after which I crumbled into the bathtub stunned, cold to the core, tearful and confused. Wade continues to challenge the way I view the world, my understanding of 'sustainability' and my assumptions of how best to 'live with the land'. He shares his place-based knowledge, secrets, and all the idiosyncrasies of a landscape only known to few brave and willing enough to bare the cold. He's also hilarious.
In January that year, we made a deal:
Wade would show me his world for one year. We will harvest, fish, hunt and explore the coasts of Sitka Sound in every season. I will document our trips with photography. In December, I will compile these images and moments and share his story.
This was easily the best deal I've ever made.
Here are some photos from our recent trip to Salisbury Sound and Fish Bay. We harvested black seaweed and gumboots, layed a skate for halibut and spent some time stuck in a cabin, hiding from the wind, chatting and comparing our adventuress.