Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: April 7th, 2022

Talk by SHI President Rosita Worl to be livestreamed

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture next week on the varying methods Native people and governments define who is Indigenous and the ways those policies are increasingly affecting young people.

In the talk, SHI President Rosita Worl will examine the categories by which Native people are identified, including biological, cultural and legal, and the complex ways blood quantum determines eligibility for membership in tribes and governmental benefits.

The topic is particularly important to young people today as current laws on blood quantum made by governments and tribal entities are increasingly disassociating people who identify as Native from their cultures, Worl said.

“Young people who grew up immersed in their culture but who do not meet blood quantum rules are torn because they identify as Native, yet some laws and policies tell them that they are not, which prevents them from participating in programs and tribal elections,” Worl said.

For example, the definition under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) allows only Natives with 1/4 blood quantum or more to hunt or use marine mammals for food or clothing and arts and crafts.

A statewide study commissioned by SHI in 2016, titled Determination of Alaska Native Status under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, found among other things that the proportion of the Alaska Native population becoming ineligible to hunt marine mammals under current agency enforcement policies is rising at an accelerating rate, Worl said.

“The result may be that in some communities, especially around the Gulf of Alaska, there may be few individuals eligible to hunt or utilize marine mammals in the not-too-distant future,” said Worl.

SHI’s mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, but it has not taken a stand on how the issue should be approached, because any decision to maintain the status quo or to advance an alternative eligibility requirement should remain with the Native community, Worl said.

The lecture is scheduled from 12-1:30 pm, Tuesday, April 12, and will stream live on SHI’s YouTube at A question-and-answer session will follow the lecture.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Media and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Hands of a student working with fur from a marine mammal. Photo by Connor Meyer, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute. Note: media outlets are welcome to use this photo for coverage of this story. For a higher-resolution version, contact

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