Fishing at Karluk: Nature, Technology, and the Creation of the Karluk Reservation in Territorial Alaska
Fishing gear is indisputably central to the act of fishing, yet its importance to the history of commercial salmon fishing has been neglected. This thesis investigates the manifold ways that Native and white fishermen, canners, and federal bureaucrats utilized the beach seine and purse seine to construct the salmon fishery. Using the creation of the Karluk Reservation in 1943 as a case study, this thesis shows how people used fishing technologies to assert control over the unwieldy environment and the humans within it. Fishermen converted the land and water into a technological instrument to make it more amenable to salmon fishing. The improved fishing grounds became racially and technologically exclusive spaces, which inhibited the ability of Karluk villagers, Alutiiq Natives that beach seined for the Alaska Packers Association, to make an adequate living. A lack of ownership of fishing gear and vessels, federal fishing regulations, and increased competition from purse seiners further limited the potential profits of the villagers. This case study demonstrates that fishing technologies are at the core of many of the perennial conflicts within the commercial salmon fishery.