Four More Sitka Women in the Forefront

Beth Short-Rhoads

Fish to Families and Schools

Beth Short-Rhoads

I started Fireweed Dinner Service in 2012 because I believe dinner makes the world a better place. It’s a time to relax and come together with people we love. Dinner sustains us, but not everyone has time to cook. I step in when families are busy, providing delicious meals for people to enjoy around their own dinner table. 

Salmon prepared by Beth Short-Rhoads

Celebration is most felt when the food we eat means something to us personally. Here that is  seafood from local waters, wild berries and produce we’re able to grow in our rainforest gardens. I use a lot of local seafood in Fireweed dinners. It’s harvested by people in my community, providing jobs in Sitka’s economy. It hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get here, giving it a very low carbon footprint. When I serve salmon, rockfish, or halibut, I feel I’m offering the best of what I have to families.

Another thing I’m proud of is our Fish-to-Schools program, which serves locally caught seafood every week in Sitka’s five public schools. We started this program in 2010 in collaboration with the district’s food service program. But the real heroes are the fishermen who donate thousands of pounds of fish every year so that Sitka students can get a great lunch. Our local processors are also key players, processing every pound of fish before it arrives in school kitchens. This is how we work together in Sitka. Instagram: @fireweed.dinners

Coral Pendell

Coral Pendell

Keeping the Boat “in Good Trim”

I grew up in a fishing family, trolling with my parents and sister on a 32-foot troller in the summers. We lived in a float house until I was four, followed by an island house in Sitka’s Eastern Channel. We commuted to town by skiff for work and school. As a fishing family, we’ve been closely connected to the environment and seen firsthand the changes to the environment from climate change. I care deeply for the health and well-being of the local fish stocks, marine ecosystems and habitats.

Sail cover fabricated by Skookum Canvasworks

I’ve worked at Skookum Canvasworks since 2016 and have owned the business for a little over a year. Donna Donohoe operated the business for nearly 30 years prior to the transition, and now works part-time as a fabricator here. We fabricate enclosures and fishing equipment for trollers, seiners, longliners, charter fishermen, subsistence fishermen, family boaters, and motor yachts. We try to meet the needs of the Southeast Alaskan marine community, building long-lasting, beautiful fabric creations. Our projects help support the sustainable fisheries that help our community to thrive.

Ed. note:  “Keeping in trim” is a sailing expression, meaning adjusting the ballast forwards or backwards to achieve an even keel. “Keeping in good trim” is used here as a metaphor for keeping the boat seaworthy and ready-to-go. Of note, Skookum Canvasworks LLC actually does fabricate sailboat equipment, including dodgers, biminis, sail covers, winch covers, sail bags & anchor covers. Located at 1315 Sawmill Creek Rd., Sitka. (907) 747-5100.

Renee Trafton

Renee Trafton

Unconventional Taste of Southeast Alaska

My name is Renee Jakaitis Trafton. I am the Chef-Owner of Beak Restaurant in Sitka. We opened in 2017.  At Beak Restaurant, we are committed to community engagement and high-quality local seafood with excellent service.  We cultivate the local economy by creating sustainable year-round jobs in Sitka and by serving Alaskan-sourced food.

Renee Trafton (right) with Eric Jordan and king salmon, June 2021.

Beak Restaurant is pioneering the unconventional ‘Gratuity Free’ model of compensation, which means that all menu prices will include service, and there will be no tipping.  This model ensures a consistent living wage for our full-time employees, and also benefits the guest.  Even though prices will initially appear higher to the guest, they represent more accurately the final “cost” of the meal, resulting in an honest valuation of our precious resource.

Most of the boats that call Sitka home are smaller vessels which purposely follow sustainable fishing practices. For me, it’s very special to know exactly who caught the fish I’m serving. For the fishermen, they like to know where their fish end up and that they are treated with respect.  

Ed. note:  “Beak” in the name of this restaurant actually refers to part of an octopus. The octopus is a cephalopod, which means ‘head foot’ in Greek. All cephalopods have a two-part beak located in their mouth parts and surrounded by head appendages. The beak functions in a scissor-like fashion and is also known as jaws or mandibles. Beak Restaurant is located at #2 Lincoln St., Sitka. (907) 966-2326.

Louise Brady

Louise Brady

Protecting the Foundation of Life and Home

I am from the Tlingit Nation. I am Kiks.adi of Sheet’ka Kwaan, from the Point House, X’aaka Hit. I am one of the Herring Protectors.

Aatlein Gunalchéesh to you all for your support with the Board of Fish. Thank you for honoring the herring with your written comments, your testimony and your acts of community. The BOF is a complicated process that is difficult to navigate. It is inaccessible for many. But despite that, people showed up and there were powerful words spoken..

Herring eggs (photo by Tommy Gee) from Herring Protectors FB page.

The proposals that would have been devastating to our subsistence rights were withdrawn (159, 160, 161). In exchange, the three Sitka Tribe of Alaska proposals to make the sac-roe management model more conservative were also withdrawn (156, 157, 158). All of the other commercial herring proposals failed.

This outcome is a win for Sitka Tribe of Alaska. For decades, tribal citizens and staff have stood strong against the sac roe and fish meal industry that threatens our way of life and our right to harvest herring eggs. Many of us were disappointed by the limits of what was possible. We take comfort from a respected elder who told us in no uncertain terms that the outcome would have been much different without us.

Our eyes are on the water as we wait for the herring to spawn. Our hands and hearts are at work preparing for the Yaaw Koo.eex’. There is more to be done to protect the herring. Yee gu.aa yáxh x’wán! Be of brave heart!  From March 3/14/22 Facebook post.