Sealaska and its partners in the Seacoast Trust gathered last week in Juneau to celebrate meeting the first major fundraising milestone — $20 million — for the newly created trust.
In September of 2021, Sealaska and its partners in the Sustainable Southeast Partnership announced the creation of the trust as a long-term, sustainable and sovereign funding vehicle for SSP. Sealaska’s initial $10 million commitment was matched by $7 million from The Nature Conservancy. The SSP team immediately went about fundraising to bring the trust to $20 million to start providing a predictable stream of income to SSP.
Less than a year later, the trust has commitments totaling more than $21 million with the support of institutional donors like the Rasmuson and Edgerton foundations, which each committed $1 million to the trust, and additional contributions from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation and the Chorus Foundation. The Nature Conservancy also added $1 million to its original pledge.
The trust will provide strong financial footing to the SSP, a group in which Sealaska has been heavily involved for nearly a decade. The trust will financially support the ongoing work of the SSP, a robust and engaged network of individuals and organizations working to strengthen cultural, ecological and economic resilience across Southeast Alaska.
“The Seacoast Trust achieves the priorities of our shareholders, who care deeply for the economic sustainability of our traditional communities, where we all come from,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “It is also an avenue for advocating for Native rights and issues, ensuring that our values and traditional knowledge are part of the management plan for the lands and waters that make up our ancestral homelands.”
The Work of SSP
SSP is supporting community-led initiatives to move the region away from ongoing cycles of a boom-and-bust economy that limit the long-term potential of our traditional villages and the region as a whole. The Seacoast Trust will support a range of programs weaving Indigenous values into new approaches for resource management, ecological revitalization and economic development. SSP has been the force behind dozens of impactful programs already underway in our region, including:
- Alaskan Youth Stewards– This program, which is also known as TRAYLS (Training Rural Alaska Youth Leaders and Students) and Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) depending on the community, has built trails, restored graves, harvested and distributed traditional foods, conducted scientific monitoring and many other community-driven activities. The program started in 2017 and has been held in Hoonah, Kake and on Prince of Wales Island. Youth participants receive summer employment and STEM skills training in locally relevant jobs while serving their communities. SSP connects the partners in the program, which include local tribes, the U.S. Forest Service and Sealaska.
- Regional food distributions– SSP was the reason Sealaska was able to quickly mobilize and partner with the Alaska Longline Fisheries Association during the summer of 2020 to distribute 49,000 pounds of salmon to communities throughout Southeast struggling due to the pandemic and poor salmon returns. SSP was also critical to a local food distribution program in Sitka that summer to ensure local children had access to nutritious food during the pandemic.
- Yakutat affordable housing – SSP brought together the City and Borough of Yakutat, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, Tlingit & Haida Regional Housing Authority, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Bank2 and Sitka Construction Services to build $2.8 million in new, high-quality affordable housing in Yakutat, helping to attract young skilled workers to the community and maintain the student population in the public schools needed to ensure adequate funding for all.
- Native forest partnerships — The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership and Keex’ Kwáan Native Forest Partnership bring land managers including Sealaska, village corporations, tribes, the federal government and others together to provide a cohesive management plan driven by Indigenous values.
The Return on Investment
More important than any of these individual efforts (and there are dozens and dozens more stories just like these), the money spent impacts communities in our region in a number of ways:
- For each dollar spent in the region through SSP’s work, there is a multiplier effect of 7:1. (Source: Ecotrust, 2018)
- Within two years, we expect returns on this initial funding for Seacoast Trust to be generating $1 million in support for SSP, which will equate to approximately $7 million in annual impact across the region.
- As our success grows and SSP is able to expand to additional communities, we expect our demonstrated social and financial impact to attract more and more support from funders that will help us reach our ultimate $100 million goal.
Oversight for the Seacoast Trust will be housed within Spruce Root, a Juneau-based nonprofit established with $500,000 in seed money from Sealaska in 2012. Spruce Root provides entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources. The existing Sustainable Southeast Partnership Steering Committee will establish program strategy and set priorities for the trust, make funding recommendations and review program budgets. The Spruce Root Board of Directors will hold fiduciary responsibility for the Seacoast Trust, establish investment and financial return objectives and review funding recommendations made by the SSP Steering Committee.
Sustainable Southeast Partnership is composed of the following partners and organizations.
- Alaska Conservation Foundation
- Alaska Venture Fund
- Allen Marine
- Audubon Alaska
- Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
- First Alaskans Institute
- Hoonah Indian Association
- Klawock Cooperative Association
- Organized Village of Kake
- Organized Village of Kasaan
- Rasmuson Foundation
- Renewable Energy Alaska Project
- Sitka Conservation Society
- Sitka Tribe of Alaska
- The Nature Conservancy
If you’d like to get involved as an individual or on behalf of your tribe, community or other organization, please contact SSP Program Director Ralph Wolfe.