Frederick Olsen Jr. testifying last November urging the U.S. Forest Service to keep the Roadless Rule intact. Olsen has been tapped to lead the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission. (File photo by Ari Snider/KCAW)

The head of a tribal consortium tasked with tackling transboundary issues is retiring. Tis Peterman of Wrangell had led the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission since 2017.

I’ve worked projects all my life and now I just decided it’s time to take time for myself,” she said Tuesday.

The commission was formed by Southeast Alaska tribes concerned over environmental threats from transboundary mining.

Peterman says tribes living along Canada’s southern boundary with the Lower 48 have similar worries.

Now we are focusing on adding tribes and First Nations across Idaho and Montana borders,” she said.

A few months after the commission was formed in 2014, a massive tailings dam failed at the Mount Polley Mine, spilling mine waste into a lake in British Columbia.

Incoming Executive Director Frederick Olsen Jr. says while the Mount Polley Mine Disaster has become a poster child to the potential dangers of B.C.’s mining sector, there are larger active mines that feed into Alaska’s rivers and salmon habitat.

“Everybody already knows about Mount Polley,” Olsen said. “That’s just a minuscule little blip on the map compared to Red Chris Mine, which is operating in the Stikine River watershed right now.”

The Red Chris Mine has tailings holding back mine waste upstream of the Stikine River that flows into Southeast Alaska in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Garth Lenz)

The commission is organizing its third summit to bring tribes living on both sides of the border to work together for common cause.

There’s a lot more transboundary issues than mining,” he said, “there’s also the cruise ship waste, there’s oil tankers; there’s murdered and missing indigenous women, on and on.”

Olsen, who lives in Sitka, had previously worked for a year as SEITC’s outreach coordinator. He was also the commission’s board chair from 2015 to 2018.

Editor’s Note: Olsen is a current volunteer at Raven Radio