Archive for January, 2009

We are making a difference!

January 30, 2009

Jan 30, 2009

This is a message from AnnS, who brought the crisis in rural Alaska to our attention over at Margaret and Helen’s blog. She left it on The Mudflats, a blog dedicated to “Tiptoeing Through the Muck of Alaskan Politics.”

Read the back story.


Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua (02:12:47) :

We distributed over 700 pounds of food today here in Nunam Iqua. The Emmonak Traditional Council sent down 600 lbs of food for our village today.  Additionally we received over 100 lbs of food in the mail.  It came from:

Seattle, WA
Miami, FL
and Wahpeton ND

It was a wonderful day! We gave food to 30 families! It took me and my  cousins and aunt 4 hours to sort, inventory, and fill boxes and deliver them to those who couldn’t come and get them. I am on a food drive high right now. I am so proud of all of you  for making it possible for us to help my village.

CNN is picking up the story.  They have spoken to Nicholas Tucker in Emmonak and I received a request for an interview!

Is it possible for first Americans to maintain their traditions in modern Alaska?

January 26, 2009

Jan 26, 2009

I think we all have realized there’s a great divide between urban and rural Alaska, physically, culturally and politically. Sadly the urban dwellers resent the money rural Alaskans receive to subsidize the high cost of fuel and food outside the cities. We’ve seen it in negative comments toward rural Alaskans in blogs following this situation.

A reader sent a note that she called an oversimplified example of the real problem:

“It is the one-size-fits-all way Americans have come to run their affairs in terms of ideas. An oversimplified example is that we-cannot-afford-to-run-roads-there-so-why-don’t-you-people-just-move-near-a-road. Cementing connections between regionally sensible approaches (ferries, bits of road, barges, rail, air) to transportation gets talked about some but mostly gets shouted down by the one-sizers.“

I find it sad that people are expected to leave their native land and ancient customs and adapt to urban ways. Those who choose to leave the villages should be welcomed and given the opportunities all Americans enjoy but we should also support those who prefer remaining in their villages and keeping native traditions alive.

The Yupik people are struggling this winter because our urban ways have drawn them too far from their traditional ways of life. We must fight for the subsidies they need to survive this winter and beyond but also fight for government assistance to maintain the chosen tradition of subsistance living for those who are striving to keep their life skills alive. These skills, for the most part, are being lost but could be reintroduced via a school system that addresses local needs. It’s a long shot.

This could be a pilot program:

What Kids Can Do

This is a  a perfect world setting, a village within a wildlife refuge where resources haven’t been plundered as they have in other villages where over-hunting and over-fishing have taken their toll, but it might be an idea worth pursuing.

Feedback welcome!

Word is starting to get out

January 25, 2009

Student parking in Emmonak - photo courtesy JuneauJoe

Student parking in Emmonak - photo courtesy JuneauJoe

Jan 25, 2009

Visit JuneauJoe’s January ’08 archive to get a feel for how cold it is.

Finally, something in the main stream media…

Kim Murphy has a piece in today’s LA Times with yet another example of the hardships rural Alaskans are going through this winter.

She writes of a 61-year-old woman in the village of Tuluksak who had run out of wood , fuel oil and money. She also had very little food. It was not until three days later that neighbors learned of her troubles and used what little gas they had to haul wood to her home. They offered what little food they could spare but nobody has more than just enough.

I wrote a letter to the editor asking that they do follow up stories about other villages that are also struggling and about how we are helping Ann’s village. Also about how we’re sending flat rate boxes and donating through SPAN Alaska. Maybe if Kim Murphy sees the letter she can put SPAN Alaska in touch with someone in Tuluksak.

In the mean time write a letter to the LA Times thanking them for running the story and encourage them to follow up with more coverage and ways people can help.

If you have a bulletin board or break room at work and would like to post a flyer, I have one posted. Feel free to edit the DOC or simply print the PDF.

If you visit other blogs that are talking about this, please ask them to post or send any information they have to us so we have all the information people need to get involved. Thanks!


January 23, 2009

Jan 23, 2009

This started in Helen’s parlor. I’ve never met Helen personally and don’t know much about her. I know she’s 82 years old, lives in Texas and has a potty mouth. She speaks her mind and puts into words what most of us have been thinking for the past few years but haven’t bothered to speak up about.

She and Margaret have been best friends for more than sixty years. Margaret lives in Maine and keeping in touch had always been by phone and mail until Helen’s grandson, Matthew, set up a blog for them to chat back and forth with.

It was a quiet little blog until the defining moment when Helen posted “Sarah Palin is a Bitch… there I said it.”

It was a featured blog on WordPress that day and the phenomena began. Here someone was saying what the rest of us were thinking and the news shot across cyberspace like a pinball machine on steroids! Hundreds of people left comments – articulate, well thought out comments with capital letters and punctuation, even apostrophes in words that needed them – it was a blog for grownups who watch the news and follow politics more closely. Many grandmothers dropped in.

Helen has kept the posts coming – always well thought out, well written, irreverent, funny and always right on target.

Pretty soon people were talking to each other about Helen’s various posts and, if the conversation lagged, someone would toss out a new topic and these like-minded souls would talk it over.

Every so often someone would post a “George Bush kept us safe” or Obama is a socialist Muslim” type comment and get beaten to a kilobyte by these clever commenters. Many of them keep coming back for more verbal abuse so it’s fun to check in regularly and wade through the comments.

One day someone from Alaska posted a link to a story about a village in their state that was facing a crisis. A bad run of salmon in the summer and an early winter freeze left them choosing between whether to buy food or heating oil.

Since the common thread many blog visitors had was a mutual distaste for Alaska’s governor, several other articles followed and we all wondered why nobody was doing anything about it.

Then one day Ann Strongheart left a post saying it wasn’t only the Emmonak, the village in the first story, it was the whole Yukon Delta that was suffering. She is the director of the village of Nunam Iqua’s youth program and added a personal touch to the crisis. People started making calls, using contacts but still no one in the Alaska governor’s office will acknowledge there’s a problem.

We became aware that many Alaska blogs were already on top of the story – one in particuar, The – and so began this grass roots drive to get food and other donations to Ann’s village. We’ve been sending food, formula, diapers and toilet paper in USPS flat rate boxes or through SPAN Alaska, a company that specializes in shipping food to rural Alaska.

The posts about the situation in Alaska are starting to get lost in the comment section over at Helen’s and Mudflats so I’m hoping this blog will make it easier to post and find information about the situation in Alaska.

Please visit the How to help page and see it you can help in any way. It might take one letter to the right congressman, a contact with a news source that can get the word out or one box of food from everyone who can afford it.

Spread the word! I’ve put a  flyer online that can be posted on bulletin boards and left in break rooms. You can download and edit the DOC file or print the PDF as is.

If we each do a little bit, we’ll make a big difference together.

Thanks in advance,


For more information visit our Facebook group:

Rural Alaskans are forced to choose between freezing and starving