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 Mudflats.net – 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



42 Responses to “Welcome!”

  1. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    I would like to say Thank You for this blog!

    About me: I am a teacher and I taught in Emmonak 1/08 to 5/08. I saw first hand the people and the village. The people of the villages are like you and me. They live in a land which has bushes but no trees, the ground is frozen from Oct to June. The Yukon River which was 3 feet thick last January. The Yukon River remained frozen through May 22, when I left Emo last spring. THE TEMPERATURE WAS GENERALLY MINUS 15 TO MINUS 30 DEGREES. When it got to be zero, it felt warm. When the wind blew – it was so very, very cold.

    The cost of heating oil for the house was $7.00 a gallon and the gas for snowmobiles was just as high.

    They Yu’pik people are a proud and inventive people. They got caught in a disaster which was not their making.

    Thanks for this site and Thank You to anyone who can help the people who live in the villages.

  2. trish in SW FL Says:

    Jane, thanks for starting this blog! I have been following the situation in those villages, and did send a small donation through Mudflats.

    I am hoping this week’s budget will allow another donation.

  3. anonymousbloggers Says:


    Please add the original post. I’ve spent all day trying to figure out WordPress so I can go back and add all the information in an organized manner. I know you’re pretty busy with all you are doing but would you like administrative privileges here?


    My son’s debate coach, the best teacher ever, left Miami to become an assistant principal in the Lower Kuskokwim School District. From his description and photos, it was clear the houses and streets were different but the kids were the same. His wife wrote about how cold and remote it was. This caught my attention because of them.


    If you’re a regular at Mudflats, could you post links to this blog in the appropriate places?


  4. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Mudflats has new information about the Emmonak and Kotlik meetngs with state officials. Seems the state officials would only meet for one hour and they were late. They gave the community leaders 40 minutes notice about the meeting. The state of Alaska sent noone with fish experience or information. Those sent could say nothing because they had no authority to do so. The usual stuff sounds like to me.

    Anything I have written on Margaret and Helens blog can be brought over here too.

  5. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Dismal economic news regarding the Bush years:

    Sadly, a lot of people got caught up in the economic mess created by Cheney/Bush.

    Those who are the margins got hit the worst. Just before I left Emmonak, it was about 10 below zero and I saw a little lady come out of what I thought was a net shed. THAT WAS AN OUTHOUSE FOR 3 HOMES. I was told by villagers about no water, no toilet etc, but when I saw that elderly lady coming out of the outhouse – it made me realize what I had been told about. I lived in an apartment with water, heat, shower but super cold outside.

  6. AnnΔ Says:

    Hi Jane, just to let you know that I am visiting. I have a link from Alaska Pi over at the other blog that has 501k charities that do funnel aid to yukon delta,and that would be useful for people who wish to get credit for charitable contributions.I will go retrieve it…later

  7. AnnΔ Says:

    contact http://www.nativefederation.org/ to find out about charitable organizations that give aid. Thats it! have not studied it…

  8. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    AnnΔ- there you are neighbor.Thank you for all you do.

  9. AnnΔ Says:

    Hey Alaska PI. I visited the link and it made my computer get a little stuck. Also I have not found anything that I thought fed into the Yukon Delta. ..this was more like native affairs in general . I f we can get something a bit more specific I can contact the man with the Charitable Trust. Then maybe we send out emails to all our contacts and ask for donations etc.to that organization and it would be tax deductable. OH! what if you or an emissary contacts the native federation and see if they can set up a special account for charitable donations for starving, freezing native alaskans.Who will do this?

  10. Alaska Pi Δ Says:


    You sound like me with a computer! Dang things do stuff for me that they never do for others.
    I have a couple feelers out to try to find a charitable org here. Try
    Ms Kong @


    She may have some outfit ready at hand. I think she has been buried by emails as I have had a hard time reaching her. I was hoping AFN had an easy contact…

    Try –

    http://www.aitc.org/ too.

  11. AnnΔ Says:

    thanks will do

  12. AnnΔ Says:

    I visited the second link you(AP) supplied.I took it to Alaska Native Health Tribal Consortium. A good charitable org. adressing such things as Suicide prevention, improved medical care_cancer etc. and improving village conditions such as getting running water . I need to review it more. Go to Ms Kong later too. When I find one that I think is closest to the type of aid we are into I will come back with more info. Nothing so far addresses the immediate problem but there are so many deficits in village life we can only do good by any avenue we take . I would like to see if we could perhaps unify around one charity, promote it for a while wth letters to our respective friends who we could not interest in buying food….I am in my comfort zone; do not know much about politics but am a 2nd generation fund raiser. It is in the genes. Missing Greytdog and Troutay is missing you Alaska Pi. Ann

  13. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    AnnΔ –
    Thank you neighbor!
    I remember your mention of fund-raising work from a thread at M&H’s.
    I do not know doodly-squat about that kind of stuff but saw mention of that Consortium. I hope my finger pointed in a good direction this time.

    Missing ALL those voices too…
    Where IS Greytdog?

    troutay popped in to say hi…

    We’ll see what work we can get done.
    I’m doing a lot of thinking right now…
    need sort out some things.

  14. AnnΔ Says:

    Got mail from Kim Murphy at the LAtime that the Alaska Federation of Natives has set up a fund for the villages. I will give the details tomorrow. Then I wil draft and post a letter that anyone can use to send to anyone they choose. We need to get folks allover the USA. I could then go back to Margaret and Helen with it… instruct to come here for the Letter…or write your own. That”s my plan…..Night all

  15. anonymousbloggers Says:


    That’s fantastic!!

    Please ask Kim to send the contact info so we can add it to our “how to help” page.

    We’ll figure out how to do anything that helps as far as posting letters, etc.


  16. Apparently Ann Coulter’s feet are as big as an Emu’s « Margaret and Helen Says:

    […] village called Emmonak.  It is located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and some people who live there need our attention.  Who knew?  You learn something new everyday… and really isn’t that the […]

  17. AnnΔ Says:

    “The Alaska Federation of Natives , a very reputable long established organization in Anchorage,has set up a relief fund to help all rural Alaskan villages suffering from the fuel price and fishing crisis. They have dedicated a bank account that is being used strictly for this situation. If you have questions about AFN’s program you can speak directly to Gladys Charles, who is co-ordinating the fund collection. Her # in Anchorage is (907) 274-3611. Checks should be made payable to AFN/Village Relief Fund and mailed to Gladys Charles. Alaskan Federation of Natives. 1577 C Street-suite 300. Anchorage, Ak. 99501

  18. AnnΔ Says:

    Later today I will begin work on an intro and a conclusion but this is the contact info. you requested. Someone else here can format it. We will send it as an email to everyone on our lists with a request to forward. It might travel far and wide and have some good results. All the best, AnnΔ

  19. AnnΔ Says:

    Hey- Helen said it is ok to mention the rural Alaskans- new post. I wrote the contact info. Everyone here needs to write in an enthusiastic not attacking way a reminder to donate tax deductable $ to the Relief fund.Juneau Joe I know you can make a GREAT Appeal 1 more time! BTW- what an awful experience for your daughter ,victims and families.

  20. AnnΔ Says:

    Induce a little guilt if possible!!!our comfortable lives , or our struggles are small compared to theirs…every little bit could help save a child, or an elder from freezing etc.

  21. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    hehehe, indeed, my friend.
    Good work!

    hi-ho, hi-ho-!
    It’s off to work we go…

    Somebody be sure and tell Proud this is a new kind of phone tree. We are not quite sure how to run the dang thing yet , but here we go!

  22. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Morning folks,

    Like the new place here. Alaska Pi – get your snow shoveled?

    Have a good day all.

  23. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    I will work on some comments this evening – got to get to school.

  24. AnnΔ Says:

    Juneau Joe- even the plastic bag comment was great!Hi Ho hi Ho back at you Alaska Pi. I get emails from Michael Moore . i can dig it out of the trash and write him about Starving and Freezing in Alaska. He might like this!

  25. AnnΔ Says:

    So I just wrote to Michael Moore… I hope he makes a movie about this and smashes the Gov. !!! Horse time now – Ann

  26. anonymousbloggers Says:

    This may bring relief in the future…

    State ready to build village wind farms Y-K DELTA: Villagers say proposal could ease runaway energy bills.

    Last week the state proposed spending $14 million to erect wind farms in six villages on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, including Kongiganak. It’s part of a plan for spending $100 million on renewable energy around Alaska to reduce consumption of expensive diesel fuel and bring down local electric bills.


    But they still have to make it through this year…

    State says it can’t declare Emmonak disaster. At least not yet.

    They’re looking to put the focus on existing aid programs – like public assistance, or federal subsidies for heating bills – before they propose any new form of help.

    The explanation from the state continues to be that there was no natural disaster to wipe out food or fuel supplies, and that families’ average incomes are too high to qualify for an economic disaster.


  27. AnnΔ Says:

    I am down with windmills! Jane!I realized that Helen included a link to your blog , also that it is beautifully written…could you write up the email letter requesting funds and use the story of the anonymous bloggers etc? In my vision we include a few good links so people can learn more. And of course a request for them to forward it to Everyone. I do not think we have a motivated group at Helen’s for this right now . But we could easily have emails going all over. Also Michael Moores mailbox was full! Have to try again. I have a cold and must rest….Ann

  28. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Looks like we made it to the wires!!


  29. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Yee haw!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Good work folks!!!!

    Progress is a slow thing. Kind of like watching paint dry.

  31. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Someone who joined our Facebook group is getting her office involved. They are going to work with a specific family so my daughter will send them details from the list Ann sent to her.

    They would also like to donate money for fuel. Does anybody know if this can be done?


  32. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Money for fuel to Nunam Iqua can go to City of Nunam… in CHECK form ONLY as they have no other way to process funds.
    Fuel contributions to Emmonak can go to city by other routes.
    Need to track AnnΔ ‘s posts through here and see if we know enough about AFN’s charitable arm.

  33. Lynn in DC Says:

    Hi All-
    I am the person Jane mentioned that is getting my office involved. I found out about the Facebook group through Margaret and Helen’s site. Jane told me about this blog – I will follow your discussions and send what we can.

    I am located near Washington DC – let me know if there is anything that I can do from my particular geographic location. I have spread the word to all my Facebook friends and will have food packages going out starting Monday. I have no idea how long the mail will take so maybe we can track it.

    My family is Ojibwe from norther MN and will do what I can to help my distant “cousins.”
    Take Care,

  34. Kath Says:

    BTW, I was worried about the baby formula. Sent a letter with my packages with the comment:

    “I picked up the baby formula at Sam’s Club. Had checked at that AK Span shipping place, but couldn’t find baby formula for sale there. Problem though, I tried to get Simulac Advanced powder [which was requested] but they only offered 3 types. The one Simulac was “organic” plus Enfamil, both were double the price $32 each for 2lb can, vs the “Sam’s Membership” brand 3lb can @ $20. I asked a young father walking by with his infant, (I’ve never bought formula before) and he checked over all the ingredients and decided that Sam’s Brand was probably the best way to go, since it had the same ingredients/nutrients. Sorry it’s a different brand, but hopefully the babies can acclimate. I tried my best!”

    Ann responded:
    “And don’t worry about it being the generic brand babies here adjust easily from one to another as it is hard to keep them on one kind when the stores are running low. …”

    So, if anyone’s buying baby formula – just giving the head’s up. 3-lbs vs 2-lbs, I’m sticking to sending the Generic myself.

  35. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Welcome Kath

    That’s good to know about the baby formula.

    It’s been pointed out here that SPAN Alaska is more expensive than other means of shipping. JB Bush, a freight expediter, will purchase items at Sam’s Club and BJs in Anchorage and ship them to the villages for about 17% above the purchase price plus shipping.

    Contact info is here:


    Thanks for your help!

  36. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Hi folks, I hope all are doing well. I will send a check off to Nunam today.

    Alaska Pi – we got over a foot of snow in Douglas. They said 2 or 3 inches.

    I have to go shovel. The plow left a 3 foot berm as well as the over a foot of snow. I am learning to snowboard so I will hit the mountain today. At least with new snow, when I fall, it is a softer face plant

  37. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    ROFL.. “a softer face plant” Made me think of funniest videos or comparible show where they show sports disasters!! BE CAREFUL we would miss you if you couldn’t post due to a snowboarding incident (KNOCK ON WOOD!!!)

  38. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Welcome Lynn-

    Thanks for helping spread the word!

    I mailed two flat rate boxes last Monday and they got there on Thursday. I’ve asked Ann to send an updated list but haven’t heard from her yet.

    Too bad you can’t round up a bunch of people and protest outside the Alfalfa dinner tonight.


  39. Kath Says:

    Nice folks! I’m too chicken to do Facebook, but I finally found myself here. I usually have been checking out Mudflats. My USPS flatrate boxes hit yesterday. Seattle to Nunam Iqua, pretty exciting that it only took 3 days delivery, not the 1-2 weeks people said it might. Sent baby formula/beans/spices type stuff. Yes, I did do the Paypal to get Dennis Zaki and the fuel funds, too, a couple weeks ago.

    Today Ann forwarded an email request from a Seattle Times Reporter who said he was doing a story on this, he was wondering who has been shipping from Seattle. Ann’s very careful to keep people’s privacy (much appreciated). Gave him my thoughts via email return, we’ll see if it helps.

    Gratefully, the outside News Services are beginning to pick up on the stories before it becomes another Katrina-like event. In the meantime, we Anonymous Bloggers can keep shipping boxes! Unlike Katrina, the USPS can still get the food there for us.

  40. Lynn in DC Says:

    Wow – CNN!
    Word is really getting out. Hope the help is coming in.


  41. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    Hi trying my new name

  42. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:

    Loud and clear Secret TalkerΔ !

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: