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


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!


64 Responses to “Is it possible for first Americans to maintain their traditions in modern Alaska?”

  1. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Village People: Most of the elderly, actually, 40 and over crowd, speak Yu’pik. They have lived their whole lives in a village. A big city for many would be Bethel. You cannot expect these people who know everyone and have helped everyone to suddenly pick up and move to a city. They would not do well. City life is so different than village life. City life is not a better life either. especially for someone who has never lived in a city.

    I was in Emmonak for 5 months and did not leave. I then flew to Anchorage, rented a car and went to Costco and Fred Meyer. I was on overload and could not get out of the city fast enough. There were more people in either store than in the whole village of Emmonak. I drove for hours until I was away from everyone. My whole life has been in cities so I am historically a city person.

    In Anchorage, I also noted lots of people asking for money on the streets. Quite often they were native. You look at newscasts in Alaska, there are no natives. I do not have TV now so there might be a native on TV in Juneau but I doubt it. In Anchorage, I saw none when I turned on the TV the 2 nights I was there. I get the feeling of prejudice against natives in the year I have been in Alaska. Generally, when he Gov talks about doing something good for Alaska, I feel she is finding ways to make money for whites. Making that money often requires ruining the environment which natives need to live their lives.

    I feel that whites are a privileged class in AK actually. I grew up with Puyallup Indians and over time, I have come to conclude that the Indians looked at life a bit differently and whites take advantage of that fact. The Indians that I knew felt it was disrespectful to look a person in the eyes. The white man feels it is a weak person who cannot look another in the eye. Disadvantage to the natives.

    ME – crazy Sunday! I am back at work today and appreciate that. My 22 year old daughter was at a quiet bar in Portland, OR when a man opened fire and shot 9 people in a random shooting spree. The gunman ran by her and moved her aside as he went back to the kitchen to shoot more people. She had no idea, he had just shot people or that he was going to shoot more as he raced by. Yesterday was kind of a surreal day for me,after I got that call. She and her friends are fine.

    Life is an amazing thing and I am lucky. 9 other families are suffering because of the lack of mental health of one person. 2 of those shot were killed. The shooter shot himself in the head but is still alive.

    I guess I am learning to appreciate what you have and the people around you . We all hang onto what we cherish by a thread – it could be taken away at any time,

    Emmonak and the villages live their lives on a thread. This year, the thread is very, very thin, They have lived a silent, proud life. As people learn about and experience the lives they lead, you would admire them. I know I sure do.

  2. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Here is an article about the shooting. I am still a bit rattled by the whole thing. The shooter was a good student, good citizen, no criminal record and just lost his job. He shot 9 people.

  3. anonymousbloggers Says:

    If it were me, I’d have nightmares for the rest of my life.

    It’s tragic in itself but also so sad that some of the victims were exchange students who were working toward global understanding.

  4. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Here’s another way to help, scooped up from Anna on Margaret & Helen’s – she’s been doing her homework! Go Anna!

    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 the 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. AFN. 1577 C st. Suite 300 Anchorage, Alaska 99501

  5. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    It has taken a couple days to get some kind of perspective about all those folks who can’t hold their pie over at M & H’s. Thank heavens Helen passed out barf bags- Whew! We’ll see what Granma Katie gets done about getting folks to do their part to cleanup…

    Been shovelling a lot of snow, partly because we got a fresh gob and partly because it’s a great way to work through ideas…

    A couple of those voices , used “eskimo” like a swear word. Probably unthinking, but who knows.
    Here it is a perjorative- equivalent to the n-word , used the way it was.
    Dehumanizing, objectifying, belittling…

    JuneauJoe has spoken over and over about the UTTER humanity of the folks he lived and worked with in Emmonak.

    Humanized, personalized, standing tall – accepted as part of the whole human family, first americans , here Alaska Natives, are readily readable.

    The questions posed by this post become readily accessible by what folks know about THEMselves, if they are honest with themselves.

    ( Remember the big push by the Republican Party when someone there “discovered” there were conservative African Americans…? Conservative HUMANs occur at similar statistical rates across gender and race and those folks had never caught on til recently…?)

    It is hard to tell whether the folks who are native in the Yukon-Delta , or anywhere in rural Alaska, will be able to maintain a lifestyle closely patterned on traditional ways. It’s already changed a great deal – some good, a lot not.

    But those folks deserve the recognition that it is THEIR choice to make- what to keep, what to leave behind.

    The negative DEhumanized attitude about natives is rampant here in Alaska. Everyone is full of a list of negative stories which they then propose to accept as a full report on the-attributes-of-the-alaska-native.
    Drunk, lazy, wasteful of money, yada, yada- the whole run of insults, NOT facts, pointed at every marginalized group in America and the world.

    The failures of spirit evident in high suicide rates, and so on, are human and sadly, fully in context with current surroundings.

    Any urban dweller who goes down to the “wrong side of the creek’ or whatever you call it in cities can touch the despair some folks live in in the Yukon-Delta.

    Anyone who can find some of the works addressing refugee-ism after WWII – (Erik Ericson’s Insight and Responsibility- for one ) will stand for a moment in the shoes of a neighbor in Y-D-,feet on ground shifting just enough to keep the horizon a bit unsteady.
    In the shape of a 6months-too-late-and-far-too-many-dollars-short dressing down , read carefully what Emmonak elders told those people HIRED to look out for the interests of ALL Alaskans when those people finally did show up to see if there was anything they needed to be concerned about …

    The elders spoke up like EVERY other American group who has a beef with the government and demanded action.

    IF people choose to deny humanity to all the villagers, first american or no, in the Yukon-Delta and the rest of rural Alaska they don’t have to take responsibility for ignoring the underlying causes- natural, economic, and political which created this situation.

    Easy, too easy, happens all the time, everywhere.

    Not acceptable, not anytime.
    Not anywhere.

    This one I can help with some, til my neighbors can pick their own paths back up again.

  6. howlgirl Says:

    thanks for letting me know about your blog. i’ve added a link from howlstudios – let me know if there are any other links you’d like me to post.


  7. AnnΔ Says:

    Hi I wrote some ideas on the post from yesterday. I got lost on the blog. I love this post- really great. I want to add: I have cautiously brought the subject of helping rural Alaskans into the conversation with people I thought were liberal, new agey, and cool. I was shocked by the selfish response which I would sum up as ; these people choose to live there, they always have so they should be used to it. Why do they need fuel? Don’t they burn fat?Why do they use pampers ?What did they used to do? etc. I could use some answers about the integration of modern elements into lifestyle. An elderly lawyer (80+) was wanting to help and DID NOT ask any lawyerly questions.He responded as a generous human. Sure surprised me!

  8. AnnΔ Says:

    Welcome TashaRose! Mornin” Alaska Pi….I know we will get organized any day now…brain goes So fast my feet cannot keep up!

  9. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    AnnΔ –
    Working on answers to the kind of questions you are getting. Trying to hurry but got awfully scattered for a few days…

  10. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Oh… AnnΔ
    don’t forget our WHOLE culture is now permeated by distorted notions of personal responsibility.
    It is also permeated with weird notions that some “side” or other has all the answers. We have lived too long in a barrage of opinions and attitudes being held up as FACTS for a lot of folks to sort out the relationship between fact and theory…
    Is why I kept/keep asking ” what is going on in your neighborhood?”

  11. AnnΔ Says:

    A little off but About Me! I am 100% Ashkenazi Jew, my tribe is Yisroel(we lost our identity whn Babylonia took us)We have 2 other tribes- Cohen who are descended from MosheRabbenu(Moses). Leivi(who are descended from Aaron the brother of Moshe) We have maintained our books and beliefs and customs,sometimes at great cost.It can be done.The other geographical group is the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim were most recently(few centuries)exiled in Europe while the Sephardim were around the Mediterranian,N. Africa, Morrocco. We have certain genetic illnesses and predispositions because we are an ancient people- breast cancer is 1 I learned about last night.We have been kicked out of every country we settled in.If I cannot get out of here when the time comes I plan to go to Rural Alaska- laughing with earnest paranoia!

  12. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Your story is EXACTLY the kind of human connection necessary to standing in someone else’s shoes to the point of translating one’s own experience into something beyond one’s self…
    I hired an old fart at the hardware store a few years ago who is Cohen…
    He doesn’t hear well anymore and we all have to yell at him these days but , boy, can he tell stories. The stories help knit us all together.

  13. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Alaska Pi

    When our family moved from a small town in Indiana to Miami in 1963 the Cuban migration was just beginning. When I started fourth grade that year there were two Cuban boys in my class. Neither of them spoke English at the beginning of the year but an hour of special English lessons with other Cuban kids everyday had them all speaking English by the end of the year.

    Now kids from all over Latin America flood our schools. They don’t have to acclimate because Miami is a Latin outpost. Native English speakers are a minority and there’s a lot of resentment from some of them who can’t accept the change but most have just moved away. I think North Carolina is the new Miami.

    Most of this has been possible because a couple of very powerful, politically connected Cuban families let their country be taken from them so they set up shop here. You wouldn’t believe how corrupt our local government has become!

    Maybe this is why George Bush bought the land in Paraguay — he plans to destroy another country.

    PS If you meet up with anybody who went to public school in Miami in the ‘60s you can have a great conversation about albondigas and pappas fritas – everyone still remembers it!

  14. anonymousbloggers Says:


    Thanks for the history lesson. I don’t go to church and when I have to go to a wedding or a funeral in a church I feel a little uncomfortable.

    I always feel comfortable in synagogues — I can’t explain it — maybe it is the long history and the traditions that have survived in spite of the rest of the world.

    I think I was Jewish in a previous life.

  15. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Looks like we made it to the wires!!,0,917763.story

  16. AnnΔ Says:

    Happy to see that we made the wires. Have been thinking about the tension between assimilation and maintaining identity.It is a tough balancing act for all people; there always needs to be a group that holds the memories for those that leave and get lost ,diluted and want to come back. The folks living on the subsistance level probably hold the key to the survival of the culture.Assimilation was used by the Greeks as a way to subjugate the people they conquered…so We call the people Rural Alaskans because they are citizens of the USA,but they keep up Tribal culture. So this could be like Italian Americans but when we say Native Americans it seems to imply disposessed rather than immigrant and so we have a unique category of people that are not part of The Melting Pot – coming to America package. Never thought about it before….very special group. Just thinking and typing…typing and thinking,, before settling down to something more concrete.

  17. AnnΔ Says:

    Oh and Jane- I think you were probably Jewish somewhere too!

  18. AnnΔ Says:

    Hello to Mr Cohen from Chana Rifka in Florida! Abey gezhunt? If you were closer I’d have you over for Shabbos! I make a super lukshen Kugel.

  19. AnnΔ Says:

    Jane _ mudflats has a message that Nunam Iqua received alot of food today700lbs…some from Miami!!

  20. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:

    Holy Cow,

    I can’t hardly keep up with y’all in here. I just today figured out y’all are posting on several different threads and that I need to check all of them.

    On top of that in the past what has it been two weeks?? I have received and answered nearly 250 emails. Wow the power of the internet!!

    Now I know to read all the threads LOL

    Ann S.

  21. anonymousbloggers Says:


    I guess we take our high-speed Internet connections for granted and post all over the place because we get e-mail notifications.

    I know you were overwhelmed by them at M & H but we don’t have nearly the traffic. You might try subscribing again and see how it goes.

    Thanks for catching up with us.

    Is there anything you need more urgently than anything else? How’s the toilet paper situation?

    Let us know,

  22. Elsie Says:

    Interesting article found at

    The same situation of a bad salmon harvest in Western Alaska TEN YEARS AGO, under a different governor, led to a declaration of disaster there.

    “Fishing crisis grips western Alaska”
    BY SUSAN KIM | WESTERN ALASKA | August 12, 1998

    “Fishermen in 11 Alaskan fishing villages at the mouth of the Yukon River usually harvest 105,000 king salmon annually. This year, they were able to bring in only 36,000, largely due to unusually warm sea water caused by El Nino.

    “The average annual income for a family in that region is usually $12,000. This year it was only $2,000.

    “Sobering statistics — and serious enough for Governor Tony Knowles, on July 30, to declare western Alaska a disaster area….”

    “Poor salmon runs for two consecutive years have left many families in the Yukon and across the rest of western Alaska without stores of food, and without cash for gas, utilities, infant formula, and other life necessities…Fishermen, cannery workers, bookkeepers, distributors, buyers, village elders, and the young are all wondering how they will survive when the weather turns cold.”

    The article states that Nicholas Tucker was coordinator of Project Survival, a suicide prevention program in the Yukon village of Emmonak. After hearing a young mother’s desperate plea for help because she was out of baby formula, food, and cash, Nick managed to locate enough help for the village that a DC-6 arrived in 24 hours with two weeks’ worth of donated baby food and baby formula.

    So these are obviously on-going issues of grave importance. Lots more to read and consider at that link.


  23. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Elsie – Alaska Pi calls you a diplomat – I call you a scholar / researcher extraordinaire! I also do a lot of research on the Internet, but you have me topped!

    This is great info, as well as the meeting of the Denali Commission in Feb. How do we get this out? We need to get this to CNN in case they can cover some of these points with the upcoming article- such as NOTHING being done at the state level whatsoever (very little acknowledgment) The state Rural Adviser position isn’t even filled yet (open since Oct).

    I wonder how political dear Ann might want to become? She’s a busy bee already.

  24. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    Martha you already know my politics experience or lack there of!! But I will try to remember to bring this to CNN’s attention.

    Maybe I’ll email the CNN reporter the link to here, assuming she already doesn’t have it. ;-)

    Ann S. :-D

  25. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Hi Ann! Do you know when the interview is? I have some links I’d like to organize and send you that you could pass on. Unfortunately I won’t be able to finish today, but tomorrow I can. Busy day here with business year end paperwork and all kinds of deadlines.

    So happy to hear you are busy with food! Will send more ziploks and plastic bags stuffed into my next box!

  26. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    The interview is via email. I emailed CNN some information last night but officially haven’t started the actual “INTERVIEW” yet. So email AWAY!! I will include them ;-)

    Ann :-D

  27. Elsie Says:



    Do the village leaders know this?
    Are they following this?
    Is the Alaska Federation of Natives following these developments?


    Appropriations committee directs $2.8 billion to tribal economic recovery
    Number falls short of expectations
    By Rob Capriccioso
    Jan 30, 2009

    WASHINGTON – Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., announced Jan. 27 that his and other senators’ calls to include investments toward Indian country economic recovery are reflected in legislation approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    In a press release, Dorgan said the goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are to create jobs and invest in national infrastructure. To specifically address these concerns in Indian country, the bill includes more than $2.8 billion in improvements for Indian health care, education, roads and bridges, water, public safety and housing.

    “Nowhere in this nation are jobs and construction improvements more needed than on American Indian reservations,” Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and member of the appropriations committee that approved the legislation, said. “Tribal communities suffer 50 percent unemployment rates and longstanding construction needs.”

    The bill’s overall price tag stands at $825 billion and will soon be voted on by the full Senate. On Jan. 28 the House of Representatives passed an $819 billion economic stimulus on a party-line vote….”

    Much more news at that link.

  28. Elsie Says:

    Anybody know the answer here:
    Do the goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which are to create jobs and invest in national infrastructure, apply to Native Alaskans?

  29. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:


    Isn’t this the same thing, or am I confused? I think you gave us the above link.

  30. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    God dammit, this is what Alaska’s Rural Advisor should be sorting out! So many programs, so many disconnects, so much smoke and mirrors from the SP administration.

  31. Elsie Says:


    Do you think any Anchorage-area Mudpups would have the time to go sit in on this meeting on Monday, Feb. 9, observe what they hear and see, and report their findings?

    I imagine that “public comments” from 2:25-2:45pm that day aren’t taking any more names for that time slot, in order to get the agenda finalized in a timely fashion., but who knows? It might be worth a chance to ask, if anyone wanted to be there, make some supportive comments about the sad state of Native affairs, and TRY to convey some ideas as a member of “the public”.

    Denali Commisson Energy Advisory Committee
    “The next Energy Advisory Committee meeting will be held Monday, February 9, 2009 in Anchorage, Alaska. The meeting is from 10:00am to 3:00pm at the Denali Commission office. There will be an opportunity for public comment. Contact Ms. Jodi Fondy at 907.271.3011 or with questions or comments.”

    Note the “WORKING LUNCH” includes some serious talking about the “FY 09 Funding Discussion” in which they will review the “FY09 DRAFT Work Plan” and the “Alternative / Renewable Energy Initiatives”, as well as “Prior year funds and future role”. That is from 12-12:45 pm, long before the “public comments” time slot scheduled to start at 2:15pm.

  32. Elsie Says:


    Yes, that Newsvine link is the same information, I think, except maybe the Indian Country Today link goes more in-depth.

    Dorgan hailed the $2.8 billion set-aside as progress. Still, the number falls short of even his recent requests for Indian country economic recovery.

    Earlier this month, Dorgan and 14 other senators from both parties urged then President-elect Barack Obama to include a $3.58 billion investment in Indian country as part of the economic stimulus bill.

    The committee’s number also stands far short of tribal leaders’ hopes. In testimony before SCIA Jan. 15, National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson Pata requested $6.12 billion for tribal government infrastructure investment to be included in the government’s plan.

    Despite the differences in hope and reality, Dorgan framed the development as positive. He added in his statement that many tribal projects are “ready to go” and awaiting funding.

    “They also have the advantage, in many cases, of being investments that will not only put people to work right away, but that will provide a big boost to local economies once they are completed.”

    The committee’s stimulus plan for tribes would direct $545 million toward Indian health services; $530 million for housing; $486.8 million for roads and bridges; $459 million for water projects; $327 million for schools and education; and $325 million for public safety.

  33. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Elsie and everyone-
    The rules for disaster declaration were changed after 1998. There was/were a lot of grumbling by rest of state about how there was NO true disaster. ( sidebar- is why Juneau was NOT eligible for state help when ‘lanches took out power lines at Snettisham last year ) Rules for economic disaster help from state are VERY narrow now.
    As NO meaningful thing has been done in the last 10 years to stabilize rural Alaska’s economy, here we are again.
    Read what folks in Emmonak and so on say about fishing regs and what is left-over for locals…
    There are other things including rural power adjustment stuff that hasn’t been dealt with.
    Economic Darwinism is alive and well in Alaska. It permeates political philosophy across the state.

    I know the chair of the commission-
    Was a local Assembly member for years. VERY smart, moderate Republican. Can’t say how he sees issues facing the bush but always impressed with how he managed to help pound out things that stayed true to advancing issues here… hope, hope, hope.

  34. Elsie Says:

    That Newsvine link mentioned by Martha at 3:14pm today ends with this:

    “Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, asked Congress for stimulus dollars at a Senate Indian Affairs hearing earlier this month. (Jan. 2009) She describes chronically underfunded Indian and Native Alaskan communities as “emerging economies” similar to developing countries around the world that can be hardest hit by an economic downturn. She says this is a chance for tribes to boost their economies for years to come….It’s an opportunity to do things right,” she said.”

    With the Feb. 9th meeting of the Denali Commission Energy Advisory Committee, I wonder who else, besides Julie, is pressing for Alaskan attention as it relates to this next story at ?

    “Groups press for tribe-friendly renewable energy policies”
    By Rob Capriccioso
    Story Updated: Jan 23, 2009

    WASHINGTON – As more tribes explore and get involved in the renewable energy field, a network of tribal groups is asking President-elect Barack Obama to support tribally owned and operated renewable energy projects, along with economic development initiatives that could reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

    “The Obama economic stimulus plan that incorporates a green economy and green jobs portfolio must include provisions for access of these resources by our Native nations, our tribal education and training institutions and Native organizations and communities,” according to a policy statement released jointly Dec. 17 by the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the International Indian Treaty Council and the Honor the Earth environmental group…..

    ….The statement says that federal government subsidies for the nuclear, coal, gas and oil industry should be rapidly phased out with a proportional ramp up of subsidies for renewable technologies and locally administered conservation and efficiency improvements.

    Under current federal law, tribes are not directly entitled to credits provided to non-Native developers for renewable energy production. This has created a system where outside companies sometimes think twice about teaming with tribes on renewable energy projects, since, if they do so, the federal government does not allow for a full tax credit.

    “Projects involving technologies like wind power could stand on their own if none of the energy sectors got [federal] subsidies or incentives, but there are already billions of dollars built into coal, gas and coal subsidies,” said Bob Gough, a leader with Intertribal COUP.

    “To compete against them, renewable energy technologies require subsidies as well. You can’t artificially keep the price of energy down, and then expect new kinds of technology to bear all the costs.”

    LOTS MORE CAN BE FOUND AT THAT WEB LINK about the need for “forward thinking energy and climate policy (that) will have the ability to transform tribal and other rural economies, while also providing a basis for an overall economic recovery in the U.S.”

    Is the energy focus of the Denali Commission today moving from “bulk fuel facilities and rural power system upgrades/power generation” and “intertie infrastructure” towards “tribally owned and operated renewable energy projects”?

    Jus’ wondrin’…

  35. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    I don’t know Elsie.
    I know that my corp is working on a wind farm project…
    Right now- I just don’t know what the Denali commission is working on.

  36. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Yep, that’s why I posted the link again since Julie Kitka was quoted. The Indian Country Today link is awesome”

    “The Obama economic stimulus plan that incorporates a green economy and green jobs portfolio must include provisions for access of these resources by our Native nations, our tribal education and training institutions and Native organizations and communities,” according to a policy statement released jointly Dec. 17 by the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the International Indian Treaty Council and the Honor the Earth environmental group.”

    Four groups issued a joint statement. Is Alaska involved with any of these?

  37. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Denali Commission Federal Fiscal Year 2009 DRAFT Work Plan

  38. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    Is there anything we need urgently…

    Larger diapers size 6
    Toilet paper
    Minute rice
    Pilot Bread (Sailor Boy w/unsalted tops)
    plain spaghetti noodles (they put them in native soups with the rice)
    canned milk
    I really need plastic grocery bags or trash bags when it comes time to distribute the food we have quickly run out of boxes etc. I reuse whatever boxes the food comes in but distributing the 600 lbs from Emmonak wiped out our box supply.
    Wonder if anyone has a contact for getting reusable canvas totes donated?? Then we could just have the families bring them back and reuse them for donations over and over again

    I LOVE that people are sending ziploc bags, they are really used here!

    Everyone uses Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce out here! Helps cut the gamey flavor of moose etc…

    Several moms have mentioned needing Laundry Detergent. Dry/powdered milk is always good!

  39. Alaska Pi Δ Says:
    note the state concern that feds would change relationship state currently has regarding lands use… and bush changes to subsistence. gov would like to see more changes.

  40. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    More than my mind can sort right now…
    Too many hours shovelling snow and trying to help neighbor who is flooded…gotta go take a nap.

  41. anonymousbloggers Says:


    Maybe putting a link to our “how to help” page on all your e-mail correspondence would get people’s attention.

    Just a thought.

    Take tomorrow off!!

  42. Elsie Says:

    How will this impact the rural Alaskans?

    The Obama administration now includes a new Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
    Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, was confirmed as the 50th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior on January 20, 2009, in a unanimous vote by the U.S. Senate.
    David J. Hayes, one of the nation’s foremost natural resource experts, nominated by President Obama as the next Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

    The Mission of the Department of the Interior is to protect and provide access to our Nation’s natural and cultural heritage and honor our trust responsibilities to Indian Tribes and our commitments to island communities.


    Interior has established five Departmental goals that encompass the major responsibilities of the Department. These goals provide a framework for the strategic plans of Interior’s bureaus. The Departmental goals are as follows:

    1) Resource Protection – Protect the Nation’s Natural, Cultural, and Heritage Resources

    2) Resource Use – Manage Resources to Promote Responsible Use and Sustain a Dynamic Economy

    3) Recreation – Provide recreation opportunities for America

    4) Serving Communities – Safeguard lives, property and assets, advance scientific knowledge, and improve the quality of life for communities we serve

    5) Management Excellence – Manage the Department to be highly skilled, accountable, modern, functionally integrated, citizen-centered and result-oriented

  43. Elsie Says:

    Sounds good.

    “Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s Remarks at Today’s White House Press Briefing”, dated January 28, 2009

    “…President Obama has immediately set high ethical standards for service in the federal government. He has shown a commitment to reform that will change business as usual in Washington.

    “He has immediately made clear that the type of ethical transgressions, blatant conflicts of interest, wastes and abuses that we have seen over the last eight years will no longer be tolerated.

    “Nowhere is President Obama’s commitment to reform and to cleaning up the waste, fraud and abuse of the past more important than at the Department of the Interior, which I now lead.

    “Over the last eight years, the Department of the Interior has been tarnished by ethical lapses and criminal behavior that has extended to the highest levels of government.

    “The former Deputy Secretary of the Department under the Bush Administration, Steven Griles, was sent to prison. It is the Department that the American people associate with Jack Abramoff.

    “And it is the Department that was tarnished by a scandal involving sex, drugs, and inappropriate gifts from oil and gas companies.”

    Let’s hope that rural Alaskans benefit from reforms enacted by a new, ethical federal administration. Maybe these reforms will even “trickle-down” to the Alaskan state government!!!

  44. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Amen- Elsie. We are hoping so!
    So, are native groups all over America, as well as conservationists, scientists, and quality land use managers. So many things were set back or lost during the last 8 years -which never appeared on national radar.
    Boy- I hope his highness or his worship treats you like the HER Highness you are! Thank you neighbor.
    I will ask tonight at Juneau Mudpup thingy if anyone knows anyone who can peep in on Denali Commish meeting.

  45. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    Can you fix the HOW TO HELP page with the correction we discussed?

    Ann :-D

  46. Elsie Says:

    Does the lack of in-home plumbing among rural Alaskans contribute to the hospitalization of their infants for respiratory infections at ELEVEN TIMES the rates of infants from homes with clean, piped-in water?

    Uh, yes, it seems to.

    “Rural Alaska Natives suffer health issues from inadequate housing”, April 3rd, 2008;

    Many rural Alaskans do not have fresh water/sewage service plumbed into their homes, or even just clean water piped into their homes.

    99.4 percent of U.S. homes have in-house water;, only about 84 percent of rural Alaskan homes have complete sanitation services.

    “Of the Alaska Native homes surveyed in the study, only 73 percent had water service. The disparity was correlated to disproportionately high rates of certain diseases among rural Alaska Natives.”

    A two-year study published by the American Journal of Public Health, in collaboration with the CDC and two Indian groups, found that villages with the lowest level of water service into their homes had higher rates for respiratory infections among infants and for skin and soft-tissue infections among adults.

    “…The data doesn’t prove that inadequate sanitation services caused respiratory and skin infections.”


    “In some villages, infants were ELEVEN times as likely, and elders were more than twice as likely, to be hospitalized for health problems.”

    The villages of rural Americans should be modernized with fresh water and sewage treatment facilities, so that ALL Alaskans can enjoy clean water in their homes, as do 99.4% of all other Americans!

    It’s something to think about.

    I’m reminded that photographer, Dennis Zaki, drank tap water in Emmonak on his recent journey out there to document the desperate situation on film, and I read this on dated January 29:

    “Get Well Dennis! Our friend Dennis Zaki is down for the count. After drinking a big glass of tap water right before he left Emmonak, he got wretchedly sick. He says he’s feeling better, but he still sounds pretty bad. Another lesson from rural Alaska. Don’t drink the water. Here’s hoping Dennis is back to 100% soon. ”


    That’s like going to Mexico, or some other foreign country, and worrying about drinking bad water. It’s a pretty sad situation for an American community. How many more are out there in the rural areas?

  47. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    You can see an overview at each community’s page and another overview for capital projects. Nunam Iqua has a water tank only- folks haul water from there. They are in line for water and sewer . Honeybuckets must be hauled to a storage container and taken to landfill.
    Other villages have partial services- some fairly close to inclusive, some not.
    City electricity is diesel generated and folks are on their own for heat.

    The Clean Drinking Water Act came into being in the 70s. There were interim regs til states could write their own which must meet or exceed federal regs. These villages would come under non-community (# of folks served) rules of first days… but with 30 years gone now and not all even meeting those rules…?
    Rural America has taken it in the shorts for years, Rural Alaska comes in 9 feet under the runway.

  48. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Ann that is amazing – New Zealand!

    I’m going to try to organize some links for you tomorrow to pass on to CNN. Have fun out there playin’ and snarin’ and we sure love getting the updates.

    As you like to say: HOLY COW! New Zealand! We’d love to hear how these folks in the southern equator heard about your story. We do have Australians that pop on and off Mudflats, so it would be neat to know where the New Zealanders found you.

  49. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Ann, I was reading about the water / sewer project on the state rural Alaska utility site and was wondering how far along the project is, and now you’ve told us. It must be exciting but frustrating to be so close – what a luxury that will be! I lived in cabin only for a winter with no running water and it was a major pain in the (everything) because my water source close to the cabin froze (never had for years). I had no kids, lived alone, but spent all my free time it seemed hauling & splitting wood, and ferrying water back out the road from town (21 mi). Only one winter…and it definitely made me tougher, and a lot more appreciative of running water than I ever imagined possible.

    What is, and where is the village water source?

  50. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Ann, maybe it’s time for another story like your shopping trip!

  51. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Just for a Sunday read…
    The communities talked about are all here in Southeast Alaska-

  52. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    comments on this opinion piece are more thoughtful than the norm…
    Gotta go to work…

  53. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Alaska Pi – great read, Thanks.

    Strugglng in Nunan Iqua: Thank you for the updates. Your information is great. I think I flew into Nunam once. I was in Alakanak and we had to drop off a teacher at Nunam. It was so very windy and at least 20 below. A transport flew in while the teacher was unloading. Snow machine with sleds came up to unload our plane and the transport. The teacher got on the sled and the snow machine took her to her house. The landing strip was straight ice and I was very impressed that the Grant Airlines pilot acted as if it was just another regular trip.

  54. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    Wow you really have YK Delta experience. Any suggestions on another “LIFE IN YK DELTA” Story topic?

    Ann :-D

  55. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    OOH Yeah how was snowboarding???

  56. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    I might add that it seemed colder in Nunam than it was in Emmonak. We had winds in Emo but not as bad as Nunam.

    Ann: You could write about Fish Camps. My kids in Emmonak, spoke a lot about Fish Camp during the summer. The stories were great. Also: Basketry: I saw some of the most amazing baskets made in villages: They were made of sea grass.

    Story about breaking down on a snowmachine at 20 below: When I was in Emmonak, two teachers were taking a snowmachine from Emo to Alakenuk. I think there was a bit of a wind too. One teacher took some bear fur gloves to keep his hands warm. (I can vouch for them being warm) The snowmobile lost a cylinder mid way. They had means of communication. They took off about 11 AM. A fellow drove by on his snowmachine and one teacher hopped on with him. They worked on the broken machine and got 1 cylinder to work. They tied a rope from the good snow machine to the broken one and with the one cylinder doing a little, they limped back to Emmonak.

    The teachers were scared shitless when that cylinder broke and the snowmachine stopped. It could have been deadly had the other snow mobile come by.

    I walked on the frozen Yukon River a lot to get some exercise outside. So many times, villagers would stop their snow machines or quads and ask if I needed a ride. They thought it was kind of weird that someone was out in 20 or 30 below. They thought I had a broken down machine and needed help.

  57. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:

    Martha & AKPI,

    The New Zealander said she was from mudflats :-O

    Another story…such as???

    PI…our water come from the Yukon River.

    Hubby told me last night we can’t set snares b/c we’d have to check them every day and he’s working 10 1/2 hour days/ 6 days a week. So no snares but we won’t have to struggle so much!!!

    Story ideas…a normal day???

    Setting a net under the ice?

    Let me do some more thinking on story ideas.

  58. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:


    I forgot to add one thought… I think of Nunam Iqua at the mouth of the Yukon River where it meets the Bering Sea and I just think to myself “WATER EVERYWHERE”. Does the Yukon ever endanger the village by flooding? Do you notice big changes in the river from year to year? If so, do these changes significantly affect the village? What are the tide swings like?

    I just sort of feel “power” whenever I think of the Yukon River. I’ve visited it many times in Whitehorse, YT and surrounding areas and it is just an amazing river brimming with life and history.

  59. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:


    I do have an idea for your next story, and it fits perfectly with this post.

    We’ve been talking about water, and how you get it, and how you are looking forward to a project completion which will give the village RUNNING water. I have so many questions: how do you get the water out of the river in winter? Where is it stored? Who gets it? Does each house have water storage? How do you do laundry (you described the laundromat to me and it was great)?, is it possible to wash cloth diapers? How do you take baths / showers? How is the water treated, if at all? Can you drink your own water?

    I would love to hear more about the project in place to bring the village running water. When did it start? Could the project be boosted toward earlier completion if their were additional funds, supplies and labor? Is this something that ALL villagers look forward to?

    Just an idea!

  60. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    Great story Idea!

    I thought about just a list of normal everyday things and how we do them here. Like you mentioned laundry, dishes, going to check the mail at the post office, the kids going to school even honey buckets.

    I like the water/sewer idea but also don’t know how many people will be able to truly relate/understand b/c how many people really know where their water comes from? But I would love to answer Martha’s questions b/c they are all VERY relevant to our village and our water situation.

  61. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Ann’s update is on

    And it just beautifully captures the emotion of both Ann and the villagers. Hey Ann, WHERE is your house in that snowy snowy pic of Nunam Iqua? Just teasing – you can’t really see anything but snow. That should let people know right off the bat that winter there is something else!

  62. Struggling_in_Nunam_Iqua Says:


    Ok now go check your email!!! I put an arrow point to my house!!

    ;-) Ann

  63. Gary Says:

    after reading all of the blogers, I felt that I needed to add my thoughts.

    Lets start off with I am a white guy that lived in Mtn.Village for 3+ years. I took care of the phone system. When I first moved to mtn. village in 86 I thought I would be able to spend my winters trapping and fishing under the ice. I was so wrong. I took a job with united Utilities and before long I was working 6 or 7 days a week. I tried to get rid of the job but no body wanted it. So I did what any responsible husband would do I kept the job and forgot about trapping. I still set my nets under the ice and used ski’s to go down river and check it. I usually would least get one fish sometimes a lot more. The state of Alaska and the university had a program where they let you use a rototiller for free, so I planted a garden. That was so cool every year I had fresh veggies of all sorts free for the eating.
    Now here is the sad part. there was only 3 of us that used the rototiller. when it came to fishing under the ice lots of the other men would not do it unless they could spend monies on gas and use there Snow go.
    I am truly hoping that people will see the hardships of this winter and prepare for the next time. I use to tell people that what happens if you break your leg or something. Do you have enough to last until next year. People laughed at me for walking ever where. But why would I spend money on gas to go to the store or post office when it only takes 10 min. to walk there.
    Now Nick Tucker knows me down river in Emmo. and he knows all the problems I had living in the village as a white man. I loved the old stores and traditions but when I tried to get help to build a fire house no body would help unless I paid them. The Elders where very helpful so I am hoping that this winter the younger men will listen to their elders and prepare for bad times. The same as they did 40 years ago.
    God bless all of my friends up and down the river and I pray that the strong young men will make sure that no old women or man goes hungry or is cold at night. I hope the phones work OK.. I know they work allot better then over here in the Philippines. Over here if you get hurt you have to pay the doc. first or they will let you die in the road out front. There is no food stamp programs or housing programs. please when you think of how bad things are in the village right now, at least you have the love of your family. Lots of places people have to worry about being shot or there little girl being raped or their young son being kidnapped and turned into a killer.
    I truly hope that the some of the native corp. will charter some airlifts to bring heating fuel and cooking gas to the most needing villages. Please stop blaming other people you can look at your nabor and you might see that they to are not helping that old women stay warm and have a food to eat. God Bless all of you out there that are sharing what you have. From the lower 48 to the people in the next village. You will make it through the winter..

    Next Summer plant the garden (mine did great in Mtn. Village) and the dry fish and strips make sure you have enough to last all winter before you take some to Anchorage and sell them.

    From a very respectful white man that lived the life in the village.

  64. Alaska Pi Δ Says:

    Thank you for stopping in.
    We are gathering voices as well as food and fuel.
    Winter is long and there’s time to tell stories .
    What did you grow in your garden?
    Here in Southeast it’s potatoes, peas, greens, beets, carrots…
    I grew cherry tomatoes one year. We are so wet and cool in July and August and I had to work so hard to get a handful I figure those tomatoes were worth about $30/pound…was fun though!
    We are working hard to help folks stay warm and eat through this time .
    When our neighbors prosper, so do we.

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