Archive for June, 2009

Yukonbushgrma: We Are Pretty Consumed With SBA and FEMA Paperwork!

June 29, 2009

Jun 29, 2009

Word has reached us, via Mudflats, that yukonbushgrma and family are busy rebuilding their home while living in Eagle Village this summer.  heir home was destroyed in last spring’s ice flood along with the rest of the historic village on the Yukon.

The generous Mudflats community pitched in and got the ball rolling faster than a speeding government agency.

The Mudflats community has been making donations via paypal to the “Rebuild Eagle Fund” which has, so far collected $14,600. We also purchased a pressure washer and accessories to help residents in the restoration.  Hope, a Mudflatter from the Kenai Peninsula, rounded up two truckloads of donations and supplies and drove all the way to Eagle with two others to deliver them to residents involved in the clean up.

The village has a terrific WikiSpace page with building updates, volunteer possibilities, donation resources and lists of specific items that are needed as rebuilding moves forward.


Here’s an update from yukonbushgrma courtesy of AKM at the Mudflats…


This is what our view will be when the new cabin is finished.  All of those big spruce trees will be missed, but the higher elevation will be safer and provide a better view of the river.


Start of the new place!  It will be built up on treated railroad ties secured to the concrete, then surrounded by gravel inside and out.  The pipe sticking up is the well pipe, with 6 feet added on to allow for the higher elevation.  The pile of stuff in the background is saved belongings.


A miracle!!!!!  My Saskatoon Berry bush lived, after being covered for weeks with heavy ice and garbage!  It looks a little rough, but see the leaves on it?  There’s another one too … at first that one looked dead (right down to just a few little sticks), but near the base it has teeny tiny reddish buds.


The sorting process.  Saved quite a bit of lumber.  The wall tent in the background holds salvaged belongings.  Gradually we’re rounding up some of the firewood too.


Debris … some of it has already been removed.

Heh heh, we’ve been having fun watching the critters around the yard.  There have been quite a few gulls hanging around and picking at the leftovers.  The gulls chase the ravens off — gutsy buggers!  And the hares have been around in large numbers – they don’t even seem to be very afraid.  No bears seen poking around, as far as I know.

Right now we are pretty consumed with SBA and FEMA paperwork. The application process is pretty daunting, especially for someone who has other things to do besides count beans… In the past few weeks we’ve had quite a few folks here from FEMA and SBA. Everyone is in the initial stage of being interviewed to determine eligibility for federal disaster assistance.

Of course, each case is handled individually and very few of us have any idea where we stand yet or who will be getting direct financial help, so everything we’ve received from donations just means that much more. Bless you, and all the gang, for all you’ve done to help us here!

We will just have to hope that something comes through — but most Eagle residents doubt that could happen in time for us to get homes built before winter. Rebuild Eagle’s concept of building log cabins through an assembly line process seems to have gotten the attention of the FEMA and state people, but it still has to be approved through a housing task force that’s been set up to address housing for all flood victims across the state. Hope the task force supports it.

That’s about all I know for now … really must get back to work!


Here’s what’s keeping us busy in Ugashik! A photo diary…

June 27, 2009

Jun 27, 2009

Where to start?

Summers in Alaska are more intense than just about any other place I’ve lived, or industry I have been involved in – even farming.  Once the rivers open up, beaches become ice free, and the ground starts to thaw everything kicks into full steam ahead!

We usually have more than one project going besides fishing and processing, which means our summers are extra full of activity.

One of the big projects going on for two years now has been to get a longer dirt airstrip put in.  Once this strip is complete, we have access to more airlines which means we can ship out fish at much cheaper rates.

(We won’t even count the starting of the community garden in PIP or all the normal activities we get to do)

So here is what has kept the spouses, Ann and I so busy so far.

hanging new nets
hanging new nets
so many knots you lose count
so many knots you lose count
moving equipment
moving equipment
Working around the weather
Working around the weather
Moving still more things!!
Moving still more things!!
avoiding the bears
avoiding the bears
watching the seals
watching the seals
See the seal?

See the seal?

Enjoying the views.  view of the mountains from Vics house

Enjoying the views. view of the mountains from Vics house

I am sure you get the idea!

We are just barely starting to fish. Only one member of the village has a secure market while the rest of us are waiting on either a buyer who is due in, or for the airstrip to be finished, so we can ship our fresh product.

Ann and Victoria: Breaking news that 50% of Emmonak residents have met their subsistence needs for winter!

June 27, 2009

Jun 27, 2009

Ann and I were so excited, and surprised, to hear from our Governor via Twitter that her Rural Advisor, John Moller, had such a great visit to Emmonak.  She tweeted that 50% of the villagers had their subsistence needs already met – wow!

Ann and hubby Gundo came over to Victoria and Rollie’s house in order to phone home and get all the good news!

Ann and I are sitting impatiently waiting while Segundo calls his parents!

Thinking this will be so great if all the worry and stress is turning out to not be needed.

That people will have enough to eat of the basics this winter.

Maybe even the commercial fishermen will get a little bit of a season.

Gundo is quietly listening, nodding his head.

We hear the words:  ”So many…”

WOW, we think!!

The minute he gets off the phone we pounce on him with questions.

‘”So many” – seals, not fish!

No one in Ann’s village is even close to having enough food for winter.

Disappointment sets in. How to find out more info?  Form a game plan! We have to know more.  Is this an isolated situation in Nunam?

Dennis Zaki is due back on Monday after visiting the bush, we hope he can help fill in the blanks.

Emails went out.

We will fill you in as soon as we hear but so far it is not all good news on the lower Yukon, contrary to statements made by the Governor and her Advisor.

STAY TUNED for regular updates!

Eagle Village: So Much To Do, So Little Time!

June 27, 2009


Jun 27, 2009

It’s been almost two months since Eagle Village was destroyed when a massive ice flood moved down the Yukon in early May. Folks have not only lost their homes but their livelihoods and continue to suffer from this tragic loss.

Since the disaster area declaration many federal and state agencies have visited, assessed and promised but those funds might not be available in time to make a difference this summer. Villagers, volunteers and donors are involved in a monumental effort to get people ready for another winter.

The village has a terrific WikiSpace page with building updates, volunteer possibilities, donation resources and lists of specific items that are needed as rebuilding moves forward.

Since transportation of goods to Eagle Village is limited, it’s important to match donations with needs. If you are able to help with a large donation of equipment or tools, please stick with items on the Wiki site lists unless you can squeeze them into a flat rate box.

We are hoping people will help out with Eagle Village’s Warm Hearts Fund to help replace the winter apparel that was washed away in the flood. Warm clothing is an essential part of life in the bush and this is a convenient way to help.

To date our Warm Hearts Fund is not doing very well. I’d encourage folks to do a little surfing on the web and check out what interior Alaska is like in the winter. Folks here don’t dress for fashion…but for survival. Good quality winter gear is hard to come by at a reasonable cost. Getting outfitted is expensive and those who lost everything can expect to pay about $800 to get one set of gear, that does not include long johns, multiple types of socks and the variety of foot gear needed. PLEASE seriously consider helping with this fund. You can contribute by calling BIG RAYS in Fairbanks, Alaska at 907.452.3458 and purchasing a winter clothing gift card.

Big Ray’s has an online catalog so we contacted them today about adding an option to their site to accept online donations. We should have more info about that early next week.

Volunteers, both individuals and groups, have been warmly welcomed and are making a big difference.

The residents of the Eagle area would like to encourage skilled and unskilled volunteers to spend some time in this beautiful and historic area of Alaska. Temperatures have been in the 70’s and 80’s…perfect for drying out the flooded buildings and swamped out land. Local residents feel strongly about meeting the needs of volunteers and making sure their experience here is a positive one.

Anyone looking for a rewarding summer can take advantage of this:

We have had many volunteers come in groups and as individuals. The Bureau of Land Management has made the beautiful Ft. Egbert campground fee zero. Hopefully our volunteers will take advantage of that! Thank you, BLM

Please take a look at the Eagle Village WikiSpace page. You’ll see what a natural disaster can do to a remote community and what a community of caring souls can accomplish, both physically and electronically to rebuild from devastation.

Thanks as always!

NPFMC: Fishing Dismal – Let’s Take a Road Trip!

June 23, 2009

Jun 23, 2009

It looks like another dismal salmon season!

Fingers are being pointed at the pollock industry and rightly so.

Although there are Native Alaskans that would be hurt by a strict limit on the pollock fisheries, the majority of the profits from the Pollock industry are raked in by huge, Seattle-based processing corporations that scoop up thousands of Alaska’s prized salmon and discard them as a fishing byproduct.

Native Alaskan’s right to pursue their centuries-old  lifestyle of living off the abundance of the land has been trampled under the weight of  the lobbying power and tax dollars of the fish sandwich factories.

The North Pacific Fish Management Council (NFFMC) , the body that recently set a bycatch cap that allows tens of thousands of salmon to be sacrificed before the pollock fishery is closed is facing criticism from Native groups.

Rural Alaska gets voice in NPFMC committee

June 16, 2009 at 3:16PM AKST

Amid accusations that Western Alaska residents don’t have enough input into federal fishery decisions, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has created an advisory committee on Alaska Native and rural issues, according to the council’s latest newsletter.

The NPFMC, increasingly aware of a “huge communication gap” with rural Alaska, created the Rural Community Outreach Committee earlier this year, said Duncan Fields, a member of the new committee and a voting member of the NPFMC.

Further along in the article the committee chairman explains the committee’s role:

The committee’s chairman is Eric Olson, who is also chairman of the NPFMC. Olson is a longtime Bristol Bay fisherman raised in Dillingham.

Fields, reached at his set net fishing site off western Kodiak Island, where his family catches salmon, said the new committee is envisioned less as an advocacy group for rural Alaska and more as a way to reach out to an area of the state where media and communication options can be limited.

The committee will hold meetings in urban areas and invite tribal and Native leaders, he said. Council members and staff will also travel to predominantly Native rural Alaska to meet with people there.

You don’t even have to read between the lines – they put it right up front.

“We’re not going to help you get more fish swimming upstream but we’ll bring a dog and pony show to you and you can politely air your gripes, no guarantees.”

Bottom line: There’s not enough true representation of Tribal/Native interests on the front line of the fishery management battle.

The Mudflats and Progressive Alaska have much more on this and Dennis Zaki will soon have film from a meeting he’s attending about subsistence fishing in Emmonak tomorrow.

~ Jane

P.S. I started this post to request donations to help get Dennis to Emmonak but in the time I’ve spent getting my thoughts down, Dennis has received sufficient donations and is on his way. You guys rock!!

A Bright Green Salmon for Brave Iranians

June 22, 2009


Jun 22, 2009

In our last post we talked about the color additives and questionable feed sources of farm raised salmon.

Jim left this idea on the subject:

Farmed salmon is awful – it is so mushy – you could suck it up with a straw. Ewe! Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

They should pass a law to color farmed salmon flesh fluorescent green so it is easy to tell the difference between it and wild salmon. Sort of a bicycle jacket green. Yummy!

We tossed it around and came up with glow in the dark salmon as a replacement for a flashlight. Jim brought it back to the serious problem of Atlantic salmon invasiveness as they occasionally escape from British Columbia aquaculture pens and end up in Alaskan rivers.

But this post isn’t about the oppression and abuse of salmon.

Right now Iranians are waging a war against oppression under a green flag of change. It’s difficult to watch the news trickle in about beatings, chemical burns and murder and not feel a sense of helplessness.

All we can really do for them right now is post a picture of a green fish to show our solidarity and support.

One phenomenon of this revolution has been the emergence of new media as the voice of the people.

We’ve seen in Alaska what the lone voice of Nicholas Tucker of Emmonak could inspire in people worldwide over the Internet. When he spoke up about the crisis in rural Alaska last winter and the government did not step in to help, the community of Alaskan bloggers brought his words to their followers.

MSM coverage was scarce so Alaskan bloggers solicited donations to send filmmaker Dennis Zaki to Emmonak to document the situation.

Video was posted, food drives hosted, donations were collected and boxes were mailed and distributed to struggling families, in a number of villages, in a sustained effort that lasted until breakup, thanks to Alaskan bloggers.

Throughout this sincere effort of goodwill, there was an undercurrent of anti-government sentiment. We are lucky we live in a country that grants us our right to free speech because, as critical as opinions often were, there was not an effort to shut down the blogs and cover up the underlying problem.

As we’ve seen recently, this is not the case in Iran. The Iranian government has assumed the authority to ban free speech and silence the media. Protesters are being killed for demanding their right to free assembly as guaranteed by the Iranian constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a signatory.

But this time the Supreme Leader and the Iranian government haven’t been able to conceal the current wave of human rights violations. The main stream media has been controlled but people on Facebook and Twitter are posting  text and images of the violence to a global audience despite attempts to shut down communication with the outside.

Nicholas Tucker has been the voice of rural Alaska this winter.

The people of Iran have a tragic, but more far reaching voice. A young woman named Neda, which translates as “the voice” in Farsi, was shot in the heart by a basij militant on the first day of violence. Her murder was captured on video by a fellow protestor and posted on the Internet.

Soon footage of life flowing from her body onto a street in Tehran reached media outlets, worldwide. She has become the face of the green revolution and we are keeping Neda and all Iranian people in our thoughts and prayers.

Many thanks to the brave souls who are risking their lives to bring the truth to the world stage. Your efforts will long be remembered as the first example of the need for a partnership between new and old media.


Farmed Fish May Pose Risk For Mad Cow Disease

June 18, 2009


Added colorants can account for up to 1/3 of total feed costs

Jun 18, 2009

It’s a well-known fact that farm raised salmon that sports appealingly pink flesh has been artificially colored, often with Canthaxanthin, a chemical that has been linked to human eye defects and retinal damage. US law now requires labeling that identifies farm raised, artificially colored salmon but sometimes rules are broken. In 2003 Safeway, Kroger, and Alberstons were sued for failing to identify artificially colored, factory raised salmon.

Now there’s another, even more compelling reason to stick with wild caught salmon. An article by University of Louisville neurologist Robert P. Friedland, M.D, in the June issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggests farmed fish could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease – commonly known as mad cow disease – if they are fed byproducts rendered from cows.

Because the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week for its heart healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and because consumption of fish is widely recommended for those at risk of cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s diseases, Friedland and his co-authors are urging the government to ban the feeding of cattle byproducts and bone meal. Friedland puts it this way:

“We have not proven that it’s possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited,” Friedland said. “Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows.”

Eating wild caught salmon is the only way to avoid chemicals and toxins no matter how strict labeling laws and government restrictions become.

chumChum Salmon

Victoria suggests encouraging people to try Keta/Chum or Sockeye salmon as an alternative to Chinook. Keta/Chum salmon are plentiful but some commercial fishermen choose not to fish for them because the market demand is low. Creating a bigger market for them would help the fisherman directly.

More good reasons to eat wild caught Alaskan salmon and help our friends in the bush at the same time!

~ Jane

Vic and Ann: It’s Boring and We Like It!

June 16, 2009

Jun 16, 2009

Victoria explained why she hasn’t updated us recently about life in Ugashik…

“.. fishing hasn’t started here. Right now we are working on a number of things that are pretty boring or I would be writing about them…Internet is iffy right now but I will try and give an update on the garden and King fishing when I can.

Once her Internet connection is more reliable, Victoria will post a full garden update and keep us up to date with the daily life of the fishing season in Ugashik.

On a more serious note…

This year’s salmon run is expected to be even worse than last year’s.

Fisheries are being closed on the Yukon River early in the season to Alaska’s commercial and subsistence fishermen to make sure enough salmon make it to the spawning grounds in Canadian headwaters.

We need to meet US/Canada treaty obligations that require a certain number of salmon to return to spawn.

There are additional river closures based on worse-than-dismal fish counts because, even without treaty obligations, the rivers need enough fish to survive to spawn.

After enough salmon are counted passing through tracking weirs on the rural Alaskan rivers as they head toward their spawning grounds, fishing will be opened and life will get busy in the villages.

There is still a good chance there will not be enough state sanctioned fishing during this year’s run to prevent the same problems our neighbors faced last year. We need to help find long term solutions to the problems facing residents of modern rural Alaska while preserving their Native roots.

We have the luxury of time on our hands this summer. The problems have been identified and there’s time to write to our congressmen, monitor agencies that overlook fishing policy in Alaska and keep the issue of ensuring healthy fisheries for generations to come in the spotlight.

We’ll have more to come as the season progresses – just want all our friends to know that there’s still much to be done!

Victoria Briggs: Ugashik Party Line

June 2, 2009

Jun 2, 2009

Just a little look into life in a small village, but shared by many villages of all sizes here in Alaska.

To have a phone in Ugashik you must buy some special equipment that basically makes your phone line carried over a radio frequency to a place where it can hook into the regular phone system that serves the rest of the world. (We are too small to warrant the investment by a phone company to invest in equipment for our village)

Our connection point is Pilot Point so each resident that wants a phone has a special radio receiver unit at their home and the partner unit in Pilot Point hooked to the standard phone system. (these systems are thousands of dollars so it is a major investment for most)

All homes have a VHF radio as we use it for much of our communication with everything from airlines to kids out playing. Most villagers in an area tend to all monitor at least one common channel for a variety of reasons; emergency alerts, airline arrivals, community and school announcements, etc.

The cottage that Ann’s family are residing in for the summer does not have a phone system set up any longer as we only use it in the summer. They are staying on the property that has our processing plant and some of the fishing activities that go on. Our home is about 1/2 mile away from where Ann and family are staying.

Since there is no phone line Ann and I end up talking on the VHF. We usually start on the common channel and move over to another quickly, but all of this is conveyed on the open channel, so anyone who chooses can follow you there :-)

Anyone who follows us much on the channels is going to find that we are pretty routine and boring as we work, feed our families, try and make this summer successful for ourselves and our local fishermen/villagers!