Getting caught in the gill net of Alaska politics


Jul 1, 2009

Our family left Nunam Iqua a few weeks ago to work this summer for Victoria and her husband, Roland, in Ugashik.  Although we are a few hundred miles away, we continue to stay in touch with our friends and family back in Nunam Iqua and Emmonak by phone and email.

In the last few days a lot of people have been talking about the Governor and her rural advisor, John Moller, reporting from Emmonak that my friend Nick Tucker allegedly said:  “50% of the people in Emmonak already have their fish gathered and put up for this season.”

That’s pretty hard to believe with all the fishing closures, and I think most people in the know would have trouble believing it.  I contacted Nick myself to ask him about this statement attributed to him by Mr. Moller and the Governor.  Nick is really upset about this report!  He said people are struggling to get their fish this season, just as I thought.

I’m so disappointed that it always seems like it’s us vs. them.  The state government and the Governor have the ability to work with the rural residents, not just against us.  Instead, they took the words of just one man in Alakanuk and embellished and twisted them.  Suddenly everyone in Emmonak somehow has met, or is about to meet, all their fishing needs for the season here in late June and early July.

Those who just want to help their villages and neighbors sometimes become unknowing pawns for those with ulterior motives.  Nick Tucker has gotten caught in such a political gill net on the issue of subsistence fishing on the Yukon River.

Knowing Nick, I can tell you that he is an elder in the true sense of the word.  This is a man who wants only to ease the hardships and suffering of his people.  He would like see this done through help with a goal toward self sufficiency.

Victoria also met Mr. Tucker at the by-catch meeting earlier this year.  She agrees that he is someone who in no way has any other motive than to bring the plight and needs of his people to the attention to those who might help.

Nick has become a defacto spokesman for the plight of villagers not only along the Yukon but also other bush Alaska villages.  Mr. Tucker has brought the voice of truth and concern to main stream media about the hardships and struggles that plagued villagers last winter.  His heartfelt plea for help was heard across not only Alaska, but also the nation and the world.  Nick has done all of this  in trying to bring help and attention to the plight of the villagers.

Now that summer is upon us,  another poor chinook salmon run is once again devastating not only the commercial fishing on the Yukon but also drastically limiting the subsistence fishing.  With extremely limited subsistence fishing openings the villagers struggle to put away dried salmon, a major staple, for the winter.

The same thing occurred last summer thus forcing villagers to choose between buying food or heating fuel last winter.  We worry this situation will be repeated this year.  We are trying to bring this to the attention of those who can help before it gets out of hand again.  I think I can speak for everyone by saying that we really do not want to have to have another food and fuel drive this winter to keep our villagers warm and fed!  Without  attention and help from the State, it looks like we might have to do so anyway.

As Nick tried to again bring attention to the disastrous lack of salmon fishing this year, he took his plea to the Federal Subsistence meeting being held in Emmonak.  The public outcome of that trip is that Mr. Tucker was quoted as saying everything was fine in Emmonak and that half of of the village had already gotten enough salmon to last through the winter.

That our highest ranking government official tweeted such a bogus statement is simply unbelievable.  Anyone with common sense would have heard that and thought to themselves  “Maybe I should check into that before I just throw it out there in a tweet.”  For them to turn around and say that Mr. Tucker made such an outrageous statement just adds further insult to injury.  Mr. Tucker reports “I’ve never said that. Ten times over, I’ve never said that!”

Mr. Tucker has demanded an apology from Governor Palin for this untruth.   Mr. Tucker should not have to wait this long for a forthcoming apology, no matter whether the reason for the mistatement was intentional or accidental.

This is not about politics, this is about respecting to an elder who was misunderstood or quoted out of context.

Rather than trying to save face it seems that our leaders should be trying to help the villagers struggling in this great state.  Last time I checked we are all residents of Alaska.  We are voters, constituents, and simply human beings.

What if the shoe was on the other foot?  Do you think we would have had to wait this long for someone to apologize to the Governor?  I don’t think so.  Last time I checked we are all human and thus we all make mistakes.  It takes a bigger person to admit to those mistakes.  I think that that is one of the most important lessons in life whether you are a politician or not….admit when you are wrong!  Be honest.



23 Responses to “Getting caught in the gill net of Alaska politics”

  1. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    This has made me hopping mad – John Moller was FISHING yesterday we were told yesterday when trying to contact him. Today – nothing, no word, no explanation, no apology. The Gov is quiet. And yes, if the state administration is as “in touch” with rural Alaska as they claim to be, our gov would have known right off the bat that this was bad information. Or, worse yet, she LED the information gathering to appear as though all was well.

    We know the salmon issue is going to take years to straighten out, so why would anyone think, without doing anything, that the situation would magically correct itself? I’m embarrassed by our state leader’s lack of attention to detail, and to follow up. She needs to go back to communications and fish school and quit gallivanting off every time there is a flood, or fish shortage. No one can ever reach Moller, either and he doesn’t respond in a timely manner, or at all. And somewhere there is a Rural Sub cabinet? Exactly where are they and why do they exist?

    Why did our ADF&G Commissioner Denby Lloyd, after visiting the area at the end of May, have NOTHING to say about what his trip or meetings were about to the general public? He just puts in a whiner piece in the opinion section, apparently to make a dig at our ADN. OK, folks – commissioners, media, governor, rural adviser – WHERE IS THE INFORMATION about what you ARE, or ARE NOT doing in rural Alaska?

    And dear Mr. Nick Tucker – you who I have adopted as my grandfather – I am so sorry you are getting caught up in these wasteful politics and the soon to come finger pointing, just because you are a true elder and care about your village, and the truth!

  2. Ennealogic Says:

    Ann, it is with tears in my eyes that I write how ashamed I am of what is happening. I live far away and have no guilt for electing Palin, but I can see, plain as day, what she is trying to do.

    The people of the Yukon valley, the people who were there first, the people who live as their ancestors lived, the people who do not seek fame or fortune — just a good catch in the summer river — these people seem not to matter at all to the fluff-for-brains person who managed to get in charge of Alaska.

    I think it is even worse. Palin sees native Alaskans as a barrier to “progressin’ the development of our natchurel resources…” and if she had her way, you all would either die or convert to her favored branch of “christianity” and then move to a city where you could live under bridges and help shovel snow in winter and sweep streets in summer.

    Ms. Sarah doesn’t want you to be able to carry on as you have for untold generations past. You can bet your last chum her appointees don’t either. You are a stumbling stone in the way of what she considers progress. She wouldn’t give a second thought to paving over your hunting grounds and putting up another Wal-mart and Costco and McDonalds if she could.

    My plea to you is.. and please spread this to your friends, relatives and neighbors.. do what you can to hold fast to your traditions and lifestyle. I know it is embarrassing to ask for help but if you need an influx of coin and goods this winter, let it be known. I will do what I can to answer that call. Who you are, what you do, and how you do it deserve support and preservation.

    Bless you, and thank you, for remaining strong and positive.

  3. Mae Says:

    Ann, please let Mr. Tucker know we all await a show of respect and appology from Trawler Moller, oppps John Moller.

    Thank you Ann for the perspective.
    I too want to get mad at the state administators, but do not wish my show of maddness be a disrespect to Mr. Tucker. If you understand what I mean.

    In any case, I’m all over this on the blogs, nationally and locally.

    Oh yeah, I guess my sister decided today to turn her tweeting into a “AK Native humor with a anti Palin bent” tweet fest. She does have that rural sense of humor, yet a bit of a bite. I don’t tweet, but she sent me the website:

    tallimat means the number 5 in Inupiat.

    Apparently she met Trawler Moller back in thier party days out in Dutch Harbor. (giggling)

    Here is one of her tweets she e-mailed me:

    Just got a rumor: John Moller was spotted under a Willow bush, at Ship Creek w/snagging pole and Willow leaves stuffed in his ears!

    (They closed Ship Creek to sport fishing the other day. Ship Creek right next to Anchorage.)

    Oh my, all I know is one shouldn’t get on my sisters bad side or you’ll be the butt of her jokes. She sure is pissed at Moller and Palin.

    Anyway Ann, keep strong sister. Let your friends and family know that we hear them.

  4. mlaiuppa Says:

    There will be no apology as long as John Moller can’t be reached. (Has anyone checked in Argentina?)

    Palin won’t apologize. Since Moller said it it is Moller that must be thrown under the bus.

    And I imagine the administration is hoping enough time will pass that the bus will have left the building and no one will remember an apology is owed.

    Except Nick Tucker and the people of Emmonak. And those of us following the subsistence issue. But we probably don’t count.

  5. the problem child Says:

    Keep the heat on. Moller MUST make a statement, or be forever purged from the AK Native rolls.

  6. WakeUpAmerica Says:


  7. UgaVic Says:

    THANK YOU for continuing to speak up, voice your concern and REALLY give a darn about your people.

    I have met many who CLAIM to care, here in Alaska, about their villages and people and yet when it gets uncomfortable they crawl into some hole or become very silent.

    Or worse yet they never cared and were only using the issue for self gain.

    You two are not of that group and I have the utmost respect for you because of it!!

  8. alaskapi Says:

    This whole episode, so far, leaves me depressed.
    Are we witnessing the hijacking of Mr Tucker, a man of high reputation and integrity, for short term political points?
    Did someone in the executive branch so muddle their facts that this mess was the result?

    The issues facing rural Alaska did not start with this adminstration, nor will they be solved anytime soon, however I think it evident that we must NOT lose ground during this adminstration.

    Gobbeldegook like this event worry me too, Ann. The insult to Mr Tucker grows with each hour there is no apology.

    We all have work to do- we need to get on with it.
    The complex situation surrounding salmon on the Yukon needs the full attention of all Alaskans. We have so much to do to sort out all the whats and whys of pitiful Chinook runs . What part is human caused, what part is natural phenomena- warm currents, etc…

    You keep speaking up, we’ll all keep working!

  9. Aussie Blue Sky Says:

    There won’t be any apology because no mistake was made in the tweets from the Battle Fatigues Pageant. The lies were deliberate.

    All that snarking about ‘good news’ not being picked up by the media ….. demonstrates that the Palin spokesmouths had no intention of distributing a media release about the ‘good news’. And they didn’t.

  10. akmuckraker Says:

    Nice post. With all the political nonsense, it’s important to remember that a simple human apology goes a long way. Thanks.

  11. Jim Says:

    I agree that an apology is in order, but the urgent message above is Alaska’s villages may be heading into another bad winter. Time is running out for fuel and food to be delivered by boat.

  12. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    I feel badly for Mr. Tucker, having his reputation impugned by such a damaging & horrific ‘tweet’ for a silly barracuda juvenile snitfest. Damaging most because, after all the Villages went through last winter, that ‘tweet’ was designed to sweep the potential problems that are likely to be faced this NEXT winter and minimize the issue.

    One thing struck me so strongly last winter, when you Ann were starting your Nunam Iqua food drive, Nick Tucker called to let you know that food had started arriving in Emmonak – that he had 600lbs (I believe) to send to your Village too. While some people might have been tempted to sit on their ‘goldmine’, Mr. Tucker was busy trying to get everyone fed & safe!

    I look forward to seeing Dennis Z. videos with Mr. Tucker! Then we will see the whole scoop – as they say “a picture is worth a thousand words”!

  13. Chaim Says:

    Your honest, simple humanity is touching, and in this internet age, it is heard thousands of miles away. The dishonest who once were powerful enough to shut you out cannot avoid being confronted by the honest voices of those like yourself and Mr. Tucker. You are making history, and Mr. Moller and Governor Palin are the past. I can say that, because I’m older than all of you. God bless you.

  14. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    Another point. Many people are speculating that rural advisor, John Moller, is about to be the next one “thrown under the Sarah Palin bus”. Sounds like that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, he gets no sympathy from me. Has anybody heard a SINGLE thing he has accomplished, other than collecting his paycheck, running around seeing the countryside on the State’s dime? We don’t know yet just how many fish HE has been able to snag while the Villagers weren’t allowed to fish.

    Between the ‘tweets’ & Moller drama (along with all the scathing articles that have been published re: McCain/Palin campaign this week), it might help to get Dennis Z. videos a much stronger audience in MSM.

    There needs to be some big time pressure placed before any of these issues in the Rural Villages are addressed, IMO.

  15. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Great post Ann!

    All of us who are closely following this drama know that Mr. Tucker speaks directly from the heart. The details of this mis-tweet must be revealed.

    I emailed John Moller yesterday and left voice mail inviting him to write a guest post concerning his side of the story.

    No response yet but, when I called to confirm his email address, I was told to send my message to the governor and he would get it.

    So John, if you didn’t get my email sent to your account and you didn’t get my voice mail, the offer’s still on the table. Please tell us what’s really going on in Emmonak.

    We don’t want to do this again next winter!!


  16. John Says:

    Politicians and lobbyists from around the United States wine and dine and go fishing for Kings each year at the Kenai Classic. A couple hours from now (noon Thursday) everyone will be getting their pictures taken with their Kings that they caught on the Kenai River. Usually there are several US Senators, a bunch of State officials and lobbyists. Don Young was this year’s speaker. I guess the Governor isn’t there but I wouldn’t be surprised if Parnell is. From ADN’s article “Don Young to attend Kenai Classic Banquet”:

    “The event has long attracted political power brokers from around the country who socialized and trolled for salmon during the annual fundraiser.”

    I think it is so ironic that while people on the Yukon aren’t allowed to subsistence fish for Kings and seem to have a lot of difficulty even being heard by their state government, a couple hundred politicians from around the United States and Alaska are getting together, having a great time catching kings, raising funds for Kenai River preservation, and networking among themselves.

  17. John Says:

    This article includes a nice picture of Lisa Murkowski and her king from a previous year. Of course, the politicians get to keep their kings– they don’t have to donate them to elders or widows.

  18. John Says:

    I forgot the link! Here is is:

  19. The Rubber Room Hotel Says:

    Thanks for your report!

    I just love how when David Letterman cracked a joke, Palin decided to twist it up and make it about something that wasn’t true then scream and shout for an apology.
    But she insults and and lies about comments from an Alaskan Elder she shows no respect and ignores requests for an apology.

    All up the rivers here in the interior families are right now making decisions about how they will survive the winter with no fish.

  20. grouchygranny Says:

    We all have your backs in the villages. Please tell us what you need for us to do to plan ahead and get as much fuel and food in place before freeze up. This is not charity on our part, but simply an acknowledgement of
    our human dependence on one another. Your people have been doing that for thousands of years. You could even say you taught us!

  21. KarenJ Says:

    I put your Anonymous Bloggers URL along with the ADN Rural Blog story and some background on chum vs. king salmon in the AKMuckraker story on Huffington Post.

    It was a long-enough (2 part) post — unless folks are awful tired of seeing my name on posts there it should get some reading.

  22. alaskapi Says:

    Ok… some waiting is over…

    Now- what does this mean? What does Mr Moller mean here?

  23. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Grrrr… sounds like Moller just said “I think I did that, I don’t know, it’s not up to me, I don’t know….”

    Take your damn notebook, Moller, and write down some family names and contacts as you go along. You sound like you don’t even know these people, or what villages they are from. Get to know these people. And duh… they don’t call you but come talk to you when you visit. So get out there to ALL of those villages you’ve missed and let them talk to you! Take pictures, enjoy them as you go along! It’s the bush – you KNOW things are different. We want them to STAY different!

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