Is Anyone Doing Anything to Prevent Another Rural Crisis?



Nicholas Tucker

Jul 12, 2009

It was a year ago today that Walt Monegan, then Department of Public Safety commissioner, was fired from his position as Alaska’s top cop. At the time of his departure Monegan warned of potential social unrest in rural Alaska because of poor fishing returns.

Given the gathering storm of a questionable fishing season, and the escalating price of fuel in our state, there will be serious stress placed upon communities and residents who will struggle with the coming winter’s challenges. Last week I had asked our Troopers and Fire Marshalls to outreach both to these communities, and to your departments in a cooperative effort to mitigate issues that will arise like: theft, domestic violence, substance abuse, suicide; and, accidental death that all can come from sinking reserves of fuel, money and hope. Teamwork will never be so important.

~ Walt Monegan, July 12, 2008

The problems facing rural Alaskans were discussed at the legislature’s Special Energy Session last August Les Garas reported in January, 2009

During last August’s energy special session, the press focused its attention on Gov. Palin’s plan to send Alaskans a $1,200 check. What went unreported was the call from rural Alaska for something better, and their warning of this winter’s impending crisis. Many legislators worked to replace Gov. Palin’s plan with one that would have gone a long way to relieving the pain being felt across rural Alaska today, and even in communities like Fairbanks, where high heating costs are a growing concern. I reported on the impending rural fuel crisis in my newsletter following last August’s Energy Special Session  (“Pushing Compassion: Walking A Mile In A Bethel Resident’s Shoes. . . . Giving everyone the same help, and ignoring that some people in this state are struggling while some are not, seemed like policy that could be improved upon a lot,” Aug. 11, 2008 Office Newsletter)

The early warning sighs were there last year but the crisis was not recognized until Nicolas Tucker spoke up about the dire situation families in Emmonak were facing on January 9, 2009.

I am reaching out for these families. Help is needed and cannot be delayed. I cannot imagine so many in this village are in hunger, without fuel, and other essentials and uncertain about their future. What is mind boggling about the whole situation is that they have remained silent, anonymous, suffered, and cried. The four villages in this region are in close proximity to each other and the demography is the same. Is this going on in your village?

The warning signs are there again, is anyone in government listening?

At the end of June the governor sent out this tweet:

John Moller just returned from Emmonak, reports 50% of residents have subsistence needs met already, others confident they can do the same.

When the Anchorage Daily News asked the governor’s spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, about the tweet she replied:

The good news – At the Federal Subsistence meeting in Emmonak last week, Nick Tucker reported that 50 percent of the residents have met subsistence needs and other 50 percent are confident they will meet their needs.

To which Nick Tucker replied:

I want them to take it back.

I’ve never said that. Ten times over, I’ve never said that. It was from one fisherman in Alakanuk.” I do not believe that we in Emmonak – Emmonak never said that.

He demanded an apology, Rural Advisor John Moller offered one and Nick has accepted, but now what?

Civil disobedience doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Residents of Marshall went fishing illegally and practically had to send out a press release to get the incident noticed.

A state wildlife trooper is headed to the village of Marshall to investigate subsistence fishermen who said they fished during a closed period in an act of civil disobedience.

The Yukon River fishermen told reporters they caught 100 king salmon on Friday to feed their elders and others in need.

Is anyone in a position of authority at the state or federal level doing anything to avoid a repeat of last year’s crisis?

Is anyone making sure winter fuel is in place or will be in place before the rivers freeze?

Is anyone sending in food by barge so it will be there when the preserved salmon runs out?

Is any research being done to decrease salmon bycatch by developing salmon safe nets similar to the dolphin safe nets that came about after a tuna boycott?

Is anyone working on anything to prevent another winter of donations and flat rate boxes?

If so, please let us know.

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22 Responses to “Is Anyone Doing Anything to Prevent Another Rural Crisis?”

  1. Goose Says:

    I believe you’ll find the answer to these questions in the comment section of the article Dire? from the adn put up in Jan. of this year. I have a eerie feeling most of the vile spewing commentors were actually those in authority at the state and federal level. Surely, as I did, you’ve perused every one. The gist of it was, ‘if you want to be sovereign…you got to give it up…or move or die…or don’t look for hand outs…ad nausium,’ that we’re on our own.

    As an Sovereign people, may I suggest to pick an representative and apply to the POTUS himself (you know, that Nation to Nation thing.) Tell the state to cease and desist in its interference. WAR said sovereignty was so 16th century, yet the state turns around and in the same breath proclaims that same sovereignty against the US! You (as a People) have it, You use it too!

    I see the state of Alaska ignoring you and forcing you off your lands. When you move and are scattered what then, this Sovereignty?

  2. Laurie Says:

    I live in Southcentral Alaska (NOT the Anchorage area). What can we do to help? I will be happy to write letters or whatever it takes. I have been trying to focus the folks on Mudflats to help but everyone seems to be over-engaged in the soon-to-be-ex-governorship issues.

    I don’t know how to post a thread over there but have mentioned that people need to read it.

  3. anonymousbloggers Says:


    Part of the problem is figuring out who to write or call. I don’t live in Alaska but if I did I would start with elected officials in my district.

    People who live on the rivers of rural Alaska are being clobbered from every direction – the pollock fishery, the Canadian treaty obligations and a state government that doesn’t give a hoot.

    It’s tragic – thanks for caring!

    If you find a sympathetic ear in south central Alaska, invite him/her to send a post with suggestions as to how to help.

    If you have your own suggestions/contacts/ideas, please let us know.


  4. Goose Says:

    not keep,…stop.

  5. Goose Says:

    Not the Immunity part. Not every Village as a whole but individually.

    I see the AFN is having an essay contest…LOL.

    I just read in the news: (and I believe he means it.)

    “Obama said all countries must respect the “sovereignty” of nations such as Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet satellites often at odds with Russia (which invaded Georgia territory last year).”

    There are Gov’t programs all ready for sovereign Tribes and Villages.

    Emmonak Village is an acknowledged Native entity within the state of Alaska and is eligible to receive services from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is according to the USA website!

    And an excerpt (emphasis mine) from the dept. of Justice Website on Indian Sovereignty and government to government relations with Indian Tribes:
    …President Clinton’s directive requires that in all activities relating to or affecting the government or treaty rights of Indian tribes, the executive branch shall:

    1) operate within a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized Indian tribes;

    2) consult, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, with Indian tribal governments before taking actions that affect federally recognized Indian tribes;

    3) assess the impact of agency activities on tribal trust resources and assure that tribal interests are considered before the activities are undertaken;

    4) remove procedural impediments to working directly with tribal governments on activities that affect trust property or governmental rights of the tribes; and

    5) work cooperatively with other agencies to accomplish these goals established by the President.

    The Department of Justice is reviewing programs and procedures to ensure that we adhere to principles of respect for Indian tribal governments and honor our Nation’s trust responsibility to Indian tribes. Within the Department, the Office of Tribal Justice has been formed to coordinate policy towards Indian tribes both within the Department and with other agencies of the Federal Government, and to assist Indian tribes as domestic dependent nations within the federal system….


    The Department acknowledges the federal trust responsibility arising from Indian treaties, statutes, executive orders, and the historical relations between the United States and Indian tribes. In a broad sense, the trust responsibility relates to the United States’ unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribes. Congress, with plenary power over Indian affairs, plays a primary role in defining the trust responsibility, and Congress recently declared that the trust responsibility “includes the protection of the sovereignty of each tribal government.” 25 U.S.C. § 3601….

    The term “trust responsibility” is also used in a narrower sense to define the precise legal duties of the United States in managing prosperity and resources of Indian tribes and, at times, of individual Indians.

    The trust responsibility, in both senses, will guide the Department in litigation, enforcement, policymaking and proposals for legislation affecting Indian country, when appropriate to the circumstances. As used in its narrower sense, the federal trust responsibility may be justiciable in some circumstances, while in its broader sense the definition and implementation of the trust responsibility is committed to Congress and the Executive Branch….

    Then there is welfare and food stamps, But….

    So maybe try this:

    Information gleaned from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website:

    Alaska distributing agency administering the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, NSLP Schools, Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Nutrition Service Incentive Program, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

    NSLP, CACFP, SFSP, CI, & TEFAP Contact:
    Jo Dawson
    Project Coordinator
    Child Nutrition Services
    Department of Education & Early Development
    801 W. 10th St., Suite 200
    Juneau, AK 99801-1894
    Tel: (907) 465-8710
    Fax: (907) 465-8638

    FDPIR/ITO and State Agency Contacts

    This page provides a list of the State Distributing Agency contacts for Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) participating in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

    Mr. Gregory L. Nothstine
    Coordinator, Food Distribution Program
    Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
    4831 Old Seward Hwy, suite 107
    Anchorage, Alaska 99503
    Tel: (907) 222-3190
    Fax: (907) 277-7368
    Areas of Operation: (13) Akiak Native Community; Alakanuk Tribal Council; Chitina Traditional Indian Village Council; Hamilton Tribal Council (Kotlik); Hydaburg Cooperative Association Tribal Council; Kongiganak Traditional Council; Native Village of Nunam Iqua (Sheldon Point); Nenana Traditional Council; Old Harbor Tribal Council; Platinum Traditional Village Council; Seldovia Village Tribe; Stebbins Community Association; Umkumiut Tribal Council (Nightmute)

    Being constituents of the so called fourth world I can only wish you luck. Don’t let them bully you. This “I’m not going to let you have it, ‘cuz I don’t want to keep telling you NO…” is something I read, just resently…somewheres….

  6. alaskapi Says:

    Goose said:”The gist of it was, ‘if you want to be sovereign…you got to give it up…or move or die…or don’t look for hand outs…ad nausium,’ that we’re on our own…

    I see the state of Alaska ignoring you and forcing you off your lands. When you move and are scattered what then, this Sovereignty?”
    Oh- if it was only as simple , vile but simple, as all that…
    The foolishness you are referring to is a common theme of folks who haven’t even begun to look at the whole picture.
    It’s always safer and easier to blame the folks in bad straits and tell em to buck up… Ignore those twits, Goose.
    So you know-
    Sovereignty IS a live issue here in Alaska . ANSCA changed the relationship of Alaska Natives with the fed but did not extinguish that relationship.
    It is NOT, however, the fullblown notion most of us associate with the word, nor is the state out of the picture.

    Last winter, the BIA was available and did help. There are ongoing, existing federal programs which are part of the federal obligation to work with Alaska Natives. Senator Murkowski has been particularly helpful in this area.
    There is no trust-responsibility as with native groups Outside. The fed does not manage the resources of the villages for them as is the case on reservations, etc.
    As to whether the state is trying to run anyone off their lands… not really. State is just not responding as we want to see a responsible govt do…which is a big enough slap in the face by itself.
    There was much talk about HOW the state could not declare an economic disaster but never a clear explanation of WHY.

    Did anyone try to say how they did the figuring -within these guidelines?
    Alaska Statutes.
    Title 44. State Government
    Chapter 33. Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
    Section 285. Action By Governor.
    previous: Section 275. Definitions.
    next: Section 290. Employment Preference.

    AS 44.33.285. Action By Governor.
    The governor may, upon recommendation of the commissioner of commerce, community, and economic development, designate by proclamation an area as an area impacted by an economic disaster. When an area is so designated, the legislature may appropriate money for assistance grants and the governor may recommend in the governor’s budget submission that capital projects planned for the area be accelerated and that new projects be funded for the area. The proclamation may provide that waivers of capital projects requirements, as authorized in AS 44.33.300, become effective only to the extent set out in the proclamation.
    Alaska Statutes.
    Title 44. State Government
    Chapter 33. Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
    Section 310. Definitions.
    previous: Section 305. Regulations.
    next: Section 320. – 44.33.380l Residential Care Facility Revolving Loan Fund. [Repealed, Sec. 72 Ch 113 SLA 1982].

    AS 44.33.310. Definitions.
    In AS 44.33.285 – 44.33.310,

    (1) “base period” means any 10 years after 1950, not necessarily continuous, and if the economic disaster is caused by a fisheries failure the period shall consist of years during which a fishery produced at economically representative levels as determined by the Department of Fish and Game;

    (2) “department” means the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development;

    (3) “economic disaster” means that the annual income to workers in the designated area dropped below the average annual income for the base period for workers in the designated area and the drop in income is of such magnitude that the average family income of all residents of the designated area as determined by the department is below the poverty guidelines issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, adjusted by the department to reflect subsistence economic patterns and appropriate cost-of-living differentials; the availability of alternate employment shall be considered in determining whether an economic disaster has occurred under this paragraph.

  7. alaskapi Says:

    What is getting asked here is more on the lines of- what are you hearing? Do you know what is going on?
    There’s some word the fishing is better on the Kuskokwim, Rotten and mostly closed on the lower Yukon, fair elsewhere…
    Weather has been hot and dry statewide- maybe not by Outside standards but for here it has been..
    What does that mean for gathering greens and berries?
    Are folks making enough $ in the short season to afford fuel, which is climbing in price again?

    This map shows how huge we are and how far away our neighbors in the bush are … We’re starting an early roll call to see how folks are doing… don’t want to pretend this year…

  8. alaskapi Says:

    We’re all worried that factory trawling has damaged other fisheries with it’s inherent bycatch problem- the Yukon Chinook most notably, as it directly affects people we know and raises concerns about whether that fishery can rebound at this point.
    We’re worried CDQs have too much vested in having the pollack industry continue in current Status Quo to adequately advocate and act for their stakeholders.
    We’re aggravated that the compartmentalized way govt often operates seems to have left the pollack industry out of the equation in meeting treaty obligations for salmon escapement to Canada on the Yukon and dumped far too much responsibility on everyday folks along the river to suck it up to meet obligations the govt took on…

  9. alaskapi Says:

    Goose- we’re worried.

    My grammy was one of the thousands of native children , during trust-responsibilty days here in Alaska, who was taken from her home and sent to boarding school. She lived a full and rewarding life but suffered many hardships along the way. The largest was the whatever it was that was broken when everything she knew was cast away as useless by folks who thought they knew what she needed…

    The whole idea here is that folks, Native or no, in rural Alaska deserve parity at our state table, a future they determine, a future with dignity.

  10. alaskapi Says:

    And we’re starting a roll call…

  11. Laurie Says:

    alaskapi: What are CDQs (____ ____quotas?)? I am trying to educate myself on the problems that rural folks are encountering. Any help that you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Just reading the above is somewhat eye-opening. Thanks,

  12. Goose Says:

    There is much to learn. Thank you for your kind response and for clarifying. In the face of an mean world, compassion received from other peoples is heartwarming and brings much hope. The generosity of private citizens has been uplifting to behold. Through this medium of the internet friendships are wrought and our lives are enriched. Have faith that you shall not be forgotten through the coming winter, for you have become endeared.

  13. yukonbushgrma Says:


    W I S E W O R D S — all of them.

    I don’t know the answers, but I think people like you do …

    Rural Alaska is a totally different breed, and as a government the State of Alaska has many, many questions to answer — before winter.

    We are not all Native, but as a people we are collectively RURAL. And the RURAL people of Alaska have serious concerns to be addressed before winter!

  14. annstrongheart Says:


    CDQ= Community Development Quota

  15. alaskapi Says:

    Hey yukonbushgrma showed up for roll call!
    ( waving excitedly across however dadgum many hundred miles seperate us in this huge state…)
    Hey neighbor!
    I see Eagle has started moving flood update info to a new place.
    The needs lists are easier to get to.

    How ARE things going?
    That “days left til road closed ” calendar at the bottom of the screen makes it very real to me. Not much time, so much to do…

  16. alaskapi Says:


    How are villages downriver from you doing?
    Have you heard?
    One of the things on the to-do list , a terribly mundane chore but a necessary component to acheiving parity for Rural Alaska ,is to increase our ability to get information out and about.

    The map I linked above showed how few roads link us all.
    It lacks the air and water links which loosely tie the rest of this huge place together.

    To talk to each other, we rely on newspapers and NPR statewide, VHF , telephone where available, and increasingly these here “tubes” for interpersonal communication.

    Getting goods into rural Alaska is a challenge, getting information OUT is more than a challenge, it’s almost non-existent.
    AK Newspapers Inc , with their string of papers inc Tundra Drums have done a great deal in the last few months to get news out of certain parts of the state, bloggers have done some…
    What else needs to happen to get information moving in a timely manner? 94 days til the road is closed into Eagle… 94 short days…

  17. alaskapi Says:

    Glad to see you back ! We can use hundreds more hands here..:-D

    Ann popped in but here’s more…

    This is a super basic overview of what the CDQs are. Keep in mind they are coastal entities- their sphere of influence is all on the outer coast.

    There are some great things going on with CDQs but there is also an inbuilt tendency towards inertia as regards dealing face on with the possible effects of bycatch- of ALL species- in the factory trawling industry… from which $ flow…

  18. alaskapi Says:

    It will take as many eyes on issues and hands as we can scrounge to work on them as we can muster…

    I think we’ll add yukonbushgrma’s statement to our mission statement

    “We are not all Native, but as a people we are collectively RURAL. And the RURAL people of Alaska have serious concerns to be addressed before winter!’

    Dang tooting.

  19. yukonbushgrma Says:

    comment left on Mudflats re: gravel – and help for Andy, who has been just the best:


    bless you all …..

  20. alaskapi Says:


    Hoping our outfront efforts- new post – and our keystone cops routine behind scenes (running around contacting everyone we can think of ) yields some assistance for Mr Bassich.
    Happy salmon bake to ya, neighbor!

  21. alaskapi Says:

    Another Alaskan has answered the roll call…

    Marshall fisherman
    struggling to provide for 14


    by Tommy Wells

    MARSHALL – Leonard Fitka Jr. doesn’t ask where the next meal his family of 14 eats will come from. He’ll know as soon as the 20-year-old fisherman catches it.
    Catching food hasn’t been easy of late. Thanks to a slow Yukon River king run, along with federal and state restrictions on catching the fish, Fitka and his family are facing hard times.
    “It’s a hard time for me and my family,” he said.

  22. alaskapi Says:
    More Alaskans…

    Our neighbors are talking…

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