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.
Buy gift cards for residents of Eagle who lost everything including their survival gear in the Yukon breakup!
Big Ray’s is offering a 20% discount to Eagle Village residents and distributing gift cards to those who need them most. Gift cards are $10 – increase the quantity to donat more.