Archive for October, 2009

Victoria Briggs: On the Verge of Winter

October 25, 2009

erinhig2

Fall sunset in Ugashik

Oct 25, 2009

While returning home from Dillingham, we flew over the tundra that is starting to show signs of real winter. Lake after pond, after stream after river, after lake after pond, well you get it, mushy tundra swamp. Everything is either a shade of blue/white or brown/tan.

Up to a third of most lakes are now frozen over, mostly the southern end because the winds have been from the north lately. It had been an evening and morning of frozen rain and light snow.

Many would call this area God forsaken, many call it beautiful, and a few of us call it home.

So many thoughts were going through my head, fast, slow, back and forth, from when I first saw this area, to pondering how the future is going to show itself.

I have been reading Erin McKittrick’s book  A Long Trek Home about Alaska and the 4,000 mile trip she and husband Hig took walking, paddling and skiing which brought them through here a little over a  year ago. We had a great visit with this super couple when they stopped for a few days in Ugashik while on their trek.

erinhig1Erin & Hig leaving Ugashik last fall

Her writings of what all they saw and experienced on their trip up through SE Alaska and then down and out to the start of the Aleutian Islands keep you turning the pages to enjoy more. The beauty, the sad things, the wildlife, the loss of culture, the maintaining of cultures, all something we need to pay attention to more here in Alaska.

Since then I have tapped into Hig’s knowledge of what all is facing us here in Alaska, everything from oil drilling and mining to coal exploration.

How he, as a well trained scientist, sees us learning about and getting involved in those things which will affect everything from our fisheries, jobs, environment, to education for our kids so they can have a future.

http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/blog/

I found myself wondering how we can use this knowledge to hold those in positions of ‘leadership’ accountable for OUR future. From our state officials but more importantly, in my mind, our local organizations and people?

How we can move past the self–interests, racism, and short sightedness?

Push past the knowledge holders instead of knowledge sharers?

Push past those who would prefer to hold back more than move forward?

How do we push past those who REALLY do NOT care about people and cultures, despite the rhetoric, and move into a future of sustainability and thriving villages?

As we move into this season of not only cold but also of getting together for holidays, village events but also meetings and working on regional issues I will be watching and hoping we can really accomplish something towards helping people learn and be able to comment on those issues dear to them.

This is the time of year when most organizations in Alaska get together to discuss not only what has happened but also what needs to happen, from businesses organizations, fishing regulation agencies to tribal organizations.  Most all meet in the next six month at one time or the other to tackle a range of issues.

How do we work to show a complete picture of what village life is like,  work against those who stack the meetings/testimony (using monies that SHOULD be going to help) with only those who speak to only one side of an issue and move into REAL addressing of issues??

I hope, maybe, after the last 18 months or so and all the ‘outside’ attention we have garnered as a state it will make people realize we ARE on a world wide stage.

That our decisions and the directions we choose will impact many and for years to come.

Watching, and at times participating, has made me all the more determined to help others learn what they need so they too can speak up.

We need the tongues and feet of many to move forward.

Letting someone else always speak for you, even if you do not totally understand, is not acceptable.

To help people realize they have a right to by-laws, to minutes, to resolutions of their village governments, tribal governments and regional organizations.

If you are a member of an organization and you can’t get this information, ask WHY!!  Better yet ask, “WHY THE HELL NOT?”.

The “information holders” have to go!!

We have to move toward the people who are “information sharers” so we can ALL move forward.

~ Victoria

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Breaking News…A step in the right direction!

October 25, 2009

Oct 25, 2009

Obama seeks changes in Alaska hunting, fishing oversight

We’d like to credit two mudpups who helped bring this to our attention, Gramiam and GreatGranny2C, who found this breaking news.

Feds seek to reshape hunting and fishing rules

‘SYSTEM IS BROKEN’: Interior Secretary proposes to revamp oversight of subsistence in Alaska.

By KYLE HOPKINS

khopklins@adn.com

Published: October 23rd, 2009 11:03 AM

Last Modified: October 24th, 2009 04:19 PM

The Obama administration is launching a rapid, sweeping review of the way the federal government manages subsistence hunting and fishing in Alaska, Interior Department officials said Friday.

“The system, frankly, today is broken,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in a video shown at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention in downtown Anchorage.

Subsistence rights — the battle over who gets the first opportunity to hunt and fish on state or federal land — is a headline issue at this year’s convention. For decades, the debate has pitted rural Alaskans and Alaska Natives, who say they hunt and fish to survive, against sports groups and urban hunters and fishermen, who argue everyone should have equal access to fish and game.

The state makes hunting and fishing rules across Alaska. But the feds regulate subsistence on federal lands, creating a confounding, overlapping system.

In contrast to the state Constitution, a 1980 federal law guarantees rural Alaskans priority when it comes to subsistence. Some Alaska Native leaders say the feds haven’t done enough to protect that right, and are proposing a resolution at the convention today that calls for broad changes to subsistence management.

AFN leaders met with Interior officials at least twice in the past four months, outlining some of those requests, said state Sen. Albert Kookesh, an AFN co-chairman who praised Friday’s announcement.

READ the ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE

PBS Documentary: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska

October 22, 2009

webcast

Oct 22, 2009

My Google news alert for rural Alaska has been pretty active in the run-up to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention that started today in Anchorage. One news item mentioned there would be streaming video which intrigued me so I checked it out.

The video stream has a live chat next to the video window which was interesting – everything from chatters trying to get tickets to Quyana Night dancing to speculation about whether a speaker was chewing gum.

I got to the site just as the group broke for lunch and a screening of a new PBS film, The End of Jim Crow in Alaska, was about to begin for those remaining in the hall.

The film wasn’t shown on the video stream but a pre-taped interview conducted by Alaska’s US Senator Mark Begich was. He spoke with the film’s producer Jeff Silverman and participating advisor Rosita Wohl about the making of the film and a powerful preview was aired in which actress Diane Benson pleaded for the rights of Native families to settle in urban neighborhoods .

The film, which will be aired nationally in November, traces the quest of Alaska Native People seeking equality in Alaskan cities twenty years before the civil rights movement in the lower 48. Senator Begich is hoping it will be used in a new Native curriculum soon to be introduced in Alaska’s public schools.

Watch for it – it’s a proud tribute to the First People of Alaska.

~ Jane

Apple Orchards in the Bush?

October 14, 2009

apples

Oct 14, 2009

The University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension Service lost an important member of its team last June. Forest Specialist Bob Wheeler passed away on June 29 following a short battle with cancer.

One of Bob’s last projects was developing cold tolerant apple trees that would grow and thrive in the Interior. His project involved grafting 31 varieties of apples onto rootstock of cold tolerant Ranetka crabapples, a Siberian tree known for its ability to withstand cold winters.

Trees were planted in high tunnel greenhouses near Fairbanks two years ago. Today the AP has good news about the success of Bob’s project.

Fruit was harvested a year before expected.

“They’re a little tart, but they’re good,” said research technician Kendra Calhoun as she bit into a tiny yellow Ukalskoje apple.

Read Bob’s overview of the project here.

A Response? You decide!

October 11, 2009

I was just about to shut my computer down for the night, then I decided I should check email.

To my great surprise I see three emails that I was not expecting.  The first two were from Jollie, Tara L (CED) and the last was from Moller, John (GOV).

Responses?  On a Saturday?

After my first stunned reaction I click on the first one from Ms. Jollie.  Here is what I saw/read:

“I will be out of the office until October 22. If you are emailing about fuel supplies in remote Alaska, this is the most current information as of October 9, 2009.

The Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) is working to ensure adequate fuel supplies are available in Alaska’s remote, off road, villages. To that end, DCRA has made, and continues to make, an intense effort to contact off road communities regarding the status of fuel deliveries to their community. DCRA does not influence the selling price of fuel.

DCRA has identified 583 entities that cannot receive fuel delivery via the road system. These entities include Cities, Village Councils, Corporations and Schools that must stockpile large amounts of fuel for winter use. As of 9/29, DCRA has made 1,188 attempts to contact these entities. Of the 583 total entities, DCRA has successfully contacted 517, or 89%. Of the 583, 442, or 76%, report they have received their winter supply of fuel, or are in their normal cyclic delivery schedule with either a source internal or external to the community. Our work continues.”

In my absence please direct questions to Scott Ruby, DCRA Deputy Director. Scott may be reached at 269-4569 or at scott.ruby@alaska.gov.

Tara Jollie

Director

Division of Community and Regional Affairs

Obviously an auto response.  Let’s move on to number two:

“I will be out of the office until October 22. If you are emailing about fuel supplies in remote Alaska, this is the most current information as of October 9, 2009.

~SNIP~

In my absence please direct questions to Scott Ruby, DCRA Deputy Director. Scott may be reached at 269-4569 or at scott.ruby@alaska.gov.

Tara Jollie

Director

Division of Community and Regional Affairs

The exact same auto response.

(*Note these are NOT direct responses to emails that I sent, these are responses to emails that were sent by other concerned people that were cc’d to me*)

First thing I notice is that the first auto response is sent at 10:16 p.m. but the original email was sent at 2:27 p.m.  (Counting on my fingers… 2:27, 3:27, 4:27 etc..)  OK that’s like nearly 8 hours later.  Last time I checked auto responses were sent IMMEDIATELY when the email is received, right??  Unless this is some wierd State of Alaska/Government email anomally.  But then if you were going on vacation or whatever would you have it start on a Friday NOT a Saturday?  I’ll let y’all ponder that….

So let’s look at the first sentence:

“I will be out of the office until October 22. If you are emailing about fuel supplies in remote Alaska, this is the most current information as of October 9, 2009.

OK there’s the dead give away that it’s an auto response as if having it repeated a second time in another email didn’t give that away. October 22nd. Ok SURELY this is a coincidence right?? I mean she is going to be out of the office until the day I leave Ugashik to go and wait to have this baby. Coincidence I am certain.  Just like I am CERTAIN that there must be some legitimate pressing personal matter that is taking her out of the office…surely she just isn’t tucking tail and running away because of a few emails….Right?  I am certain there must be a legitimate reason or she must have had this leave time scheduled in advance and just forgot to turn on her email vacation response prior to 10 p.m. on a Saturday.

I mean this HAS to be an auto response right?  It’s not like she’s sitting at her computer firing off a COPIED response to all the emails she’s receiving hours after receiving them.  (* Found out that someone else who had been cc’d on an email received the same COPIED Auto Response to an earlier email one minute after I got mine*)

Next sentence….  If you are emailing about fuel supplies blah blah blah….. so obviously she has received a few emails inquiring about fuel supplies….ya think?

Moving on…

The Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) is working to ensure adequate fuel supplies are available in Alaska’s remote, off road, villages. To that end, DCRA has made, and continues to make, an intense effort to contact off road communities regarding the status of fuel deliveries to their community. DCRA does not influence the selling price of fuel.

Has made, continues to make, an INTENSE EFFORT!!  Wish I could know what Ms. Jollie’s or the DCRA’s definition of INTENSE EFFORT is?  Because not responding for months and months to inquiries seems lacking to me…JMHO ;-)  Hmm DCRA does NOT influence the selling price of fuel…doesn’t that sound like what I had in my email to her?  Let’s check…

From: Ann Strongheart <nunamiquayouth@yahoo.com>

Subject: Fuel Watch

To: “Tara Jollie” <tara.jollie@alaska.gov>, “John Moller” <john.moller@alaska.gov>, “Attorney General” <attorney.general@alaska.gov>

Date: Friday, October 2, 2009, 11:30 AM

Ms. Jolie

~SNIP~

I expressed my concern that even if these communities have or will receive the fuel they need for the winter that I am concerned about at what cost and how will people be able to afford the fuel. You stated that it was not your departments job and/or responsibility to set fuel prices. Which I understand but I am still concerned and would HOPE that you would bring this to the Governors attention. That simply because a community has fuel available that does not ensure that residents will be able to afford said fuel. Especially due to the poor commercial fishing this past summer.

Yep that pretty much looks like something I had in my email to her.  The next section throws out a whole lot of statistics.  Wow that’s a lot of numbers!  1,188 attempts to contact, 517 contacted, 442 reporting that they have their fuel or look to have it delivered.  Then we finish it off with…Our work continues!  Can you really say OUR when you are leaving for unknown reasons?

So 442 reporting that they are set or will be set for the winter which is 76% of the villages or wait how did she word it…it was such a mess of important sounding words….aww yes here it is…Alaska’s remote, off road, villages that includes: Cities, Village Councils, Corporations and Schools.

Is it just me or does it seem like there are a whole lotta numbers and a whole lotta words that don’t really answer any questions?  Ok I know they say that they are calling around and they have all these numbers and percentages but other than saying:  OUR WORK CONTINUES…ummm whatelse is the DCRA doing? (besides staying up late on a Saturday evening sending out COPIED Auto responses to emails?  Guess I am NOT the only one up late on a Saturday sitting at the computer!)

Then Ms. Jollie goes on to say:

In my absense (no she is not tucking tail and panicking and running away!) Please direct questions to blah blah blah.  Contact information blah blah blah.  Passing the buck!!! Not going to answer all of these emails, caving under the strain blah blah blah

And there ya have, the DCRA’s Director’s Response!  It seems like magic that we even got this much of a response.

Well let’s move on to Mr. Moller’s response:

From: Moller, John (GOV) <john.moller@alaska.gov>

Subject: RE: Fuel Watch Meeting Oct 2, 2009

To: “Ann Strongheart” <nunamiquayouth@yahoo.com>, “General, Attorney (LAW sponsored)” <attorney.general@alaska.gov>, “Jollie, Tara L (CED)” <tara.jollie@alaska.gov>, “ombudsman ak” <ombudsman@legis.state.ak.us>

Date: Saturday, October 10, 2009, 9:54 PM

Dear Ms. Strongheart:

I understand your concerns with the continued high cost of energy. There are a number of programs that are available to help Alaskans in need. Attached is information about programs available through the Division of Public Assistance, which includes help in paying for heating expenses through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) and the Alaska Heating Assistance Program (AKHAP).

In some areas of Alaska , these programs are operated by Alaska Native organizations. Attached is a flier that provides information about Heating Assistance, and it includes the list of Alaska Native Organizations that are operating Tribal LIHEAP/Heating Assistance programs. Kodiak Area Native Association and Bristol Bay Native Association’s programs are new this year and they are in the process of getting their offices ready to begin accepting applications.

The Women, Infant’s and Children’s program is administered by community grantees. Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. in Dillingham operates the WIC program in the Bristol Bay and Dillingham area. They can be reached at 842-2036. Families can get more information about the WIC program and how to apply at http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dpa/programs/nutri/wic/Participants/Default.htm

I hope all Alaskans apply for these programs that apply to them if they are in need. I hope you find this information helpful.

Regards,

John Moller

Rural Advisor

Office of Governor Parnell

907-465-3500

Before I start analyzing this one I’ll share my reply:

Mr. Moller,

Quyana for your response to my email. You offered some information about some programs which I will be sure to pass along.

Although, I can’t help but notice that you didn’t answer a single one of my questions. So here they are again. I hope that you will be able to address them. I am assuming that since you are the Rural Advisor to Governor Parnell that you will have access to the necessary information to answer them, even though they were originally directed at the DCRA and Ms. Jollie.

What is the fuel status for rural Alaska ?

After reading report #5 from your dept. I am assuming that only those 13 communities identified in the report are having fuel issues?? I am assuming the remaining 567 are all set fuelwise for the winter? Would you please clarify that.

I expressed my concern that even if these communities have or will receive the fuel they need for the winter that I am concerned about at what cost and how will people be able to afford the fuel. You stated that it was not your departments job and/or responsibility to set fuel prices. Which I understand but I am still concerned and would HOPE that you would bring this to the Governors attention. That simply because a community has fuel available that does not ensure that residents will be able to afford said fuel. Especially due to the poor commercial fishing this past summer.

What is the current status of the the villages listed in report #5 from your dept? Are they all set and have their fuel for the winter?

Does the public have access to the whole database? I would like to review it to ensure that all communities were identified. I am concerned b/c I don’t see Alakanuk nor Kotlik nor other YK Delta Villages listed.

Could you please include me on your mailing list for future reports on the fuel watch. I am working on a post for my blog and would like to be able to keep up to date on current fuel information. I will be going into wait to have this baby here in a few very short weeks and intend to fill my time actively advocating for rural Alaska .

Quyana Cakneq in advance for your response and attention to this matter.

Ann Strongheart


Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Moller’s response.  I;ll paste it here and put my thoughts and translations  in blue.

Dear Ms. Strongheart:

I understand your concerns with the continued high cost of energy. (I am tired of receiving emails and hearing about your complaints concerns! ) There are a number of programs that are available to help Alaskans in need. (I am giving you all this information in hopes of distracting you and getting you off of my back !  No it is NOT passing the buck to another government agency in hopes that you will pester them with your steady stream of emails and questions!) Attached is information about programs available through the Division of Public Assistance, which includes help in paying for heating expenses through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) and the Alaska Heating Assistance Program (AKHAP).  (Please contact them and stop emailing me! because it’s hard work coming up with such a long run-on sentence that seems this impressive with lots of words!)

In some areas of Alaska , these programs are operated by Alaska Native organizations. (If you don’t already know your AVCP does this type of stuff for the Y/K Delta!) Attached is a flier that provides information about Heating Assistance, and it includes the list of Alaska Native Organizations that are operating Tribal LIHEAP/Heating Assistance programs. (Please print these out and distribute them and quit pestering me to do my job!) Kodiak Area Native Association and Bristol Bay Native Association’s programs are new this year and they are in the process of getting their offices ready to begin accepting applications.  (Maybe you can help them too since you are in Ugashik for the winter and hand out these flyers for me!)

The Women, Infant’s and Children’s program is administered by community grantees.  (WIC, you are pregnant and have a toddler!  Let’s see if I can distract you by throwing them in this email also!) Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. in Dillingham operates the WIC program in the Bristol Bay and Dillingham area. They can be reached at 842-2036. Families can get more information about the WIC program and how to apply at http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dpa/programs/nutri/wic/Participants/Default.htm (You are in that area now, so I am going to put their specific contact information here just for you!  DISTRACTION!! DISTRACTION!!! Leave me alone please! DISTRACTION!!)

I hope all Alaskans apply for these programs that apply to them if they are in need.  (Can you mumble that again?  I hope ALL Alaskans apply?) I hope you find this information helpful.  (Please don’t notice that I didn’t answer any of your questions and that I am simply trying to placate you and distract you and hopefully get you to start pestering another government agency and leave me alone!)

Regards,

John Moller

Rural Advisor

Office of Governor Parnell

907-465-3500

************

I will discuss these responses or lack thereof in the future.

-AnnS


Enough Fuel for the Winter? Don’t Expect the DCRA to Answer!

October 9, 2009
Nunam Iqua's Fuel/Tank Farm, picture taken Spring Flood '08

Nunam Iqua's Fuel/Tank Farm, picture taken Spring Flood '08

Those of you who visit Anonymous Bloggers know that we have been trying for months to find out whether or not the villages in rural Alaska have enough fuel to make it through this winter.  After last years crisis, we wanted to ensure that everyone got their fuel deliveries and are set for the winter.

This does not translate into the residents having enough money to buy fuel and food for this winter.  We wanted to make sure that fuel was simply available.   Surely that State of Alaska has a program to monitors this type of thing, especially after last winters fuel issues across rural Alaska, right?

They do,  and it’s called Fuel Watch and it is run by the Department of Community and Rural Affairs (DCRA).   Even Governor Parnell wants to know what the fuel situation is….

I tried sending out an email to get answers:

Dear Mr. Parnell, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Moller, and Ms. Jollie;

Waqaa!  I am writing to inquire as to whether or not any of your offices have completed fuel inquiries for rural Alaska?  There was mention that villages were being contacted to assess their fuel situations and preparedness for this winter.

Additionally, what happened and/or what is the status of the Yukon Fisheries Disaster Declaration that was sent to DC?

Any information you could provide me about these issues would be greatly appreciated.  I am gravely concerned that this winters crisis in rural Alaska will be far worse than last winters, is there anything you can tell me that is in the works or under consideration to avert another crisis in bush Alaska  this winter?

Quyana Cakneq in advance for your help in this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at the below contact information.

After sending that email one of the board members at AB found  this report thanks to ADN’s Kyle Hopkins.

So I read the report and had some questions.  So since the report clearly states at the top:

Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA)

Report to the Commissioner

September 18, 2009

From Director Tara Jollie

Ms. Tara Jollie, Photo from KTUU

Ms. Tara Jollie, Photo from KTUU

I thought well I’ll contact Ms. Jollie, I mean it does say it’s from her right?  I had some questions.  So I called her.  I about fell off of my chair when she actually answered the phone!!  So I asked her my questions.  Specifically related to clarifying HER report.  Did I get answers?  NOPE!!  Instead I got the run around and a broken record response of … “We are having a meeting today (Oct. 2, 2009) and I was planning on answering your email after this meeting.”
Ok, well now I am getting some where right??  Well just to make sure that she didn’t forget my questions I immediately sent a follow up email:
Ms. Jollie,
Thank you very much for speaking with me earlier on the phone. I am glad to hear that you are meeting today to discuss the FUEL WATCH for rural Alaska.

I look forward to your email in response to my questions.  Here is a recap with a few extra questions:

What is the fuel status for rural Alaska?
After reading report #5 from your dept.  I am assuming that only those 13 communities identified in the report are having fuel issues??  I am assuming the remaining 567 are all set fuelwise for the winter?  Would you please clarify that.
I expressed my concern that even if these communities have or will receive the fuel they need for the winter that I am concerned about at what cost and how will people be able to afford the fuel.  You stated that it was not your departments job and/or responsibility to set fuel prices.  Which I understand but I am still concerned and would HOPE that you would bring this to the Governors attention.  That simply because a community has fuel available that does not ensure that residents will be able to afford said fuel.  Especially due to the poor commercial fishing this past summer.
What is the current status of the the villages listed in report #5 from your dept?  Are they all set and have their fuel for the winter?
Does the public have access to the whole database?  I would like to review it to ensure that all communities were identified.  I am concerned b/c I don’t see Alakanuk nor Kotlik nor other YK Delta Villages listed.
Could you please include me on your mailing list for future reports on the fuel watch.  I am working on a post for my blog and would like to be able to keep up to date on current fuel information.  I will be going into wait to have this baby here in a few very short weeks and intend to fill my time actively advocating for rural Alaska.

I look forward to your response.
AnnS

I give her 7 days to respond, then I send a courteous reminder:

Dear Ms. Jollie, (AG and Mr. Moller see below)

It has been 7 days since I not only emailed you about the Fuel Watch meetings/information but also spoke to you on the phone.  You assured me that you were going to respond to my email when I spoke to you on the phone.  I have attached that email again.  I look forward to hearing your responses to my questions.
Like I mentioned I am working on a post for our blog (https://anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com/) and I had hoped to include information about the meeting that you said was happening on Oct. 2.  But since it looks as if you will not respond to my emails I will just include what information I have managed to gather from other sources and will also mention that I have been unsuccessful getting any type of response from you or your office/department.
I plan on putting that post up tomorrow, Oct. 9, 2009 and following it up with an interview I am doing for APRN.  I would really like to include POSITIVE information that I have received from you and/or your office but since y’all don’t seem to want to respond to my emails…..sigh.
I really would like to include up to date information concerning the fuel watch meeting that you said occurred on Oct 2.  I am anxiously awaiting your response to my email below.
Quyana Cakneq in advance for you assistance in this matter.
AG Sullivan and Mr. Moller,
Would either of you be able to offer any answers to the questions below?
AnnS

Ms. Jollie’s contact information:

Phone: 907-269-7959

You, too, can join the quest for answers!

Additionally, I include the AG and Mr. Moller in my emails that I send out, so here’s their email addresses also….

“Attorney General” attorney.general@alaska.gov

“John Moller” john.moller@alaska.gov

Please feel free to post any replies that you receive here in the comments or email them to me.

-Ann