Archive for February, 2010

Prototype house with traditional twist might replace rotting Quinhagak homes

February 28, 2010

Feb 28, 2010

By Alex DeMarban
The Tundra Drums
Published on February 15th, 2010

Reprinted with permission:

Houses in Quinhagak battered by decades of fierce wet winds might soon be replaced by a new model that hearkens back to traditional Native sod houses.

At a meeting last week, village leaders in the Southwest Alaska community accepted a preliminary plan for an energy-efficient home that could be a prototype for other houses in the village.

The octagonal floor plan, created by experts with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, stemmed from comments by the town’s mayor, Willard Church.

He suggested the center’s designers build a circular building, perhaps even a yurt, something similar to the soft-edged, partly underground dugouts the area’s Yup’ik elders once lived in.

The cornerless shape would shed gusts that have knocked the village’s blocky houses off their foundations. It would also reduce the snow drifts that pile against walls.

So the center’s design team unveiled an octagonal design, a not-quite-circular compromise designed to allow for strong walls that hold beefy insulation while still cutting the wind, said Aaron Cooke, with the research center.

Church likes the concept.

“I think it’s a good plan because it integrates both modern building technology and traditional design.”

The need for new housing in the village of 660 leaped into the spotlight last fall, following engineering reports that a sample-test of 55 houses built in the 1970s showed that many were “unsafe for occupancy” because of such problems as rotting beams and moldy walls.

Now, village leaders hope to replace those houses, and they’re looking for a relatively inexpensive model that outlasts the Bering Sea winds from the south and Arctic gusts from the north.

They’re also hoping it’s relatively cheap to heat.

“We want to have a house that lasts 30 years and uses less electricity and heat,” said Church. “There’s not many job opportunities out here, so if we can reduce the cost of heating fuel and use less electricity, that would go a long ways in helping folks out here.”

That’s where the research center comes in.

The village housing authority acquired money for the prototype and asked the center to design it, said Cooke.

Anatuvuk Pass model

The center hopes to follow the same pattern it used last year when building an energy-efficient home in the North Slope’s Anaktuvuk Pass, using local muscle and knowledge and producing a home for much less than the usual cost, said Cooke.

In the details, the house in Quinhagak could differ markedly from the one in Anaktuvuk Pass.

“Our M.O. is to make the house fit the place, so it will reflect the area’s unique environment and culture,” Cooke said.

It won’t be surrounded by an earthen berm, because flooding from the moist soil would be a problem, he said.

It likely won’t require as much insulation.

And there’ll be no garage where people can tinker on snowmachines. Costs need to stay low because so many homes must be built, he said.

In the Quinhagak prototype, a long arctic entryway will wrap around half the house, acting as a “shield” against rot from the soggy Bering Sea weather. The entryway will sit slightly lower than the living quarters, creating a natural cold trap for a storage area, another idea taken from traditional homes, said Cooke.

The three-bedroom, one-bath home, at 950-square-feet, will consist of a simple design to minimize materials and allow for construction in three weeks, keeping labor costs low, Cooke said.

Careful planning should prevent materials from being wasted and allow for a single barge shipment, another money saver.

“Our target is under $200,000,” said Jack Hebert. The cost would be about half the price of some recently built homes in the village.

Best of all, perhaps, each house will use only a fraction of the heat that’s normally consumed, slashing monthly bills that soar into the hundreds of dollars each winter, Cooke said.

The center will help train locals on how to build the prototype.

At the community meeting, residents refined the design, making slight changes, said Cooke.

Within weeks, he and others on the center’s design team will present a final plan. If the community approves, the next step will be planning and ordering the building materials and lining up a barge shipment, he said.

“We hope to build in July,” he said.

New Tribal Voice Radio Launches Today

February 15, 2010

Feb 15, 2010

Tribal Voice Radio, a new online radio station operating with the approval and guidance of the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, will officially launch today at 8:00 A.M. at

From the Juneau Empire:

The main goal is to capture the language, clan stories and ways of life of the Native people,” said project coordinator Simon Roberts. “We’re looking at being able to give back to the culture a new life and gather all the communities here in Southeast as well as the Tlingits and Haidas in Canada.


CCTHITA Business Economic Development Department manager Andrei Chakine hopes the station will attract non-Natives as well.

It will be really nice to bring out the Native issues to the non-Native community, so that the non-Native community understands what kind of issues people here in the Southeast are dealing with,” he said.

The station will offer a wide range of programming geared toward preserving Native language and promoting cultural understanding. It will offer everything from traditional and contemporary Native music and archived radio archives to the sharing of family lore and recipes.

The station hopes to receive FCC approval within the next nine months to occupy a space in the FM band. Right now it’s home on the Internet offers live streaming, schedules, an online store and Tribal Voices ringtones.

Fry Bread 101

February 14, 2010

Feb 14, 2010


Pour some warm water and some evap milk in a bowl…about 3 cups total.

Dump in some sugar… depending on how sweet you want it, 1/3 to 2/3 of a cup.

Throw in some margarine or Crisco, 1/4 cup.

Put in a little salt, a good sized pinch, 1/2 tsp.

Stir that up.  Sprinkle yeast over the top of it – 2 pkgs or so, until it covers all of the liquid solution in a fine layer.

water, milk, margarine, sugar, salt and yeast

Once that starts to bubble, usually 5-10 minutes,  add flour,  just  enough until the dough feels right.   Dump it out on the counter and start kneading, working in more flour until it’s not sticky.

Then throw it in a greased bowl and let it rise.

Dough before rising

After dough has risen

Heat up Crisco in a frying pan usually about an inch deep when  melted.   Take a chunk of dough, maybe 1/3 of a cup, almost a handful.  With floured hands make it into a ball.

like this

Put more flour and flatten it out with only your hands and then throw it on the side of the bowl and repeat.

Once the oil is heated, throw a  chunk of dough in to see if it’s hot enough.

Take the rounded and flattened dough from the side of the bowl, and with your  index finger tear little holes in it.  Then stretch it out a bit and put it in the oil.

Flip it over when its brown and continue frying it until both sides are golden brown, around 2 minutes.

Put the finished bread in a pan lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

Eat the first piece to ensure that it tastes good!

Enjoy it plain,  or cover it with salmonberry jam or powdered sugar.  It’s wonderful with moose soup!


ere’s what you look like when you are too small to have fry bread.

Alaska Board of Fish live blogging – part two

February 7, 2010

Feb 7, 2010

Good Morning All-

We are due to start again this morning at 8 AM AK time.

Yesterday afternoon was interesting, at least from my point of view, to listen to how each BOF Board Member worked to both get questions answered but also to get his thoughts and/or issues out and onto the public record.

As frustrating as this might be to many fishermen or those who try and watch, in my opinion it is one of the things that Alaska seems to get mostly ‘right’.

The public is involved basically at all steps of the process. The proposals can be submitted by anyone from staff to just the general public, even out of state people are able to.

If you feel there needs to be a change in or a new fishing regulation you can get involved.

They are not screened or gone through before being published and distributed to the public.

Then as we get ready for the meeting, every three years for your area, there is an opportunity to submit comment of support or concerns to be included.

Many times this is evidence to back up a proposal or disagree.

Then during the meeting time you can come and go through giving public testimony. Submit more written comments (RCs), discuss in a committee that is set up by part of the board and all those who are interested in a group of proposals.

A few more back and forth times and you get to where we are yesterday and today, deliberations and voting.

I am hoping that some of the Yukon area people, or those who work with that part of the state, will comment on yesterday before I jump in a do a recap.

Today we should be dealing with a group of proposals that deal with the area JUST south of Bristol Bay Area and could be pretty hot, at least in the audience :-) Although they will restrain themselves at least until they get out in the hall way as you can’t be disruptive. Quickest way to be asked to leave!!

Overall the main concern seems to be the ability for village fishermen to fish pretty much ‘in their front yards’ and not HAVE TO travel up to hundreds of miles because of a management style that allows the fish to be intercepted before they can get into their ‘home’ or terminal rivers.

Not only our area villages but also one south of us and then still another one that is technically in the Area M territory feel their fish are being intercepted before they get to their terminal rivers.

This is a case of economics of who can afford to continue to live in their villages, children not being able to participate in something families have been doing for generations, and families that are struggling in all sorts of ways due to the changes in their villages.

Businesses that are closing up, homes being sold and all the issues that come with a village that is losing members.

We will not even get into the good management practices many feel this style is not following, the issues of is it REALLY true that our runs are sustainable, and finally if fishing as we know it is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

I will check in just before 8 AM.

Thanks for checking in and being interested, it is appreciated.

~ Victoria Briggs

Victoria is live blogging from the Alaska State Board of Fish meeting 2/6/10

February 6, 2010

Feb 6, 2010

Vic has been in Anchorage this week attending a variety of meetings and also peaking in on the Alaska State Board of Fish,  BOF.

She is going to do some live blogging throughout today while the Board goes through its last phase, called deliberations on the proposals that have been brought before them.

This particular meeting is for Western Alaska (all areas are on a once every three year cycle)  the area that includes the end of the Alaska Peninsula. Think of it as that long skinny part of Alaska that goes out to the Aleutian Islands.

It includes both the Pacific Side, the side Kodiak is on, and then as it wraps around to the Bristol Bay side.

It does not include the actual Aleutian Islands.

This is important for both the Yukon area and Bristol Bay. The salmon travel up and around this area on their way to both the Yukon and Bristol Bay.

There is a possible issue with creating some policies to help the Yukon Chum or Keta runs, that are becoming an increasingly important salmon species for the fishermen and villagers there due to issues with the Chinook.

It also addresses some issues for our Pilot Point and Ugashik villages. There is a river in the Bristol Bay area that is under concern also thus the Bristol Bay regions is concerned in how this area is managed.

As things progress during the meeting Vic is going to try and give some update comments to keep all in touch.

Victoria Briggs: Predator Control

February 3, 2010

Feb 3, 2010

Alaska Game Board shoots down predator control provision

This issue is one that is hard for many of us to wrap ourselves around as not only Alaska residents but also as US residents.
First off this decision involves only an area that the ANCHORAGE Fish and Game Advisory had made a recommended an action on. This is NOT for the entire state.

I believe it is an allocation issue as it is between the user groups of the hunters of the area, then Alaskan residents hunters and finally as US residents hunters who come up to hunt.
I also agree that predator control and allocation are both issues that need to be taken on a case by case basis.

The residents and the state need to make a concerted effort, in my view, to bring all the stake holders to the table to work out a plan for each area that manages for a healthy stock resource, then the rest of the issues will fall into place.

Putting revenue generating above anything else is a short term effort and one the state should trend lightly with.

Alaska Game Board shoots down predator control provision

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Alaska Board of Game has shot down a provision that would have prevented nonresidents from hunting in predator control areas where subsistence needs aren’t being met.

The seven-member board voted against the proposal Monday brought to the board by the Anchorage Fish & Game Advisory Committee.

Click HERE to read the whole story in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Rural vs. RURAL!

February 2, 2010

Feb 2, 2010

Vic is  attending an Economic Development workshop which has emphasis in Rural Development.   She was live blogging the day.

From Vic:

We had as one of the main speakers today a lady who has an extensive resume that also includes living in what she is calling a rural area.  This lady is from an area that both Vic and I are quite familiar with in Washington.  Where it can be hours to drive to a city over 10,000, get a decent outfit for a special event or even get certain specialty items in the grocery store.

A picture of where this lady calls rural.

This lady believes her rural area is pretty similar to much of Alaska because they do not want to drive an hour and half for a business class. They are getting an influx of people from bigger cities who want high speed Internet.  Vic is trying hard not to burst out laughing.

This lady doesn’t really know rural, does she?

Nunam Iqua from a plane. The arrow is where my house is.

This shows how little understanding people have about what life is like in bush Alaska.

Nunam Iqua taken from the Yukon River last winter.

Let’s look at what it takes to get groceries and supplies to Ugashik.  You can’t jump on a snow machine since the closest decent store is 80 miles away in King Salmon.  It would not be safe to travel that distance via snow machine this winter.  Most winters here in Ugashik  do not allow the various lakes, rivers or creeks to freeze well enough to ensure safe travel of any great distance.  It is  local knowledge only to identify creeks which don’t freeze well,  critical for people to know when traveling overland. This is an active volcano area and the heat has to go somewhere if not out a mountain top.

One of many active volcanoes in the area with steam rising from its top.

That limits travel via snow machine during the winter.  You could easily travel 20 miles and then drop into a creek that wasn’t as frozen over as you thought and then you are stuck.

Planes?  Call the Alaska Commercial Company in King Salmon and ask them send out some groceries,  then pay the airlines 87 cents a pound to get them here.  Friends who have planes are usually happy to bring stuff with them if they are in the area, especially  if you bribe them with the promise of coffee and fresh made fry bread.

Fresh Fry Bread

Realistically ordering from King Salmon is expensive and the selection is limited, so what next?  The Internet provides many online grocery sites to  order from.

Today I shopped at Span Alaska Sales where they offer grocery items in bulk.  I can’t order a single box of Pilot Bread, instead I have to order a case.  That’s 12 boxes of pilot bread/crackers for $81.99.  I wanted tea which  I had to order by the case so I now have 6 boxes of tea for $17.98.  My order totaled 22 cases of food for around $900.  Span Alaska prices have the postage included.  My entire order will come via mail so it could take as little as a week to get here or, as long as a month. We only receive mail here in Ugashik twice a week.

It doesn’t take long to spend a lot of money.  Thankfully, Rollie and Vic have a warm room in their warehouse which makes it possible to make large orders like this.  If I were still in Nunam Iqua I could never place this type of order because I simply would not have anywhere to put everything.

In the late spring, summer and early fall some grocery shopping can be done via boat, or when we are flying fish out then we can have huge bulk orders flown in.  Refer to our Feeding the Crew post.

Those are just a few of our measures of  how we differ from others while considering rural vs really rural.