Archive for the ‘ice fishing’ Category

Will We Have A Winter?

December 22, 2014

Usually a common sight in the winter.

Usually a common sight in the winter.


While so many parts of the lower 48 are having a colder than ‘normal’ winter most of Alaska has been basking in temperatures that resemble fall more than winter!

In Bristol Bay much of the area remains less than fully frozen, causing many to be watchful. Other areas of the state share many of the same concerns.

The winter activities so many of us not only enjoy but count on cannot happen with these many days above freezing temperatures. Our rivers are not fully frozen over, the creeks are dangerously open in many places and lakes still have only a thin coat of ice.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

A river that should be mostly, if not totally, iced over this time of year.

Travel to accomplish things like setting and checking winter trap lines, a source of income for some and hunting for winter meat are hampered. For those who do ice fishing, it is very dangerous without a nice thick layer of ice.

Being able to visit with others, important to so many in the winter, has been slowed to include the only more expensive methods, such as using an airline. If this keeps up many winter festivals will have to be rearranged and different activities thought of.

Without a nice layer of snow to insulate things the frost level will go deeper into the soil, causing more winter loss on such things as native berries, trees and of course all those beautiful peonies our state is becoming well known for.

Wildlife surveys that are accomplished during the winter months have been put on hold too, waiting for a good snow covering so tracking is easier.

While these warmer temperatures are nice in that we are not using up our winter budget as quickly on heating fuel, it does make most wonder if that will be offset by some really long, cold snap later this winter. The lack of wind, that often comes with winter weather, or even strong sun is cutting into the renewable energy output for some communities.

For those of us who either farm or garden it has allowed for more fresh winter produce to survive than might normally be possible. (this news has traveled around the state with much excitement!) Many of us are also seeing our chickens continue to lay eggs at a higher level, due to less feed needed to just stay warm.

Long term forecasts call for this weather pattern to continue into late summer of 2015. We could well move into still another summer of almost ‘hot’ weather, more forest fires, lots of bugs and winters that leave us wondering if this is going to be more the norm than not.

So for those in the Lower 48 that are dealing with still another winter of tough temperatures and travel conditions, know many are wishing the weather pattern would send the snow and icy temperatures north again!

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Clocks Back an Hour, Enjoy the Time!

November 6, 2011

Sunrise over Juneau

Ahhhh, that time of year, when we turn back the clock an hour. Here is Alaska it seems it is also the time of year when you consider giving into your natural rhythms of spending just a tad more time in bed or moving at a slower pace seems to kick in too.

Fall Color

Despite the general perception not all of Alaska goes totally dark for the winter, or for that matter has 24 hour daylight in the summer. That particular yearly event only happens to those areas near the Arctic Circle and it does not happen for the entire winter. Barrow, a city at the top of the state, has a two month period in the winter when it doesn’t have a sunrise but on the flip side they get about 85 days of continuous sun during part of the summer. Most of us deal, just like you, with less daylight and chilly temperatures for the next 5-6 months.

Night lights

 Typically this is the time of year when families get to spend time ice fishing, sewing on winter gear, and a host of other activities. Winter festivals and potlatches happen before spring arrives. Mostly we try to slow down enough to enjoy all the ‘good things’ most wonder if they get enough of in other parts of the country. The turning back the clock an hour just gives us another clue we are entering that time of year.

Life in the Bush A New Topic: Violence

January 24, 2010

Jan 24, 2010

Yesterday a friend, a teacher in Nunam Iqua, posted on Facebook something to the effect of:  “We are in lockdown because someone shot someone in the head and we are waiting for the troopers.”

They were having  Saturday school and  planned to go out on the Yukon to go ice fishing for the day.  Instead they were locked in the school – no one allowed in or out.   I tried to call my sister-in-law Savanna, assuming that she was probably the health aide on call and I was worried about her.  No answer.

I called my brother-in-law who works at the school.  I asked him what was going on and he said two guys shot someone.  The bullet just grazed the victim’s head and the guy is OK.  The AK State Troopers haven’t arrived yet.  The school will be in lockdown until they do.  He said Savanna is OK.

Today, I got an email from my brother-in-law telling me that they caught the offender after he tried to runaway upriver to Alakanuk.  He has also been accused of harassment,  contributing to a minor, assault, and rape.

There is no law enforcement in Nunam Iqua  or many other villages in bush Alaska.  Nunam Iqua does not have a VPSO (Village Public Safety Officer) or a VPO (Village Police Officer) or any type of tribal law enforcement.  Our villages must rely on the AK State Troopers to respond to a problem. Often we have to wait for a Trooper to travel to our village.

I believe that the Alaska State Troopers are so understaffed that they won’t respond unless someone is killed or a child is involved.  Even if a child is involved usually it’s the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) who arrives on site.  Most people don’t bother to call the Troopers because they know nothing will happen.

What can we do to address violence in our bush villages?  How can we keep not only our children safe but also our residents?  What are the contributing factors that lead to such violence?  How do we bring public safety to the forefront of our village issues?

I think are some of the causes of violence and domestic violence in bush Alaska are:

  • Simply struggling to survive
  • Lack of employment
  • Substance Abuse
  • Family members abusing each other
  • Children seeing their parents or family abusing each other
  • Lack of education and retention in school
  • Lack of law enforcement.  Feeling like there is no one to help if the AK State Troopers don’t respond, with no other law enforcement available?  Who is going to help?  How can we stay safe?

Other complications.

Let’s say that I am a VPSO in the village.  I get a call that a man is beating up his girlfriend.  I respond.  It’s my cousin, who is drinking and they got in an argument about how they are running out of money and don’t know how they are going to feed their 4 small children.   She begs me not to take her boyfriend in.  He has to go to work tomorrow, they can’t afford child care for her to work so if I take him in they will lose their only source of income.  The boyfriend is sincerely apologetic and swears that he won’t do it again and wants to go sleep it off at his mom’s house.

Would you haul the boyfriend in?  Let’s add to our scenario that the boyfriend is also the son of the Tribal President….my pretend boss!  Now do I not only put this family’s financial well being in jeopardy but also risk bringing the wrath of the Tribal President down on my head to keep this family safe?  My cousin says she won’t press charges.  What do I do?

Here’s another complication: being a VPSO also makes me a mandated reporter.  Are the kids safe if mom and dad are fighting and dad is drinking? No so now I have to call in OCS.  This could easily result in their children being removed.  If I call OCS right then they might advice me to immediately remove the children…now I have to find a family member or emergency foster home for them until OCS can fly in.  Let’s say it’s 2 a.m. now I am calling half the village trying to find someone to take these children for the night.  I have to find a guard to go to the jail and watch the boyfriend.  If you decide to just give boyfriend a warning what will that lead to?  Next time will he beat not only her but also the children?

These are just a few of the challenges that we face in bush villages.  It’s no wonder why it’s so hard to find people to be VPSO’s and VPO’s.

What is the solution?