What do We Need to Do?


I’ve had permission to reprint this article for over a week but have simply been unable to hit “publish” .

 The rash of suicides this year, especially in rural Alaska, has knocked the wind out of me. I can’t seem to catch my breath… even now…

It bothers me a great deal that a shift in state management of  programs has effectively shut out small communities in dire need of  support for programs to combat suicide.

It bothers me that communities and agencies have to compete for funds to combat suicide. Doesn’t every one of our communities deserve  proper help?

It bothers me that the state has so woefully understaffed it’s own office that it cannot meet the workload it is charged with.

Every death is a blow to our future.

Every death is an indictment – a charge against our ability to meet the needs of citizens facing hopelessness and despair.

Suicide prevention is not going to fix  the problems small isolated communities have nor is it going to address the alienation of far too many young people in our state. It might buy us the firm ground necessary to solving some of these problems and it certainly saves us the precious resources our young people represent .

Many, many years ago I was a crewleader on a short term project which proposed to  impart job skills to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It was a real learning experience for me on many, many levels.

Just getting to work was a real challenge to some … one young man was often late as his partner drank heavily and he was loathe to leave their children with her when she wasn’t sober… he spent a lot of time racing those kids off to various relatives morning after morning. He needed a kind of help the program couldn’t provide but a community resolved to cherish it’s young ones can.

The seemingly most successful participant , a young man who had had more than his share of kicks in the teeth, his mother died, his stepmother wouldn’t have another woman’s children in the house, successfully battled the lure of easy money available in selling drugs and stood up to the siren call of alcohol , to present himself day after day to learn and work and participate in molding his own future.

Or so we all thought…

He was uncharcteristically quiet the last few days of the job.

And the night the job ended, he went home and shot his brains out.

The aunt and uncle he lived with , the only solid ground in his short life,  said he was quiet when he came home and excused himself shortly after dinner.

They said he had been so proud of himself through the short 6 months he was working- that he was full of plans for his future.

Would that we all had understood that his quietness the last few days grew from a terrible fear that when the job ended so did his hopes to escape despair and build himself a strong future…

We need to be there when our young people are on shaky ground . We must be there.

And we must get honest about the damage our own despair and failures wreaks in their lives…


Report: State suicide-prevention grants to villages plummet

 Published on December 1st, 2010 4:34 pm


Alaska has one of the nation’s highest suicide rates but lacks the staff to apply for “numerous” grants that could help address the problem, according to a new report.

Also, the number of state grants going to Alaska villages — including in Western Alaska where suicide rates are highest — has fallen sharply in recent years. The communities often don’t have enough manpower to administer today’s awards, the report said.

Meanwhile, dozens of Alaska Natives lined up on Tuesday in Anchorage to outline the devastating reach of suicide in their regions.

They spoke to federal officials at an unprecedented “listening session” on the topic, one of several nationwide that stemmed from President Obama’s effort to enhance tribal-government relations. The hearing was part of a Bureau of Indian Affairs annual conference for Alaska tribes.

Amid heartbreaking stories of dead loved ones, they said prevention starts with parents in homes and villages. But they also called for more federal and state support to provide the counselors and programs to help break the cycle.

Not enough

Alaska’s in the throes of another wave of suicides, a plague unheard of until recent decades, some speakers said.

“Many children, mothers and grandmothers are crying today as we speak at this meeting,” said Kathleen Peters-Zurdy, executive director of the Tanana tribal government.

Six people took their lives in her Interior region in the last six weeks or so, she said.

Speakers blamed the deaths on long-recognized factors such as family violence, heavy drinking, rapid social change and historical trauma.

“We need to declare war” to stop the domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicides, said James Sipary Sr.

The Toksook Bay man said he organized three prevention meetings for Nelson Island communities in Southwest Alaska after a string of suicides about five years ago.

In 2007, one of his sons hung himself, leaving an emotionally wounded family, Sipary said.

This year, at least 30 Alaskans took their lives between Sept. 19 and Oct. 19, a pace that outstrips Alaska’s already sad averages, said Chanda Aloysius, vice president of Behavioral Services at Anchorage-based Southcentral Foundation.

The tribally run health care system spends about $1 million annually on a suicide prevention program called Denaa Yeets’ — Athabascan for Our Breath of Life — with much of the money coming from federal grants.

“That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed,” she said.

The organization has churned out about 100 newly minted responders trained in prevention, intervention and crisis control, but they’re not enough to handle the demand in Southcentral’s Cook Inlet region and additional rural communities that also want help.

“We are over our head constantly with requests,” she said.

Additional grants could help Southcentral reach more villages by training new responders, blanketing statewide media with prevention ads and bringing more rural residents to Anchorage for an intense, weeklong healing program.

Future grants need to be more sustainable too, with awards lasting several years and not just one or two years as they often have in the past, Aloysius said.

Missed opportunity

The state, tribal groups and others are missing out on several federal and foundation grants, plus other funding sources, said the legislative research report . (The shorter version, without attachments and easier to download, is here .)

The report is based largely on a review of suicide-prevention grants awarded by the state since 2000.

The Statewide Suicide Prevention Council conducted that review and pulled other information for the report, said Kate Burkhart, the group’s executive director.

In a quick search of a federal online funding site, she found 20 unused suicide grants that the state, tribes and local entities are eligible for, the report said.

Other foundation grants not fully used in Alaska include the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Prevention Partnership, and the Johnson Family Foundation.

“The largest impediment to accessing these additional prevention resources is limited staffing levels at both the state and tribal levels,” the report said.

Applying for the grants can be demanding and complicated. Time-strapped state, tribal and city entities naturally focus on “providing direct services over seeking grants,” the report said.

Until this summer, the suicide prevention council had only part-time staff. Now they have one full-time employee. Also, the Division of Behavioral Health has one full time employee to work on suicide prevention.

“Therefore, there is currently limited capacity within the DBH or the Council for seeking and applying for, and then overseeing, additional federal or foundation grants,” the report found.

The total amount of federal grants going directly to tribes for suicide-prevention is unknown, in part because they are difficult to track.

The report notes that 17 large tribal organizations, such as Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. based in Bethel — which serves 56 villages — split $5 million over three years from the Methamphetamines Suicide Prevention Initiative.

The grant, offered by the Indian Health Service, may not continue next year, the report notes.

Another federal grant providing $1.5 million a year for youth-suicide prevention went to three organizations including Maniilaq, which provides social services to a dozen communities in the Kotzebue region.

Villages lose out on state awards

For years, Alaskans have killed themselves at a rate that’s roughly twice the national average.

In 2008, 167 Alaskans took their own lives, a record. The number dropped to 140 last year, still one of the busiest years in history.

The crisis is especially acute among Alaska Natives and rural regions. For nine years starting in 2000, rates in Western Alaska were six to seven times the national average.

But the report shows state-suicide prevention funding has dropped steeply in Western Alaska. Meanwhile, it’s risen in regions with the smallest suicide rates.

In 2003, 55 entities split nearly $800,000 state awards. Nearly all the recipients were tribes and villages. They used the money for such things as cultural camps to instill traditional values or suicide-prevention meetings that brought experts to their communities.

Fast forward to 2009. Twenty entities split $1.6 million.

The largest awards went to organizations based in Southcentral, Southeast and the Interior, regions with the state’s smallest suicide rates.

• $375,000 went to Central Peninsula General Hospital in Kenai.

• $280,000 to Big Brothers and Big Sisters, for the Fairbanks, Juneau and Sitka communities.

• $142,000 to the Juneau-based Association of Alaska School Boards.

• $132,000 to Mat-Su Health Services in Palmer and Wasilla.

• $120,000 to Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption received.

Two school districts in Western Alaska received awards. The Yupiit School District in Akiak, serving students in three Southwest Alaska villages, received $17,000. The Iditarod School District in McGrath, serving students in seven villages, received $44,000.

Only six of the 2009 state grants — between $7,000 and $45,000 — went to villages.

The change came about because of a move by the Department of Health and Social Services in 2003 that combined two divisions — mental health and drug and alcohol — into the Behavioral Health Division, the report notes.

It led to increased requirements for grant winners, including more planning, management and reporting.

Smaller entities didn’t have the manpower to compete for the awards, so grants increasingly went to larger regional Native organizations and other groups.

Resources misapplied

Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, requested the report after several young people, mostly males, took their lives in his Southwest Alaska District this year.

The findings are “sobering,” he said. It indicates that suicide-prevention money isn’t heading to areas that need it most.

“The input from people in my region and others is we have got to figure out how we can make a shift in the delivery of suicide prevention dollars and programs,” he said.

The report is a starting point, he said. He’ll work with legislators, the Division of Behavioral Health, federal agencies and others to determine how to increase the money for villages.

“There is a need for immediate triage so we’ll try to figure this out,” he said. “I look forward to working with anyone who’s interested in changing the delivery system.”

Burkhart said the council is currently reviewing how the change in funding has affected suicide rates. From there, the council can recommend whether the old system should be restored.

The recommendations should come in the group’s annual report, which should be published by the end of the year.

It’s important to note, she said, that small villages may have high rates after just one or two suicides, but the sheer numbers are higher in cities.

“People see Anchorage has lower rates, so they think it must not be as bad,” she said.

That’s not always the case.

The good news is that suicide awareness has reached a high point this year, she said. More than one listening session has been held on the topic and many people are openly talking about a subject that was once taboo.

Also, the state’s 11-member council is meeting regularly, including to remote areas, and more people are aware of crisis intervention programs like Careline (877-266-4357).

As for Tuesday’s listening session, it was the fourth in a series sponsored the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The sessions will culminate in a national suicide prevention conference planned for early next year.

Speakers at the Anchorage session clearly wanted locally based solutions and sustainable and flexible funding mechanisms, said Michalyn Steele, counselor to Larry Echohawk, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.

“That’s the message I will take back to Mr. Echohawk,” she said.

~Reprinted with permission from The Tundra Drums~


Kyle Hopkins at the ADN covered the same listening session and asked

Suicide in Alaska: What should be done?


Neighbors, what DO we need to do?

What can we do?

Published in: on December 12, 2010 at 7:31 am  Comments (7)  

What are we doing 3 ?

This is a departure from the direction I have taken here and here in trying to pick my way straight uphill towards something I want to talk about.

Am going to try to come at it from somewhere else…

Hoping the leap doesn’t end in one of those Icarus type flops 🙂


We have huge gulfs here  in Alaska between urban and rural dwellers. So far, most public conversations derail before they even start.

Economic and racial cross talk marks most attempts.

So, where are our feet?

Where do we stand?

What follows are conversations I started elsewhere…

Please join the conversation!


Alaska Pi wrote:
“Our issues here for POC are primarily those surrounding politics and attitudes regarding Alaska Natives who make up about 15% of the population and a further 5 or so percent who are of mixed Native/White race like me. 

Mr Wise’s stance on the inherent failures in colorblind attitudes and policies are finding a deep resonance in me. 

It is likely of little interest to most who come here to lay out the whys and wherefores of the Alaskan landscape but the cultural diaspora created by the Alaskan Native Settlement Claims Act , a neoliberal take on owning one’s future , has had serious detrimental effects on Native peoples here. 

We have yet to even begin to be able to start talking or dealing with it meaningfully, in the Native community and beyond, as colorblind policies and attitudes rob us of a decent place to start. 

At present we struggle with even getting past the endless drunk-native stereotype… 

We need a different place from which to work . If being honest about the damage colorblind policies do to reframing the starting line, I’m all for it.


Numerous treatises about neoliberalism are available :

(note: neoliberalism is NOT to be confused with liberal/progressive- it is an economic view… one espoused by the likes of Milton Friedman )



“A final summary definition of neoliberalism as a philosophy is this:

Neoliberalism is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services, and without any attempt to justify them in terms of their effect on the production of goods and services; and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs.”



I prefer an elected revolution to an armed one…. longer lasting, and a lot less messy. the last one’s aftermath ( the Civil War) is still with us today.

  • Alaska Pi

    yes and no, here… we just sat through a quiet 30 year elected revolution
    which has harmed us terribly…

    We accepted with little comment , until the recent financial meltdown, that positioning ourselves economically was the be all and end all of human activity.

    “The notion that man must dominate nature emerges directly from the domination of man by man… But it was not until organic community relation … dissolved into market relationships that the planet itself was reduced to a resource for exploitation. This centuries-long tendency finds its most exacerbating development in modern capitalism. Owing to its inherently competitive nature, bourgeois society not only pits humans against each other, it also pits the mass of humanity against the natural world. Just as men are converted into commodities, so every aspect of nature is converted into a commodity, a resource to be manufactured and merchandised wantonly. … The plundering of the human spirit by the market place is paralleled by the plundering of the earth by capital”

    —Bookchin, Murray, Post Scarcity Anarchism, p.24–25

    • benlomond2

      There has been comment on the economic positioning as the be all and end all of human activity; Eisenhower warned against the military industrial complex.. and I think for a time during the 60’s , there was a general awareness and resistance to it. Social gains were made.. however, with the election of Reagen, and the struggle to provide the basics during that recession, the American public’s attention on the corporate world’s grasp of our political system faded. As the Senate has less turn over, and longer terms of service, we now see their control of our goverment more clearly.. The House was devised to respond to the Public more rapidly, two year terms, while the Senate was designed to change more slowly, and provide a stablizing factor to wide shifts in public opinion…It will take a while for the Public to recognize and then correct the attitudes in the Senate.

      • Alaska Pi

        Yes- there have been some voices and I am hoping for many, many more.
        I was not being very careful about what I said- I have become increasingly cranky about tea party horsepunky.

        The difficulty of getting to a place of actually looking at how the accepted (now) economic policies affect us is wearing me down lately.

        The ONLY sympathy I have for the tea thingy phenemenon is a recognition that many are folks who know they are stranded but since they bought the “individual responsibility ” thingy they can’t find a way to adequately float a boat back to any notion of community…

        ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

        Also- much of Alaska is corporatized beyond what most Americans experience
        Mr Stevens loved that form of organizing human activity.
        Resolution for many, many problems here lies outside sensible reach currently because of the limitations imposed by corporate structure of activities…


        Gonna go work in my wet garden and try to sort things out some and cool down…

        • benlomond2

        understand about getting heated up… I do so, also, too. … ( amazing we’ve adopted that little phrase, isn’t it ? gotta quit using it, ) there are times I am just amazed that a large portion of the population can’t seem to have a logical thought process, or recognize “buzz words” being foisted on them for an emotional response.

        easy example – if you replace the word “tax” with “goverment income” , you can just BEAT the heck out of the Republican economic policy…makes it easier to draw a parallel with a person’s own budget, and the goverment’s. if you have a cut in Goverment income, then there must be a cut in spending to keep from having a deficit.. what are you going to cut in your budget, or what are you going to do to make up the lost income ? are you going to get a second job ? and if your partner was the one doing all the excessive spending, are you going to keep giving her the credit card before you get out of debt? when would you give her/him the credit card again… before or after you are out of debt… ? at what point would you divorce her/him for the lack of restraint ? and would you re-marry that person down the road after such a breach of trust? the message has to be put in real everyday terms for the existing people to see what’s happening… the 60’s was easier… trust the gov and go to Nam… these issues are tougher…..

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm  Comments (17)  

September 11


I don’t want to take back the naivete we had before 9/11. 

 I want us to move forward, more alert .

I don’t want to take back the idea that we were invincible.

 I want us to move forward with  humility so  what strength we have is based on a proper foundation.

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 4:51 am  Comments (1)  

Our Future…

After brushes with suicide on campaign trail, lawmaker shifts focus

Published on August 26th, 2010


reprinted with permission from the TUNDRA DRUMS

In his short time in office, Rep. Neal Foster has focused on bringing basic improvements to his Western Alaska district. Things like roads, schools and airstrips.

But while barnstorming recently in villages, he nearly stumbled upon one suicide and witnessed the tragic aftermath of another.

Now, he plans to step up the fight against that scourge.

Foster, appointed in November to fill the seat long held by his father, who died after a heart attack, will likely get the chance. Foster won the Democratic nod in Tuesday’s primary, beating out Vincent Beans of Mountain village. He has no opponent for the November election.

Suicides have long been a problem in Alaska, with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta experiencing particularly high rates.

A streak of suicides earlier this summer made headlines in that region. During a six-week stretch beginning in May, nine people killed themselves. Most were males. All were teens or in their early 20s.

Six of those came in Foster’s district, in the section that includes the Lower Yukon River and nearby Bering Sea coast.

Since early July, reports of suicides in the region stopped. But a “slew” of attempts and suicidal threats have continued, said Perry Barr, an Alaska State Trooper in the hub city of Bethel.

Then came Saturday.

Foster, who is from Nome, was walking through Hooper Bay, hanging fliers and putting campaign berry buckets on door steps. He overheard screaming from a house whose door he just knocked on. He thought it was kids.

A village public safety officer showed up. Then a trooper.

After learning there’d been a suicide, Foster wanted to offer help. Someone let him enter the house.

Inside, relatives and a pastor kneeled around a teenage boy who lay dead on the floor. The boy, whom Foster heard was 14, had hung himself.

“They had put his hands on his chest, kind of crossed and they were weeping,” Foster said.

After the mother went outside, Foster tried talking to the mother.

“She was outside kicking dirt, yelling, “What did I do? Was it my fault?’ ” he said.

“I went to her and wanted to say, ‘Is there anything we can do?’ But when I got to her I couldn’t say anything.

I had a hand over my heart and got glassy-eyed, so I just hugged her. It was beyond words.”

He gathered himself.

“I gave her my card and said, ‘I am so sorry for your loss. If there’s anything I can do, please give me a call.’ ”

Suicide in St. Michael

On Monday two days later, Foster flew his small plane to knock on doors in St. Michael, a village of 450 some 100 miles northeast of Hooper Bay. It sits on Norton Sound near the Y-K Delta.

In one house where women greeted Foster quietly, someone said there’d been a tragedy.

Outside, Foster learned from the mayor — who accompanied him around town — that the homeowner’s son had shot himself half an hour earlier in a different house.

At the general store a bit later, a teacher comforted children. They were the man’s sons, Foster was told.

Foster, after learning of each suicide, called John Moller, the state’s rural affairs advisor. He wanted to let the governor know what he’d witnessed.

Foster’s cell phone didn’t accept phone calls in the village, but the governor texted Foster both times. He said his prayers are with the families and to please let him know if the state can offer help, Foster said.

Foster said:

“Mostly, I wanted him to let him know this is a big issue and I’m seeing it firsthand, and something needs to be done. I think he already understands that, but I just wanted to let him know how real it was.”

A couple weeks earlier, the state sent Moller to a meeting in Mountain Village on the region’s suicides. A 17-year-old had shot himself there on July 9.

Foster, who also attended, heard that villages need more behavioral therapists who travel, in addition to local ones. Those struggling with depression might feel more comfortable meeting a visiting therapist, rather than a resident who might gossip.

People also blamed drinking. Someone suggested that traveling village police might reduce bootlegging — alcohol is often outlawed in villages — since local police may not investigate family or friends who sell.

People also wanted more programs for youth that include traditional activities, such as Native dancing or camps to learn to fish and hunt.

On a trip to Emmonak, Foster said he met with Nick Tucker, who said he rescued his teenage daughter after she tried hanging herself with a wire in July.

Tucker told Foster that families and communities need to do more. But Tucker believes the state must provide more rural police to fight bootlegging.

Foster said he plans to look into the ideas and spend more as a lawmaker addressing the epidemic.

While campaigning in Hooper Bay, a responder for the state troopers told Foster that bodies of suicide victims are often flown to Anchorage for autopsy quickly, without giving the family much time to accept the death, Foster said.

The responder asked Foster to see whether some of the analysis and blood work for the autopsy could be done in the village.

Just a few hours after the suicide in that village of 1,200, the trooper airplane left with the boy’s body.

After lifting into the air, the pilot circled back, flying over the airstrip and dipping the plane’s wings as the family waved goodbye.


We have had our eyes on the state primary with our minds on our future.

These young people should have been part of that future.

I ask that we honor their short time with us by planning for a future which gives  hope, purpose, and place to all citizens.

My prayers are with their families and my hopes are with Mr Foster and all who have taken up the work to meet this problem head on.

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm  Comments (5)  

Why do people keep going here?

It is hard to deal with  the tone which surrounds our civil dialogue in America right now .

Impossible to ignore, it permeates far too many discussions of what we want, what we think, where we want to go and, far too often, hijacks any attempt to move toward any sort of consensus and action.

Quite frankly,  I’m sick of it.

Fear and anger I understand.

Outright  hatred I do not. 

Expressions of hatred in talk and behavior leave me cold.

It’s stupid, dangerous, and self-defeating. 

 The recent escalation of hate talk in this country is giving me permanent heartburn.

We have walked this way before… it solves nothing and hurts many.

We have problems, we are facing many uncertainties… we always will.

We need to buck up and act like the best we can be if we expect a best outcome.


from   Jose Ortega y Gasset in   Meditations on Quixote:

“we …find it easier to be aroused by a moral dogma than to open our hearts to the demands of veracity. We are definitely more willing to hand over our free will to a rigid moral attitude than to keep our judgment always open, ready at any moment for the desirable form and correction.

 One might say that we embrace the moral imperative like a weapon in order to simplify life for ourselves by destroying immense portions of the globe.

With keen vision Nietzsche has detected forms and products of resentment in certain moral attitudes. No product of resentment can evoke our sympathy. Rancor emanates from a sense of inferiority.

It is the imaginary suppression of the person whom we cannot actually suppress by our own efforts.The one towards whom we feel resentment bears in our imagination the livid semblance of a corpse: in our minds, we have killed him, annhilated him.

Later, when we find him actually sound and unconcerned in reality, he seems to us like a refractory corpse , stronger than ourselves, whose very existence is an embodiment of mockery, of disdain towards our weakness.

Love (knowledge for Ortega) fights too, it does not stagnate in the troubled peace of compromise;  but it fights lions as lions and gives the name “dog” only to dogs.

This struggle with an enemy who is understood is true tolerance, the proper attitude of every robust soul. Jose de Campos , the eighteenth century thinker, whose interesting book Azorin has discovered , wrote : ” The virtues of tolerance are rare in poor peoples ” ; that is to say, weak peoples.”


Hating the President, hating  a religion, hating a race, hating, hating, hating…

It solves nothing.


from Martin Williams, inmate poet at Folsom Prison , California :


Just in case the worry heavy world

Should cast a final backward glance

To whimper at what might have been

Before the horror of trumpets

Blown by indifferent angels

Burns and hails and turns to blood

The bone and breath of form

And I am not this

And you are not that

And for a moment, briefly

We all weep the same tears

And forget the too-many names of God

And all the bitter, biting ways

We clip the wings of each other’s prayers

Just in case

I don’t see you tomorrow

My friend, my friend,

I’ll see you again

Where we shall be healed.

I’ll see you again.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 5:59 pm  Comments (2)  

What did we do…?

I have been trying to get information  about a project my Regional Corporation has taken on.

I have some feelers out which have yielded some fruit and some ideas about how to go at getting a bit more…

Right now though,  I’m just flat ticked off.

Land and resource use issues are not debated nor examined in any meaningful way. Corporate decisions are made within the law and frame of mind surrounding for-profit mentality.

I have grave concerns about this project  and am finding I am , even more than usual,  frustrated by the strange position of being a shareholder in a company who is pursuing projects I disagree with but have no real say in.

The for-profit nature of the Regional Corporation does not allow for debate or consideration by shareholders when it comes to investments or projects and yet use of land is of enormous importance to us all.

Underground Coal Gasification SHOULD be openly discussed in Alaska, within my corporation and across the state as the Mental Health Trust has also announced plans to study feasibility on lands it controls.

 At this point we have very little mainstream attention on the subject… Supposedly the permitting process for my Corporation’s plan  is underway but any information about what, when, how, and so on is not readily available.

GroundtruthTrekking has done a good job making  general information available about coal in Alaska and the Stone Horn Ridge project  as well as   information about UCG.

The proposed Chuitna strip mine is very near the Stone Horn Ridge proposed project.

When you hear people extolling the virtues of ANSCA  , it is wise to take it with a grain of salt.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act has changed the face of Alaska and the lives of Alaska Natives forever and I’m not super impressed with many aspects of that change.

Original shareholders are those born on or before the passage of ANSCA and of one quarter Native heritage. They can deed, as gifts or in death, shares to to other Native peoples and Corporations can , if shareholders agree, issue stock to descendants. We now have huge numbers of Native peoples who are not shareholders in Regional Corporations who have even less of a voice in land use issues than those of us who are shareholders… and we have almost none.


Published in: on August 21, 2010 at 4:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Fish in the tub…

I’ve been busy lately.  No matter where you are in this huge state, Alaskan summers are short and intense.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my garden. Growing food and flowers runs my life in the summer… with my full co-operation , of course 🙂

I don’t know whether it’s the garden itself or this year’s circumstances- a new grandchild, increasingly frail aged  parents, issues in my neighborhood and around the state- but I’ve had gardens, growing, and food in general front and foremost in my thoughts.

With Father’s Day almost here, I’ve  had my dad much in mind, as well…

I have a learning disability which , with the strategies my parents helped me develop , hasn’t slowed me down much over my lifetime. It did put an end to my pursuit of organic chemistry studies years ago, when all my tricks and methods for hanging onto and translating  complex visual information finally found a wall they/I couldn’t climb.

 Ticked me off at the time but life has been full without alkenes and alkanes and suchlike…very full.

When I was a child I wore a black eyepatch to correct lazy eye and struggled mightily with trying to learn right from left amongst other things.  It stung terribly to be teased about being pitifully ugly and dumb.

The ugly-teasing went away when my ma fashioned a pirate costume for me for Halloween. Oh my, all the swashing and buckling I did! No one had ever thought about a girl pirate before. Some kind of mystique hung on long after the costume was hung in the closet and there was no more teasing about the eye patch.

I remember being so angry I was almost crying , trying to tell my dad about the right-left-dumb thing. He quietly interrupted me. “It’s hard but ignore them. Right and left only tell you where the world is in relation to you. I want to teach you how to know where you are in the world.”

He taught me how to orient myself to North, East, South, and West. The simple task of establishing North and where my feet are at a given point in time has seen me through many more important ups and downs than a bunch of kids teasing me over the years. The task  has come  to include a moment of thankfulness for my dad and my life, as bestowed and shaped by him.

Dad is unusual, for his generation and in general. He’s some kind of blend of very old-fashioned and very up-to-date that is hard to describe. In his 80s he still calls those older than him Sir and Ma’am, longs for the day when women all wore dresses, and has tried to never swear in front of his daughters . 

 I did hear  him say “damn” once. When a storm with 120 mph winds ripped  the roof off our house.

 He quit saying “cheese-and-crackers” when one of my siblings asked him what Jesus-crackers were.

 I do remember him tipping his head back, squinting, and saying, “ah, horsepunky!” when confronted with a preposterous notion of any sort. Not hollering, not angry… just sure.

 He had intended to make a career as a submariner in the Navy but a minor service-related disability ended that after 6 years. He then pursued a fish and wildlife biology career and worked on some of the important Kodiak bear studies after WWII.

We all laugh  because dad is rarely wrong about much, but he decided fish and wildlife management was becoming too much of a political football and he switched to teaching because education was not. Education, of course, became a political hot potato shortly thereafter but to the benefit of hundreds of 7th and 8th grade science and math students, dad enjoyed his 20 years as an educator enormously. Amongst other projects , his kids were making simple solar ovens and tramping the hills for foods to cook in them as well as laying out , cutting, and building stairs to understand y=mx+b in the 1950s and 60s.

Born of Kentucky dirt farmer stock , he  never blinked at hard work but  always scouted for better, more efficient ways to do things . He often had a second job and always fished and hunted. We didn’t know what store bought meat was until we were in high school.

He and ma planted and tended enormous food and flower gardens. Many of my childhood memories turn round the gathering, preparing, and eating of food. Cold, cold hands after landing my first fish and a mug of cocoa and many kind congratulatory words from dad, snitching fish from the smokehouse, picking peas or strawberries before school, canning parties for fish and fruits and veggies in the kitchen which always seemed to end with  a party- party with BBQed fish or venison and hand-cranked home-made ice cream.

When dad retired from education he bought a failed cranberry farm in southern Oregon and turned it into a place of serene beauty and success. I used to go help with harvest and off season chores. I helped with a windmill to pump well water to a hillside tank to gravity feed during  frequent power outages . I watched dad set up a then one-of a kind automatic system of temperature probes and sprinkler system to protect his bogs during extreme heat or cold, backed up by a generator .

He grew organic veggies for the local store as well and hunted until the loss of a new expensive pair of glasses in the brush , while hauling out his buck, made him decide venison had just gotten more expensive than running a couple of beef himself might be.

When we were small, we always took our baths in the evening because the tub might be full of fish in the morning.

It often was.

Dad would go fishing early, early and return to grade papers and get ready for work. I’m not sure how ma felt about a tub full of cleaned, cooled fish morning after morning. I’ve never asked.

But to me, it was always a good thing. The fish were beautiful and we ate well. We always had enough to eat.

Our house was often full of family, neighbors and friends and food and music and games. We always had enough food to share.

It took me a few days this week , when this story hit, 

 “Area M commercial fishermen volunteer to sit out first opening of June  sockeye salmon fishery”

 to sort out why I kept hearing my dad saying “ah, horsepunky !”

I have deep respect for the Tundra Drums and this IS news.

 But … well, the whole thing reads like a press release instead of a news story and I’m  wondering where the reporting part got to…

“For decades, Area M fishermen have been plagued by accusations that they are affecting commercial and subsistence chum salmon runs in the A-Y-K. In 2001, the Alaska Board of Fisheries implemented severe restrictions which nearly bankrupted the entire Area M fishing fleet. The fishermen lost nearly 70 percent of their fishing time. However, scientific evidence shows that the Area M sockeye salmon fishery has very little impact on the chum salmon stock.”

I have read the Aleutian East Borough’s fisheries pages from stem to stern trying to find links to studies which specifically establish the last sentence…

I have read fish studies, til my eyes feel like they are going to fall out, from ADF&G, U Dub fish school, UAF fish school trying to find definitive studies  on this subject.

IF scientific evidence exists which proves the Area M fishery has a negligible effect on the AYK chum fishery, where is it?

This has been a horrible situation for everyone involved, pitting neighbor against neighbor, for, what, three decades now?

I am remembering the Kodiak bear studies dad worked on so long ago.

Fishermen were sure a dramatic drop in salmon was related to the bear’s impact on pre- spawning returnees based on a preliminary study which seemed to indicate just that. The studies dad worked on were followups and contradicted the original in that 98% of the salmon the bears ate ( see page 5, sec2.2.7 ) had already spawned. He said tensions ran really high and that he was glad he was upriver and not at the mouth where angry fishermen periodically took pot shots at the biologist’s camp from their boats.

Tensions have run high in the AYK area , Bristol Bay and Area M for years.

In March this story made all of us sigh with relief, at various levels.

“The study is scheduled for release to the public in the summer of 2012, to allow time for writing allocation proposals to be considered at an Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting later that year…
 Stock composition is a heated issue in Western Alaska, where salmon harvesters north of the False Pass area, known as Area M, have voiced concern for years that their fish are being caught in Area M commercial fisheries, rather than the commercial and subsistence fisheries of Bristol Bay and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.”
 IF evidence already exists, which clearly shows the Area M fishery has little impact on fisheries north, where is it? And why are we spending a bazillion bucks to do genetic research to see whether there is an effect, if there isn’t?
 Yup Dad, it IS horsepunky.
And since I’m hoping for fish in every tub, I’m waiting for the rest of the story.
 It’s not enough to know where the world is in relation to yourself, you must strive to know where you truly stand in the world…
And what is really going on.
And Happy Pop’s Day!
Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm  Comments (10)  


The expected  but unaccepted news last week that the Secretary of Commerce has accepted the North Pacific Fisheries Fish Management Council’s Chinook salmon bycatch plan has been laying heavily on my mind.

 Stephen Taufen, Groundswell Fisheries Movement, reminds us of a failure in public policy which flows  from  the federal law we call the  Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act :

“According to recent estimates over 50% of the Chinook salmon caught as bycatch are bound for Western Alaska.

Low returns of Chinook salmon throughout Western Alaska have caused severe economic distress in recent years as subsistence harvests are restricted and small commercial fisheries are eliminated.  The Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery was declared a fishery disaster for the 2008 and 2009 seasons by the Secretary of Commerce.  “It is beyond unjust that the pollock fishery will be allowed to continue catching Chinook salmon virtually without limits offshore while in-river families sit on the banks watching their food and income swim by.  This conservation burden should not be borne by rural residents, commercial and sport fishers alone,” said Becca Robbins Gisclair, Policy Director for the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.”

The failure to incorporate the knowledge that what happens in the Bering Sea may have effects many, many miles from the coast is built into the law just as compartmentalizing different fisheries in the sea, with no back -up -and -look-at -the- whole -picture function is built in…

We can talk about crab here, pollack over there, halibut around the corner…

Here they are a prohibited species/bycatch,

 there they are the target species…

Where is the plan for the Bering Sea ecosystem?

We have  a draft plan, this year, for Alaskan  Yukon waters, which outlines all the measures folks on-river must live with .

We have Alaskans, along the Yukon,  meeting federal mandates for escapement  to Canada  while federal law on the Bering Sea can turn a blind eye to any affect it’s fisheries management has on fresh water fisheries…

Oh, Pffftt…


A lot of work is being done , to try to understand where the fish lost as bycatch come from, from Chinook to chum .  Far, far too many come from Western Alaska.

 Mercifully, bycatch was relatively low this year .

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 8:54 pm  Comments (4)  


Excepting birthdays, I’m not much for annversaries

Marking them or remembering them…

Yesterday I found myself looking at the clock every few minutes without knowing why.

Today, I know why. One year ago today, Mother’s Day 2009, my beloved nephew was murdered.

I miss him so…

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm  Comments (4)  


It’s been a year. Does anyone know what and where this has gone?

View this document on Scribd
Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 6:54 pm  Comments (4)