Monday, June 29, 2009

On the new fishery panel

From the Dutch Harbor Fisherman: New fishery panel aims to hear rural voices

From the article:

The seven-member committee will meet with Native and tribal leaders, including in rural areas of the state that have traditionally had little involvement in federally managed fisheries, said Duncan Fields. The group is planning an initial meeting in Anchorage this summer, though no date had been set last week.

"The committee isn’t so much about advocacy for rural Alaska as it is for outreach to rural Alaska,” he said.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fresh snow. Yeah.

My friend was driving through the pass today on the peninsula, and caught this:

She said it was snowing on them up there, raining crazy hard just a few minutes out.

I swear if that snow comes any closer, I'm going to lose it. We all went one year without a summer - no dice on snow this summer. I refuse.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This is a special request from Dennis Zaki of the Alaska Report. The coverage is neccessary, and Dennis is one of the few - usually the ONLY - person reporting it. Not only is he getting the story, what I've seen of his work is more accurate and at the heart of the situation than anything else. Dennis' coverage has ended up on major news outlets, including CNN, and his work has gone a long way to getting this story out to people who don't have any other way of finding out about it.

Take a moment to look at the information, including this article from the Tundra Drums, and please, if you can, support his work!

Dear readers,

It is a matter of great urgency that I be in Emmonak ASAP. The Federal Subsistence Board has called a meeting with the Emmonak tribal leaders and residents to discuss the Yukon's king salmon subsistence and commercial fishing crisis. At the State meeting last January, I was not allowed to film. Residents later told me the State did not want that meeting on film.

The people of Emmonak have been prohibited from commercially fishing for early run King Salmon. Alaska, the feds, and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council have chosen the marginal benefit of a few commercial pollock fishermen from Seattle over the livelihood of the villagers of Emmonak, and others of Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The fact is indisputable that the salmon bycatch of Seattle's pollock fishermen is the direct cause of the steep and devastating decline of king salmon in the waters of Western Alaska. However, few, if any, of our state's government officials have the courage to bring up this topic on the record, presumably due to the fact that they would be championing the "hapless" Natives (not a new concept in our history) over the strong, wealthy, lobbyist-backed (non-Alaskan) pollock industry.

What this intolerable situation needs is to be brought to the attention of the American people, even as it is being swept under Alaska's political rug. A few months ago, when the heating fuel/food crisis in Emmonak first surfaced, I flew there with my camera and interviewed the victims of the crisis. My filming gave their plight national exposure on CNN and other national outlets. I want to follow up the story and do it again.

We cannot let this problem just fade away as if our fellow Alaskans mean nothing. This is not just the problem of the villagers of Emmonak. As Alaskans, this is our problem just as much as it is theirs. (See: Lack of King salmon in the Deshka River, Ship Creek, Bird Creek, Kenai River, etc., etc.) Help me get to Emmonak to do something about it. The trip will cost $1080. That is $720 airfair and 4 nights in the Emmonak hotel.

Dennis Zaki

UPDATE: You did it! Dennis got all the donations he needed for the trip!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Native people may have shown up a little earlier to the party

Found this pretty interesting piece a few days ago in Indian Country Today:

Scholars are pushing evidence of human habitation in North America well beyond the non-Native accepted wisdom that places it at a relatively recent 13,000 to 14,000 years ago...

A perhaps-controversial 33,000 years ago, “and probably long before that,” people lived here, according to Steven R. Holen...

Several scientists, me included, are producing evidence of a much older Native American occupation of the continent,” he said...

Oral tradition is disounted so much of the time, but it is interesting to me that so many times science proves oral tradition correct. The Tlingit people have a history that tells of our people not originally being from the Southeast area, coming from more northern/eastern areas. Thousands of years after the Tlingit began telling this "myth," science showed this to be true.

In an anthropology class, I was amazed to discover how much of what is discovered in archeology must be supposed, gaps filled in. Of course there are solid facts and science, but the further back you go, the more you have to fill in the lack of evidence.

In any case, it will be interested to see what comes of this. As the article says, it is quite controversial, and history and science books would have to be re-written a bit, but the truth is usually worth that. I always hope that scientists will take things like oral tradition a little more seriously, too. Although it may not be "fact," it is shown again and again to be a pretty good guide.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Racking up points in the lifelong Alaskan animal sighting game

So we're driving along, and my friend gets annoyed at the cars lined up on the highway. Construction season? No. She suddenly yells, "BEAR!" and we go into the only instinctual reaction one can go into when you hear that (in the safety of a car) on the Alaska Highway.

"BEAR!" is code for, "Get the camera right now!"

Probably code for that anywhere, but on the Alaska Highway, this can also have some variation like, "Sheep!" (as in Dall) or "Moose!" Though frankly, moose are common enough that that's only if you have a great shot or Outside visitors, and sheep are kind of boring if you don't have a big lens usually.

On the scale of animal sighting imortance, ravens, seagulls, etc. are on the bottom, moose, eagles, dall sheep are somewhere in the middle, and foxes, caribou (to the southcentral folk anyways), and the more shy animals are the highest ranking. "BEAR!" is one of the most valuable roadside attractions -a grizzly like above near top tier, second only to the much more rare wolf sighting (personally, only saw a fleeting glimpse when I was about 10.)

Of course the batteries were out on my camera, and of couse we had to cannibalize some other piece of electronics to get it working. My friend's niece was rudely awakened by her auntie screaming "BEAR!" in her ear - the funny part was, even half-awake, the girl knew the importance of that and was groping around for her camera before actually regaining consciousness.

Fortunately, this was the most relaxed bear ever. Pretty small for a grizzly, about the size of a young black bear, and he was pretty focused on finding something good to eat right on the road side. He stayed put for about 15 minutes as a parade of cars performed a pretty comical merry-go-round between the two turn-outs on either side of him - all to try and get "the shot."

I used to drive the Alaska Highway with my grandparents after spending the summer with them, and I still relish the "count the animals" victory. Of course actually capturing the animals on film is to offer proof - I still can't prove that wolf sighting.

This bear gets to go on my virtual trophy case - maybe not the best speciman ever spotted, but THE best I've personally caught on film... so far.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cancer surviors and loved ones - bead a quilt square!

Palin's new AG pick for Alaska

Another important appointment, this time at the state level. Palin appointed Dan Sullivan (no, not THAT Dan Sullivan) as AG. I don't know much about him either, but the Anchorage Daily News has a few bios up about him.

If you remember, the last AG pick, Wayne Anthony Ross, of Palin's was strongly protested by Native organizations (and LOTS of other people) because of his views about, well, an awful lot of things, but namely subsistence and ANCSA. Sullivan looks to have a pretty strong resume, but I haven't heard much else yet. He does seem to have a few (positive) Native in working with Native corporations (?) and looks like his wife is Native. From the articles:

He helped ensure that the new NSPD strategy focused on all of the core issues relating to the Arctic, including: developing the region’s vast resources; protecting the environment; promoting safe, secure and reliable transportation; and respecting the culture and way of life of indigenous peoples...

His practice focused on corporate transactions and commercial litigation, and he represented a variety of clients, including Alaska small businesses and Native corporations...

He has been married for almost 15 years to Julie Fate Sullivan of Fairbanks, who is a Doyon shareholder...

Sullivan's wife, Julie, is the daughter of former state representative Hugh Fate of Fairbanks and Mary Jane Fate, who is a former co-chairwoman of the Alaska Federation of Natives and was also on the University of Alaska board of Regents.

So, I guess another wait-and-see!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama names Native senior policy advisor... finally!!

Okay, my impatience has finally paid off (not sure that had anything to do with it, but moving on!)

One of the major campaign promises of Obama's to Native people around the country was a Native senior policy advisor - and he's made good on that promise!

From RezNet:
Obama names Cherokee as Native Policy Advisor

From Indian Country Today:
President Obama announces Kimberly Teehee as senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs

I don't know anything about Teehee, so I'm going to check around, see what reaction this gets, and hope for the best!

Swine flu hitting Inuit communities hard

From Indian Country Today:

(World Health Organization) briefed reporters June 9 that reports to the agency of infections in Inuit communities in Canada showed “disproportionate numbers of serious cases occurring,” said WHO senior official Keiji Fukuda.

In general, I've been confused by all the attention the H1N1 virus has gotten. When compared to the "regular" flu each year, this seems to be, well, frankly much better. I'm far from a medical... anything, though, so I'll just keep my mouth shut and wash my hands a lot. Try not to shout down people who know better than me anyways, but also try not to add to what I was seeing as a minor hysteria over something that seems to be... well, just like the flu. Any death is too much, but what if we attacked the "regular" flu with as much media attention and assistance?

But this is the first I've heard of it hitting a Native community disproportionately higher - and by a wide margin. I don't know how much everyone else knows about the history of flu and the Alaska Native communities (really ANY Native community) but it's pretty bad. There have been several epidemics which have nearly wiped out whole villages, 90% of the population in some cases.

At the turn of the century there were a few outbreaks - some call it "The Great Death." These flus, also, were disproportionately higher in Native communities by a wide, wide margin. While many tried to stop it, many clergy used it to prove that Native ways were evil, and Western ways were good. All you had to do was look at who was dying, and see the "truth" in that. For Alaska Native people, these outbreaks were a major turning point for entire cultures, entire ways of life. I could give mountains of posts on this, but suffice it to say that the last time the flu was a big problem for the world, it devastated Native cultures in Alaska.

For some reason, I assumed that any sort of flu outbreak wouldn't hit these populations as hard this time around. Modern medicine and all, right? But I'd be lying if this didn't pinch something in the pit of my stomach. I'm not ready to ring the alarm quite yet, but my country for a degree in medicine! I hope that those officials they mention as saying not to assume there are "genetic, environmental or underlying diseases" to blame for it are, you know, making sure there are no genetic, environmental or underlying diseases to blame for it.

Well, I suppose, in this, I may be adding to what could amount to the latest trend in hysteria, but I just want to make sure there's at least one guy up there checking this out. Anyone?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Native authors summer reading list

Was out of town for much of this week, and got a little bit hooked on a much nicer, slower frame of mind. Having a little bit of trouble getting back into life.

Oprah released her summer reading list, so I figured, hey, why not me? Sure, the authors will probably be a tad less excited that they are on MY reading list, versus the big O, but I'm sure they're okay with it.

I generally read... a lot... but after the month of Native poetry, I noticed how litte I intentionally read much Native fiction. Despite enjoying the nonfiction Native books, and loving literature in general, I don't intentionally go out to find many Native fiction books. So, this summer, I'm making sure I read at least six different Native authors (two/month.)

By the way, if you have suggestons, PLEASE let me know. I put much more stock in suggestions than in reviews and such, and would love to know what Native author books you like!

The List:

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
I've only ever read short stories and poems by Alexie, and always "meant" to read the novels. I actually already started on the first chapter of this, and am hooked!

The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

Ravensong by Lee Maracle
"From the depths of the sound Raven sang a deep wind song, melancholy green... Cloud crashed on the hillside while Raven began to weep."
I've never head of this novel, or author, before, but I'm a sucker for imagery.

Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives by Ray A. Young Bear

Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun by Velma Wallis
I read Two Old Women years ago, and loved it, but never got around to this one.

Dawn Land by Joseph Bruchac

Monday, June 8, 2009

Enough already on the racism defending racism

I have no problems with scrutinizing the Supreme Court nominee - in fact, it is incredibly neccessary. Her words, her speeches, her judgements should be combed through as much as possible so the American public knows exactly who and what we are getting for a lifetime appointment of Supreme Court Justice. Disclaimer: I am not convinced yet she's the right pick - I still want to see a whole lot more about her.

But enough already with the "She can't be unbiased because she's a Latina."

This strikes a very personal cord with me, and probably with a whole lot of minority populations, including women in professional settings. It is a common accusation to throw at someone who is not with the status quo of whatever position they are trying to get.

I heard this argument played out several years ago with regard to Native anthropologists. It was argued that Native people could not judge Native anthropology and archeology without bias, and therefore were not ideal to be working on Native anthropology and archeology projects. As if nearly the whole history of anthropology hadn't been based off of one race and gender's views and assertions, and that shouldn't be something we look at.

I'm fine with scrutinizing Sotomayors words about race, interviewing her about what she means, picking out the whole text of things she says (and not just the two second sound-byte) regarding, well, anything and everything. There are many basing their assertions of her prejudices on her words and judgemets. But to base the argument about however future judgements might go only based on her race is breathtaking in its weighty double standard.

For a few hundred years we haven't questioned at all whether a white male judge can fairly judge between a white male and anyone he is facing in court. For some reason, a latina, a Native person, a black man or Asian woman can't make those decisions objectively - only white men can? I think we would find, should we care to look not even that far back, that there are more than a few examples of just how biased white men can be. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we fought a pretty big war here in this country based on the biases and prejudices of white men.

I don't claim that minorities are more unbiased and fair - only that no race is more or less objective than the other. So get that part of the argument out of the whole deal, and unclutter the discussion for much more valid arguments.

And on a similar note, stay off the double standards for her now infamous statement in the first place! I've actually heard many, many times now, "If Alito made similar remarks, he would never have made it."

Uh... he DID make similar remarks. And he was praised for them.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bee Native - organization that is leading the way

This caught my eye in a Twitter post because it seemed so random. Bees? Really?

With all that is going on in the world, why is there a Native American organization focused on bee survival?

But reading the information is a little eye-opening - not to mention humbling. I remember hearing, several times in quick news clips, about disappearances of large populations of the world's bees. Yet, what does that have to do with me? In just about any Alaska Native - or Native American, for that matter - set of values, you will find that care for the earth, natural resources, respect for all creatures, etc. is an integral part of a cultural tradition. Long have we decried the limits and restrictions on our land and the surrounding environment.

But we are also a modern people, and personal respect for and care of the land should not be relegated to something we "used" to do. I absolutely believe a major value we can offer the world is the respect for land. Not the sort of voodoo mystic stuff portrayed on early westerns, but the personal connection to land that I fear we may be losing in the next generation. We have to start "updating" the practice of those values to reflect what is going on in the world. We must not only advocate on behalf of our land regarding the impact of waste, global warming, greenhouse gases and the like to the world at large - we must recognize that the daily things in our lives are effecting this as well.

I'm no patron saint of environmental responsibility - not by a long, long shot. But I have to give much respect to those that are walking the walk - and this "Bee Native" organization is exactly that. From their site:

Survival of the bees is as essential to our food production and natural environment as the soil the crops grow from. One third of our food requires pollination by insects...

As the population of bees and their health decline Bee Native is investing in careful examination, research & organic management to eliminate harmful substances from their environment... In the hands of the American Indian Tribal communities the bees will continue to educate and draw us further towards understanding their needs and our connection to the lands in which we live.

Bee Native advocates both simple, everyday solutions as well as big picture ideas regarding a "natural resource" we really can't afford to lose. It is hard for some to see why an endangered bear or whale is important to the ecosystem, but can't we all agree bees are pretty integral to... well, life as we know it?

Check out the site for some of their suggestions what to do, including donation, but here's two of their fairly simple action steps:

  • Stop using pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Encourage others to look for alternatives to the poisons we use in our yards and fields.

  • Support organic growers. Their hard work is part act of faith, part luck and enormous commitment to bring us safe and tasty produce.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Alaska Real turns 1!

A year ago today I began this blog - and so sorry to be cliche, but oh - what a year! I coudn't have dreamt up half of what happened this last year.

I learned a lot from this little experiment, and will continue it further. The last several weeks have been a flurry of activity for me personally, and I hope to be gone for a sizeable chunk of the summer. Some of my focus needs to go to exciting new things happening in my own life (okay, a whole heaping bunch of my focus.) But I do want to tweek the blog a bit, and really define what should go into it - and not neglect it so poorly as I have lately (though I might add, I've also neglected sleep and healthy stress levels as well.)

I got into this to get an Alaskan Native voice out there, a perspective on things both mundane and elevated. Some of my goal for this year is to get MORE. I would love for Alaska Native guest bloggers to post on here, and hope a whole lot more Alaska Native blogs will get notice, and begin.

Happy Birthday to me! And here's to another year...