Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another village in trouble

When I spotted this in the ADN Newsreader, I had a sinking feeling becoming very familiar. I've talked about a few dying villages, and villagers just trying to make it this winter. This story is one of the more heartbreaking.

Originally in the Bristol Bay Times, the article is actually about a letter written by an Emmonak resident, asking for help for his village. Short of fuel, short of money, short of food, he talked to 25 of the 200 households in the area, and every one of them had a grim story to tell. Just one:

P. R: Single, separated, with five children. (He chokes occasionally, holding back crying.) He and his children are staying in the same household with his brother’s family. Cost of fuel is so high and everything else and we’re able to get just a few things at a time. We have no other subsistence food left. Only thing we’re surviving on moose meat alone and it is almost gone. Everything is so high – only able to get little bit. We can’t catch up on our bills. We’re really hurting even we are given some from other people. Right now, we can’t eat during the day, only at supper time. And, it is still not enough. If there had been no school lunch, our kids would be starving. It is going to get worse in two weeks when our new heating fuel supply is airlifted in. Price of fuel will go way up again. I am lucky that the Women’s Shelter is able to give me some coffee.

Yes. This is America today.

I was privileged to meet with a family from Emmonak last month, getting to know them. Although going through a tough time, a death, I had no idea of the rest of this. This also makes me wonder how much the economic situation is affecting the alarming news of the suicides in the area. Although the area, and the area just above, are the two highest in Alaska for suicide rates - and Alaska the highest in the nation - lately there has been even more than usual.

This is just one village. I wrote before about a village on the Aleutian chain being told they should leave because the village couldn't power itself. Despite an article proclaiming that it's not as bad as people have said... it seems pretty bad.

The letter left some information on where to go to help. As he says in his letter though - these are just the ones he was able to talk to - how many more are remaining silent?

UPDATE: I've had some requests about where to send money, donations, etc. Although it is in the above letter (the link,) it is a really long letter and easily missed:

To help, please call:
City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249
Emmonak Tribal Council, (907) 949-1720
Emmonak Corporation, (907) 949-1129/1315/1411
Emmonak Sacred Heart Catholic Church Pastoral Parish Council Chairman,
(907) 949-1011.
To assist with offsetting heating fuel costs, call Emmonak Corporation.
For distribution of food, I would suggest Emmonak Tribal Council handle this.

To send directly:

Emmanok Tribal Council
P.O. Box 126
Emmanok, AK 99581

Here's another way to give, and it could payout bigger even than the rest. Dennis Zaki of AlaskaReport.com will be heading out to Emmonak on Friday to shoot video of the situation. His coverage has some big possibilities for further national coverage, and could play out big (with big donations, big attention) with millions, not just those watching the blogs. He needs $2000 to get out there though, so if you can give a few bucks, I think you'll find your dollars will multiply in worth!

He's also donating anything above the travel costs to the people of Emmonak.


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