Sunday, February 22, 2009

Crisis in Southwestern Alaska

As eloquently described in several blogs (Mudflats, Immoral Minority, Diva's Blue Oasis, and Shannyn Moore to name a few), we learned that Alaska Natives needed help this winter.  The fishing season was extremely poor.  The winter came early.  Fuel for transportation and heat was locked in at an all-time high, based on last summer's oil prices.  Then a hard cold snap prevented a ship from delivering the bulk of the winter's fuel supply to the southwestern Y-K Delta.  People living there faced an impossible choice -- freeze or starve.

Yukon River Delta, courtesy NASA

You might think that the government of Alaska would recognize, value and try to preserve the life style of its native population.  Unfortunately, Sarah Palin's administration seems to have little love or appreciation for Alaska's real heritage.  Sarah should have known, at least as early as last July, that trouble was brewing for the villages in the delta.  The alarm bells kept ringing throughout last fall and as winter progressed they only got louder.  See a timeline for the Crisis in Rural Alaska here.


Seven months have passed since last July. Finally, Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell went to visit two villages a couple days ago.  They accompanied Franklin Graham, evangelist and missionary, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse, and the "I believe Islam is a very evil and a very wicked religion" preacher.  When Sarah was asked why go visit the villages now instead of 6 weeks ago, she told ADN's Kyle Hopkins,


Well from the day that Sean Parnell and I got elected, our efforts have been to make sure that we have a revitalized economy in Alaska. And that job opportunities would be seized by all Alaskans. Especially those in rural Alaska to recognize that instead of importing our workforce as we do today, to such a large extent, we want the young people in rural Alaska to get these jobs. That has been our effort from the day we got elected.

Sarah declined to say what, if anything, she'd done on a personal level to help her fellow Alaskans in need, citing scripture to explain her reluctance to answer.  She repeatedly stressed (as far as I could tell after deciphering her trademark word salad) that government was not the answer, and the tribes might need new leadership to get their people to leave the villages and get jobs elsewhere.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Alaskan government appears to have done only the following so far:
  • In February, sent a team of officials out to gather information
  • In late January, filled the Rural Affairs Advisor position that had been vacant since last October
  • In late January, extended moose hunting season in certain areas for a month, but only for those who have not gotten a moose yet which doesn't help those who cannot afford the fuel to get to the re-opened hunting areas
From ADN's report on the evangelical mission

What should Sarah have done besides fly out to a village in Franklin's private jet for a photo-op? If she valued the indigenous life style of the Alaska Natives, she might have been active in developing and promoting initiatives for growing sustainable agricultural, dairy, and wild game enterprises, for example.  But she's never asked the right people or tasked anyone with coming up with such plans.

I'm reprinting the following comment with permission from a poster who goes by "I can see the Village from my House."  (See recent entry at Mudflats blog.)  It goes to show that there are plenty of ideas out there.  Now, if only Sarah would listen.

Sarah’s hitching her wagon to a Monday Morning Quarterback evangelical relief effort bothers me at so many levels, but that she goes ahead and says that we need new leadership to address our problems is so insulting to our Elder respected make-up.

She wants our youth to get all mavericky.

And she came baring fresh baked cookies? What I would have given to slap that processed sugar out of her hands.

Why the hostility? Her vision for the village workforce is such that we have to leave home.

Where is the aggressive fiscal responsibility in that? Making villages accountable with meaningful economy? Why can’t we have the State invest in putting in greenhouses for year-round produce like those dear potato’s that Ann exalted over? It would create jobs to boot! It wouldn’t be a costly endeavor, truly, no more costly than that multi-million dollar failure of the MatMaid debacle.

We could have a regional dairy operation to ship out fresh milk products also too. And we used to herd reindeer for commercial butchering, why not institute a domestic cattle/muskox (wild game) station for regional disbursement - that precious protein that she’s been bragging about lately?

All of these scenarios creates jobs and makes us less dependent on importing commercial food sources that would serve to supplement our traditional diets. It’s a win-win for the State and the villages.

But no, I’m not going to invest in your community, that is not the governments job, I’ve got to reign in spending and progress North Slope workers via drilling, baby drilling! And let’s make sure we break up families and send our youth out so that they lose touch with their culture and values. So they can come home and be disappointed with what is lacking after they are exposed to amenities offered elsewhere.

Thanks Sarah, you really are the answer to Bush Alaska’s future.
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