Rural blog

The Village is a Daily News blog about life and politics in rural Alaska. Its main author is ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins. Come here for breaking news on village issues, plus interviews, videos and photos. But that's just part of the story. We want to feature your pictures, videos and stories, too. Think of The Village as your bulletin board. E-mail us anything you’d like to share with the rest of Alaska -- your letters to the editor, the photos of your latest hunt or video of your latest potlatch. (We love video.)

Pumpkin recycling service - 11/8/2012 11:00 am

Pressed for change, leaders promise a 'new, modern AFN' - 10/20/2012 1:29 pm

Should Alaska Native elders be exempt from fishing bans? - 10/18/2012 3:27 pm

Make way for AFN - 10/9/2012 3:02 pm

Bathtime at 220°F - 10/1/2012 10:09 pm

Where the jobs will be: Mining, health care - 10/1/2012 2:07 pm

First, some advice: Don't cook angry - 9/28/2012 8:55 pm

In Bethel? Say hello - 9/24/2012 12:28 am

Police chief: Anchorage gang member sold crack to Kotz

Kotzebue Police Chief John Ward sends this announcement today, describing the conviction of a suspected Mountain View gang member who conspired to ship crack to Kotzebue:

A Kotzebue jury deliberated for almost two hours before convicting a 28-year-old Anchorage man of misconduct involving a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving a controlled substance. Kotzebue Police Chief John Ward said Monday that Hakim Abdu Giddins faces a maximum of 15 years in prison at his Nov. 18 sentencing before Superior Court Judge Ben Esch. Assistant Attorney General Gregg Olson from the State of Alaska Rural Prosecutions Unit said Giddins conspired with two other individuals in the shipping of crack cocaine from Anchorage to Kotzebue, and Giddins also sold crack cocaine in Kotzebue.

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More than 50 Alaska towns still without indoor plumbing

Honey buckets sit at a collection point brimming with waste along the boardwalk July, 2002, in Napaskiak. Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News photo.Honey buckets sit at a collection point brimming with waste along the boardwalk July, 2002, in Napaskiak. Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News photo.

Been thinking a lot about human sewage lately. And not just because of all the diaper changing.

After visiting Newtok, where one of the rivers serves as both a highway and sewer line, it's hard not to dwell on how far we have to go toward retiring the honeybucket in Alaska.

Granted, Newtok village is looking to move to escape erosion and has started the first steps toward relocation. They should get a better plumbing system -- anything at all would be an improvement -- at the new site.

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$1 mil for Dillingham dock. Plus: Look at these bison

This today from the federal Commerce Department:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced a $1 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the city of Dillingham, Alaska to expand an existing dock and install a crane to boost the commercial fishing sector. The project, made possible because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), is expected to create additional jobs and private investment in the region.

So, how's that request for a disaster declaration on the Yukon going?

Annnnd the bison:

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Watch/listen to Sen. Ted Kennedy's speech in Sitka

Head over to APRN's site to listen to a fiery clip of Sen. Ted Kennedy delivering a speech in Sitka, in 1968, just after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Kennedy was a freshmen senator addressing the state Democratic convention, filling in for his brother Robert Kennedy -- was who assassinated himself shortly after.

(The first clip on the site is the full, 20-minute speech. The second is APRN's story, with excerpts.)

You can download video of the speech here, though I had trouble doing it on my awful home connection.

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Not your standard drive-by

Troopers say four people shot at the Kuskokwim River village of Crooked Creek from a passing boat on Aug. 19:

The boat was described as a 20 foot aluminum boat with an outboard motor on it. Three of the suspects were wearing dark colored clothes while the fourth was wearing a red coat or sweatshirt. If anyone has any information regarding this incident, please contact the Alaska State Troopers at the Aniak post via 1-800-675-4398.

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From Barrow to Russia

Eating grey whale and fish on the beach. (All photos courtesy of Mary Sage.)Eating grey whale and fish on the beach. (All photos courtesy of Mary Sage.)

Mary Anniagruk Sage, of Barrow, writes of the road:

I was fortunate to tag along with some Kotzebue filmmakers as they recorded songs for their film called “The Lost Dances.” My husband Joseph and I were filmed in Kotzebue for this project two years ago. When we couldn’t find his passport, my daughter Clara took his place.

Clara and Mary at the old village site of AvanClara and Mary at the old village site of Avan

The film crew recorded the songs first, then chose outdoor locations for the dancing. In New Chaplino, we had two nights of dancing and jamming out after filming all day. It was a blast! Richard Atoruk is a member of the Northern Lights drummers and dancers from Kotzebue, and he knows some common songs that Barrow does, so we would drum and sing for each other.

Richard Atoruk, Mary and Frank FergusonRichard Atoruk, Mary and Frank Ferguson

We traveled to Provideniya, New Chaplino and the old village site called Avan. When we were with our new Russian friends, they fed us grey whale maktak, dried meat, various fish and greens on beach cookouts, tundra cookouts, and in their home. It was delicious!

Alla Panauge from Provideniya DancersAlla Panauge from Provideniya Dancers

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Sounder: Ancient remains found in Kivalina

The Arctic Sounder reports construction workers unearthed the 1,000-year-old remains of three people in Kivalina last month:

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium was doing excavation for Kivalina’s new wastewater treatment plant when they came across some old bones, which an onsite archeologist determined to be animal bones. Construction resumed until more bones were found — this time human. And there were more. ...

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Thanks for TundraFest

Photo courtesy R.B. SlatsPhoto courtesy R.B. Slats

The Chevak Native Village and the Cupiit Dancers would like to extend their heartfelt appreciation for a successful Chevak TundraFest: “Traditional Style Tengmiariuq 2009," Aug. 13-15. The following are only some of the donors and volunteers which gave generously of their time and resources that made everything come into place during the days of the festivities: The Nightmute Dancers, the King Island Dancers of Nome, the Cupiit Dancers, John & Teresa Pingayak, Chevak Company Corporation, Greg & Brenda Slats, Frontier Alaska/ERA Aviation/Hageland, Grant Aviation, Chevak Traditional Council & Staff; the ALPAR Litter Patrol, the Guest Homes: Norman & Cathy Joe, Cecelia Andrews, Mark & Mary Agimuk, John & Teresa Pingayak. AVEC, Inc., NorthHeat, Inc., Prism Optical, the Eye Guys, AVCP, RHA, Everts, Alaska Fun Center, Feline Matchian, Crysta Nash, my nephews; Grant and Arnie, the fiddlers: Joseph Friday, Christopher Fisher, Sam Henry, Morris Aguchak Sr., Paul Fisher and last but certainly not the least Wille John.

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Watch your head!

Photo courtesy of Jim Paulin
Ouch.Photo courtesy of Jim Paulin

Jim Paulin reports from Unalaska:

An eagle clawed Fred Elias' head Aug. 19 at about 8 p.m. as he walked past Unalaska City Hall, where an eagle nests in a cliff across the street.

"It hit me so hard it almost knocked me over," Elias said an hour following the attack, after he was treated and released at the Iliuliuk clinic.

At first the totally surprised Elias didn't know what was happening. "I thought somebody threw something at me from a car. Then I heard the eagle scream."

The eagle flew away after bloodying the Unalaska resident. Elias said the wounds were not deep enough to require stitches.

Paulin, a longtime reporter in the region, has seen all this before.

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A loss in the Strongheart family

Sad news this week of the death of Segundo Strongheart, husband of Nunam Iqua blogger and activist Ann Strongheart.

If you followed the food and fuel crunch along the Yukon River last winter, you know Ann as co-founder of the Anonymous Bloggers Web site and by her dispatches from the village.

Today's link: 'In forever loving memory of my love Segundo Strongheart 11-27-1970 to 8-18-2009.'

We're thinking of you.

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'Smoke’ a pack of wolves a day'

As the polarized debate over Alaska’s wolf-kill program simmers in Congress, I got this e-mail Tuesday from Mark Richards, a member of a group called Alaska Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Earlier in the year he criticized Palin and the state for, in his view, cozying up to special-interest sport hunting groups at the expense of science.

Here’s the T-shirt design he’s writing about, followed by a clip of an encounter between Richards and former state Sen. Ralph Seekins outside this February’s Board of Game meeting in Anchorage.

Photo from www.alaskansongs.comPhoto from



-- ‘Fish and Game changes set extremism, hypocrisy loose’ by Mark Richards

-- ‘Abundance-based fish, game management can benefit all’ by Corey Rossi

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Send us your back-to-school photos

We're looking for first-day-of-school pictures from around the state. Click here to submit yours.

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'Makes you want to try dancing now?'

Yaari Kingeekuk, formerly of the Yup'ik village of Savoonga, now works in Anchorage for the Alaska Native Heritage Center. She wrote about being pulled between the two cultures in April. Here, she describes a recent trip with the Masingka singers and dancers to the Arctic coast village of Wainwright:

The Masingkas in Wainwright

By Yaari Kingeekuk

The beat of our hearts was the beat of our drums. As we get closer and closer to arriving Olgoonik (Wainwright), the sound of the drums became louder, and louder, and LOUDER. Oh, how exhilarating! I see the Inupiaq drummers singing and their Inupiaq women dancing beautifully and gracefully. I’m so excited! Especially when I knew that Olgoonik’s singers and dancers are among the best. I sat in the plane imagining what it was going to be like when we finally arrive and the festival begins. Walk with us in your imagination and feel what we experienced…

We arrived in Barrow on July 22. I looked at Paul, my fiancé, “We’re at the top of the world!” I couldn’t believe we were actually in the most northern town in the whole United States. The furthest north I had traveled was as far as Kotzebue. We quickly realized that we were going to take three flights to get the whole group to Olgoonik in a small plane that carries nine passengers. I wasn’t nervous at all knowing I flew a nine passenger plane most of my life. Maybe just a little bit. The only thing I was a little concerned about was the turbulence since it was windy. Just think when I was in high school when I was flying and there was turbulence, I’d remove my seat belt for the joy ride. All the girls would be screaming but me and I’d be laughing at them. No more laughing. Yup, no more LOL! But it was comforting to know that the flight would only take about 35 minutes to Olgoonik.


(The Masingka dancers perform in May, in Anchorage.)

As we approached Olgoonik, everyone in the first flight was excited to finally be there! And that’s when our video cameras began rolling. We were greeted by our friends at the airport. It was great to see them again. It seemed like a looooooong wait to get there. We had fund raised for almost three months with the help of our Olgoonik friends. Thanks to them, our up north dreams finally came true.

As we were headed to John Jr. and Pearl Hopson’s, I couldn’t believe that a small village would actually have a lot of SUV’s and pick-up trucks. We were actually picked up in a van! We get to the Hopson’s and right away we felt at home. Our hosts were very nice, made us feel welcome. “Make yourselves at home,” and so we did.

Photos courtesy Yaari KingeekukPhotos courtesy Yaari Kingeekuk

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Postcards from Newtok

During a trip to the Bethel region last week, I spent a couple days in the Yup'ik village of Newtok -- population 360. Or so.

The village sits at the corner of two rivers, one of which is steadily eroding the coast where the shore is crumbling away in thick chunks toward homes. Right now it's berry and moose season, with kids back in school today.

A few postcards from the visit, shot with my phone:

Margaret Nickerson shows me a kind of wild spinach you can fry or make into ice cream. I'd knocked on a random door minutes earlier, where her brother shared moose meat.Margaret Nickerson shows me a kind of wild spinach you can fry or make into ice cream. I'd knocked on a random door minutes earlier, where her brother shared moose meat.


Drying pike.Drying pike.


The washeteria, in the center of town. Push the button, get your drinking water, which has a strong chlorine bite.The washeteria, in the center of town. Push the button, get your drinking water, which has a strong chlorine bite.


I'm told there are only three or four flush toilets in town. Thus: honeybuckets.I'm told there are only three or four flush toilets in town. Thus: honeybuckets.


Maybe she can write my story for me.Maybe she can write my story for me.


Lot of hunters getting their moose this month.Lot of hunters getting their moose this month.


That's the Newtok River in the background, at the small harbor.That's the Newtok River in the background, at the small harbor.


More of the harbor. The landfill is across the river, but stuff is piling up village side too.More of the harbor. The landfill is across the river, but stuff is piling up village side too.


Seal: Another big subsistence food.Seal: Another big subsistence food.



I'm a sucker for pugs.I'm a sucker for pugs.

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Sen. Albert Kookesh charged with subsistence fishing violation

APRN reports Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, is fighting a fishing violation from troopers. They say he was over the limit for subsistence sockeye on July 12.

Kookesh is chairman of the board of Sealaska, the regional corporation, and a co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives. APRN says they couldn't reach him for comment in time for the story.

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1,300 gallons diesel fuel stolen from Healy


Theft in the Second Degree
On 08-13-09, Troopers were notified of the theft of diesel fuel
from a Healy area business. Over 1,300 gallons of diesel have been stolen since June 2009. The investigation continues.

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I was making a point of trying Kung Pao chicken at various Bethel restaurants this week. That was ill-advised.

So instead, we went to the Shogun restaurant tonight, where the menu advertised the biggest burger in Alaska for $17.

Here's what arrived:

That's a fine & delicious burger. It has an egg, and some ham, and jalapenos. But the biggest? In Alaska? Where stuff is supposed to be extra big?

Here it is to scale:

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'Medicaid acceptable'

The story about Bethel having tons of taxis has been told to death. Still, isn't this a bit much?:

For prom, I guess? Been looking for this thing all over town.For prom, I guess? Been looking for this thing all over town.


'Medicaid Acceptable''Medicaid Acceptable'

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Live in Bethel: Finally!

UPDATE: (2:45 p.m.)

The secretaries just left the building after a quick Q&A with reporters. I asked Chu what he had in mind for helping ease rural fuel costs. He mainly talked about alternative energy, weatherizing homes and finding ways to use less energy -- no mention of the kind of fuel subsidies or vouchers people in the crowd might have been hoping for.

Of the maybe 400 people here, fewer than a dozen got a chance to speak. Those who did covered a lot of ground:

-- Climate change and village erosion.
-- Supporting Alaska Native teachers in rural schools. (The ed secretary said he can't stand No Child Left Behind.)

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Veggies for all

I’m in Bethel this week, where Mayor Joe Klejka took me on a quick tour of town last night in his super-sized red farm truck. One of the first people we talked with was Tim Meyers, a kind of Johnny Appleseed for the Y-K Delta.

He plans to feed the region – a collection of villages the size of Washington state – by storing 200,000 pounds of veggies in several 40-foot, underground containers then selling them at $1 a pound.

“Cut everybody’s food costs in half," he said. His raw cauliflower is delicious.

After we left, we stopped by another garden, where former city councilman David Trantham was watering plants and urged Klejka to eat some kind flower.

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