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Coast Guard medevacs man from tug near Kotzebue


The Coast Guard rescued a man off a tugboat 57 miles south of Kotzebue on Friday, September 30th.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter (foreground) in Kotzebue, Alaska, in August 2010. (Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Shinn, U.S. Coast Guard)
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter (foreground) in Kotzebue, Alaska, in August 2010. (Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Shinn, U.S. Coast Guard)

The 67-year-old had been suffering from symptoms of stroke when the 17th Coast Guard District command center received a medevac request.

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak Jayhawk helicopter deployed to the tug boat, Drew Foss. The man was hoisted and transported to emergency medical care in Kotzebue.

Jayhawk pilot Lieutenant Leo Lake highlighted the importance of having the Coast Guard Forward Operating Location in Kotzebue. He says it allowed the crew to respond within twenty minutes – providing medical care well within the four-hour window that is recommended for stroke victims.

The man’s name has not been released at this time.

Snow Trac program issues final grants after being vetoed


A vetoed state program that provides grants for trail grooming and safety projects has issued its’ final round of awards. $236,000 in grants to 17 organizations statewide for this coming winter were announced last week. Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation Director Ben Ellis said the grants were issued because the Snow Trac program is funded by snow machine registration fees from the previous year.

“Even though the program will cease after this year, the governor’ office allowed those funds to go to Snow Trac work for this coming snow season,” Ellis said.

This year’s grants include $7,000 for grooming of some popular Fairbanks area trails. Northern region State Parks director Brooks Ludwig said the Snow Trac grants pay for regular grooming of over a hundred miles of trails to public use cabins in the Chena River State Recreation area east of Fairbanks.

”Half a dozen trails that are groomed by a private contractor,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig said loss of Snow Trac grants will mean less maintenance in future winters.

”We’ll probably break trail to get to the cabins, make sure the public use cabins are okay, but there won’t be any regular maintenance going on,” Ludwig said. “It’ll probably be delays after we get heavy snows until what little staff we have can get it there and open the trails back up. But we’ll do our best.”

The final round of Snow Trac grants also includes 9 thousand dollars for the Yukon Quest. The Quest has long used Snow Trac funds for putting in the Alaska portion of the thousand mile sled dog race trail from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.

Trail safety projects funded in the final round of Snow Trac grants, provide for installation of trail markers near the Seward Peninsula village of White Mountain, and avalanche warning signs for popular back-country ski and snow machine areas in the Eastern Alaska Range, Hatcher Pass, on the Kenai and near Valdez.

3 dead in Hageland plane crash en route to Togiak


A Cessna 208 caravan was traveling from Quinhagak to Togiak with two Hageland pilots and one passenger on board when it crashed. An emergency locator signal was received just before 1:30. Two state troopers in Dillingham took a helicopter to the scene shortly after. Sgt. Luis Nieves supervises the region.

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The Cessna 208 caravan that crashed midway between Quinhagak and Togiak (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Troopers)
The Cessna 208 caravan that crashed midway between Quinhagak and Togiak (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Troopers)

“When our troopers arrived in the area, they immediately noticed that the location was essentially a mountain, that its peak was in the clouds and they noticed what appeared to be the wing of the aircraft,” Nieves said.

The two troopers landed the helicopter and hiked up the mountain for an hour to get to the wreckage. The debris was scattered over a large area and all three onboard were deceased. What caused the crash has not been determined but Nieves said the troopers on scene suspect how it happened.

“The aircraft apparently hit the mountain at high altitude probably in low visibility is what it appears to be right now,” Nieves said.

A company statement Sunday night said the caravan was flying a Ravn connect route operated by Hageland aviation between Quinhagak and Togiak. The company told authorities that had notified next of kin but state troopers were working to verify that before releasing the names of those killed. NTSB investigators are expected on scene today.


UPDATE: 4:20 p.m.

The Ravn Connect flight, operated by Hageland Aviation, was enroute to Togiak from Quinhagak when it lost contact, and an emergency beacon was received just before 1:30.

The passenger and two pilots died on impact, according to troopers. Some of the wreckage burned after the crash. NTSB Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson said the two investigators who arrived on scene Monday are having a hard time recovering the remains and starting their own investigation:

“As far as the condition of the wreckage, very tough shape, ” Johnson said. “Also the location that the wreckage is in is making our investigator’s job very, very difficult.”

More details about Sunday’s crash, including the weather conditions, will likely come in a preliminary report from NTSB next week.

Hageland and Ravn, part of the same parent company, have had numerous accidents over the past several years, including the recent midair collision outside of Russian Mission. Johnson said NTSB takes each accident case by case:

“We don’t really take into account other accidents, and especially in this case,” Johnson said. “The two accidents that our office is handling right now which would be the mid-air in Russian Mission roughly a month ago and this accident. Both of those accidents are being investigated by two separate investigators and at this point right now, both of them are very much still in the preliminary stages”

Hageland Aviation notified the next of kin of the three men killed Sunday, but state authorities have withheld the names pending a separate notification. The family of Louie John of Manokotak, the passenger onboard, was notified Sunday of his death.

Alaska gets $500m in base construction; most for Fairbanks

An F-35 flies over Florida (U.S. Air Force photo)
An F-35 flies over Florida (U.S. Air Force photo)

Congress last week agreed to spend more than half a billion dollars on military construction projects in Alaska. Most of the projects are in Fairbanks, to prepare Eielson Air Force Base for the arrival of F-35 aircraft. The short-term spending bill Congress passed also has $155 million for a new radar system at Clear Air Force Station, and $47 million for a drone hangar at Fort Wainwright.

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Jim Dodson, president of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, says the projects are a big deal for Alaska’s economy, especially if the work goes to in-state contractors.

“We don’t expect to get 100 percent of the contracts. But Alaska should have, let’s just say an equal shot at getting those contracts,” he said.

Dodson says he’s talking to the Corps of Engineers to ensure that contract set-asides and bidding preferences don’t inadvertently exclude Alaskans. He says, for instance, that one contract has been set-aside for contractors from Historically Underused Business Zones, or HUBzones.

“In Fairbanks there’s only a very small, like a six block area, that’s HUBzone-qualified,” he said. “Not only does the contractor have to reside in the HUBzone, but 30 percent of his employees, or her employees, have to live in that HUBzone. So that pretty well means there’s no contractor in Fairbanks, Alaska that can bid competitively on that contract.”

Most of rural Alaska, though, is considered a HUBzone. The appropriations bill also has about $34 million for projects at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Anchorage.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added a section encouraging the Defense Department seek out Alaska contractors and cooperate with the state’s workforce development agencies.



St. George applies for marine sanctuary


The city of St. George, home to 100 people, has asked the federal government to create a marine sanctuary around their island in the Bering Sea. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially received the application today.

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Mayor Pat Pletnikoff said in a recent interview the city is appealing to the government for help to preserve the rich ecosystem around their island. He says they also want more research on the seal and bird populations they rely on for subsistence.

“There’s a lot of fishing companies, large fishing vessels that we don’t use, that trawl, and the factory longliners that come in near St. George Island and fish,” he said. “We don’t know what the total impact is.”

The city has nominated waters around St. George, extending out as far as 30 miles, for sanctuary status. Pletnikoff says a sanctuary designation wouldn’t automatically exclude fishing or a harbor expansion.

Marine sanctuaries are established after a public process that can take years. In that way, they’re different from marine monuments, which are created by presidential order.


Wisdom Keeper: One Man’s Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People


Ilarion Merculieff, is an Aleut educator and has traveled the world working with indigenous people. He’s written a book called Wisdom Keeper, that’s available now, chronicling the stories of his people of the Pribilof Islands and messages from Native elders in Alaska and other countries. It also highlights the science and technology that his sea going people were adept at. Known more commonly as Larry, he says even his name, Ilarion, was part of  colonization and the imposed religion that Native people had to deal with.

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Wisdom Keeper: One Man's Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People by Ilarion Merculieff (Book cover photo courtesy of Amazon)
Wisdom Keeper: One Man’s Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People by Ilarion Merculieff (Book cover photo courtesy of Amazon)

MERCULIEFF: And so I’m named after St. Delario. He was Greek and they adopted in Russian Orthodox church.

TOWNSEND: The fact that you didn’t have a choice is kind of a key point that sort of also illustrates a lot of the history of your people.

MERCULIEFF: Yep that’s true. You were given a choice to join the church in which case, you’ll be treated like a civilized human being. Or you choose not to and then get treated badly. And so most people joined the church. And to join the church, you had to take a Russian name. That’s something that most people don’t know.

TOWNSEND: Your book has chapters dealing with slavery and genocide. Education both in the academic sense and in articulations about what instructions elders give. How did you decide how to map all of this out? It’s a lot of history. How did you go about that?

MERCULIEFF: I didn’t. I mean I just sat down and write and that’s the way it was. I just would write when I felt each day and didn’t have a road map at all. And that’s probably why it took me twenty years to do it.

TOWNSEND: The title Wisdom Keeper, I was curious about that. Wisdom’s value is in being shared. So how do you both stay clear about retaining the wisdom of the past, which is so important, but making those lessons relevant for younger people today and go about sharing it?

MERCULIEFF: Well I’m living the legacy of my name, my traditional name Kuuyux, which I was given by the last Kuuyux that was left alive at the time and I was 4 years old when he gave me that name and so we called each other Kuuyux. Kuuyux means a bridge or a messenger from ancient times into modern. And now I’m living the legacy of my name. So it’s quite interesting the way that, you know, I tell the story in the books about how this evolved for me. And so it’s really about the wisdom of the elders through the lens of my life.

TOWNSENDi: You wrote and just mentioned also that after 20 years of writing a lot of these stories that it was finally time to tell them. Why is now the time?

MERCULIEFF: Well, there are couple reasons that I wrote it. One is that my friends kept telling me “you’ve got to write these stories down.” And finally I decided to do that. The second thing is that I work with elders from all over the world and they are speaking with an urgency that I haven’t ever heard them talk. And they feel that they want their messages to get out and any way that we can. I mean, normally, we don’t single ourselves out. Like, writing a book, for example, with my picture on it and Wisdom Keeper. I mean, this title was picked up or made up by the publisher. It wasn’t what I had recommended. The urgency that they speak of is about this time that we have to change our consciousness. And that consciousness is mind centered as a center of intelligence when in a traditional view point in all indigenous peoples, it’s the entire makeup of the body that we use. We use all of our senses. We use our gut feel, our heart sense, intuition. All these things are operating but they’re stopped from being their full aspect of what they are because we’re so focused on the mind. And so the elders say that we must drop out of the head and go into the heart.

TOWNSEND: The Unangan people’s history is incredibly rich in a technological perspective that I think some people might find surprising. They are and have been for generations highly skilled sea going people and the builders of vessels for the sea. How did you write about that in your book?

MERCULIEFF: Well that’s very true. The kayak. The Smithsonian and London University were trying to figure out what’s the best high seas kayak in the world because they were funding an expedition that would go by kayak. And they discovered that, low and behold, Unangan had the best high seas kayak in the world. And we traveled to South America, the south Pacific, across to all parts of Russia and to point Barrow. These are things that even today anthropologists won’t acknowledge. That we have these stories about our people going very far south.

TOWNSEND: There’s also a lot of pain in the history. Your people working in slave conditions under the government in the fur business. They were interned during World War II. What do you want younger generations to know about this era and how it should instruct into the future without becoming overwhelmed by just the anger or sadness or bitterness of that era?

MERCULIEFF: Well, you know, we say like the Jewish people, we had our Holocaust at the hands of Russians where we lost eighty percent of our population in fifty years. And we’ve been out there for over 10,000 years and we’re still there. And like the Japanese-Americans, we were interned and unlike the Japanese-Americans we lost ten percent of our population. We were interned by the US government and we lost ten percent of our population due to starvation and disease, malnutrition and disease. And like the Black-Americans, we were enslaved. So we had all these things but the elders would say, “don’t have hatred or anger.” Because when you have that you not only destroy yourself, you contribute to the destruction of your people. And so I grew up without that anger and bitterness. And the demeanor and the actions and words of the elders are very true that if we – it’s like that saying where you pick up a hot rock and throw it at someone. What you do is you burn yourself. You don’t burn others.


Former Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr. dies just shy of 93


Lowell Thomas Jr., a former Alaska lieutenant governor, author, adventurer, glacier pilot and son of the legendary broadcaster, has died.

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Lowell Thomas Jr. in 1975 (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Education)
Lowell Thomas Jr. in 1975 (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Education)

His daughter, Anne Donaghy, confirmed his death Monday to The Associated Press. She says her father died Saturday at his home in Anchorage, Alaska, days shy of his 93rd birthday.

He was born in London on Oct. 6, 1923, to Lowell Jackson Thomas and Frances Ryan Thomas. His early childhood was spent in New York City, where his father had a nightly radio broadcast.

He was a flight instructor during World War II, and flying and skiing became lifelong passions. He and his wife flew across the world and chronicled their work in articles and a book.

They visited Alaska in 1958, and fell in love with it, moving there two years later.

Thomas was a state legislator and later lieutenant governor, a post he held from 1974 to 1978.

The family plans a memorial later in Anchorage.

Alaska News Nightly: Monday, Oct. 03, 2016


Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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3 dead in Hageland plane crash en route to Togiak

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

A Cessna 208 caravan was traveling from Quinhagak to Togiak with two Hageland pilots and one passenger on board when it crashed. An emergency locator signal was received just before 1:30. Two state troopers in Dillingham took a helicopter to the scene shortly after. Sgt. Luis Nieves supervises the region.

Former Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr. dies just shy of 93

Associated Press

Lowell Thomas Jr., a former Alaska lieutenant governor, author, adventurer, glacier pilot and son of the legendary broadcaster, has die

Alaska gets $500m in base construction; most for Fairbanks

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.

Congress last week agreed to spend more than half a billion dollars on military construction projects in Alaska. Most of the projects are aimed at preparing Eielson Air Force Base for the arrival of 2 F-35 squadrons.

St. George applies for marine sanctuary

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.

The city of St. George, home to 100 people, has asked the federal government to create a marine sanctuary around their island in the Bering Sea.

2 hunters rescued, 1 mauled near Hoonah

Quinton Chandler, KTOO – Juneau

A brown bear mauling prompted the Coast Guard to rescue two hunters from a mountain near Hoonah and bring them to Juneau Saturday afternoon. Only one of the hunters was injured.

New addition will help food bank store even more food than before

Quinton Chandler, KTOO – Juneau

The Southeast Alaska Food Bank celebrated an increased capacity during an open house Saturday. The new addition allows the food bank to give away even more food than before.

Future of Fox Spring still unclear

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The fate of a state owned public water source north of Fairbanks remains in limbo.  The Fox Spring is a popular place for locals to get their drinking water, but the state wants to divest of the property to eliminate rising maintenance costs for the aging well.  Sale to a neighboring landowner is in the works, while a citizens group explores other options.

Wisdom Keeper: One Man’s Journey to Honor the Untold History of the Unangan People

Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Ilarion Merculieff, is an Aleut educator and has traveled the world working with indigenous people. He’s written a book called Wisdom Keeper, that’s available now, chronicling the stories of his people of the Pribilof Islands and messages from Native elders in Alaska and other countries. It also highlights the science and technology that his sea going people were adept at

‘Without Boundaries’ highlights indigenous identity at Anchorage Museum

Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

A new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum brings some of the world’s top artists into a single gallery for commentary on indigenous identity. The show– “Without Boundaries,” opened Friday, and it’s an ambitious effort in more ways than one.

Museum abandons boundaries all together

Artist Edgar Heap of Birds stands before his piece "Dead Indian Stories" on display in the "Without Boundaries" exhibit. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage)
Artist Edgar Heap of Birds stands before his piece “Dead Indian Stories” on display in the “Without Boundaries” exhibit. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

A new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum brings some of the world’s top artists together for a provocative commentary on indigenous identity and contemporary art. “Without Boundaries: Visual Conversations,” which opened Friday, is an ambitious effort in more ways than one.

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James Luna has been a critically acclaimed performance artist for decades. Standing in front of a photo installation the day of the opening, he read out a spoken-word piece specific to Alaska.

“This is called ‘Make America Red Again,'” Luna began, launching into a wry satire of this year’s presidential campaign, with regular nods to the history of colonization.

“We’re gonna build some beautiful walls. We’re gonna build walls around our villages, we’re gonna build walls around our sacred sites, we’re gonna build a wall around Mount Denali,” Luna continued. “You know who’s gonna pay for it? You white people are gonna pay for it, you see, because these walls are gonna keep you out.”

The short speech flips the rhetoric on immigration and sovereignty. By the end, Luna is telling recent migrants from abroad that in this newly reclaimed Alaska that they’re welcomed to stick around.

“You can stay and you can speak your languages freely, you can practice your religions without fear, you can wear your tribal dress. You’re free to be cultural, because isn’t that what they took away from us Indians?” Luna asked, ending the piece.

Luna’s work provokes, but it doesn’t attack. Some of the pieces from 12 artists working locally in Alaska to as far as Greenland and Oklahoma take a much more assertive and critical stance about indigenous identity and the continuing harm done to native communities.

A large photo by Canadian artist Barry Pottle called “Awareness #2” from a larger series shows the “Eskimo Identification tags” issued by the Canadian government starting in the 40s.

A piece by the renown American artist and educator Charlene Teters called “The Smile” points to the disappointing politics of representation for native people in the 21st century.

The multi-disciplinary collections breaks boundaries in other ways, as well, with public works spilling onto the museum’s lawn and sidewalks. For Edgar Heap of Birds, who has pieces both inside and outside, breaking down the art-world’s hierarchies is part of the work itself.

Heap of Birds jabs at the hypocrisies in the treatment of Native American tribes in a work called “Dead Indian Stories,” part of a series.

On the wall are 16 red rectangular lithographs, each with six words scrawled from top to bottom. They read like sentence fragments, but according to Heap of Birds each has an internal logic. One reads “SAND CREEK WASHITA RIVER SANDY HOOK.”

“Those were all sights where children were murdered,” Heap of Birds explained. “Sand Creek was a massacre with Cheyenne children, Washita River was a massacre with Cheyenne children, Sandy Hook was a massacre with kindergartners in Connecticut.”

“In America we would be more mournful of the ones in Connecticut. We don’t really care about the ones in Oklahoma,” Heap of Birds continued. “My point is that we need to mourn all the children’s deaths.”

Some of the works are difficult to decipher on their own. The exhibit’s catalog is more than 50 pages, and includes three essays about the themes running through the works, along with artists statements that help add context.

“I got to cherry-pick whatever I wanted,” laughed Sonya Kelliher-Combs, the exhibit’s curator. She reached out to some of the artists requesting photos of available works, while others were commissioned specifically for the exhibition.

The pieces were selected to align with a series of structured  conversations the museum’s sponsored for more than a year both in Alaska and abroad, and which will continue through December. Kelliher-Combs and others brought together artists, curators, and thinkers to discuss contemporary views on complicated subjects like the commodification of native art, decolonization, and representation. And those conversations are the thread running through the exhibit.

“The one commonality is that these are all indigenous or Native American or First Nations — whatever you want to call us — individuals,” Kelliher-Combs said, “and they’re all talking about different issues that are important to native people.”

On top of having provocative individual works that may needle some patrons, “Without Boundaries” is ambitious for its attempt to put the Anchorage Museum front and center on international conversations about contemporary art and its intersection with indigenous politics. The artists represented in the show have had works in the most elite galleries, exhibitions, and museums around the world, right alongside community-engagement projects and advocacy that has made many of them fixtures of political debates and academic books. Even the process of using curated conversations as the basis for an exhibit in Alaska is unconventional in itself.

“These artists are showing all over the world,” Kelliher-Combs said, adding that its a group pushing the boundaries of what’s been considered indigenous art.

“They have strong voices and clear messages to be heard.”

Without Boundaries is at the Anchorage Museum through February.

Caelus announces big oil find on North Slope

Caelus drilled two wells at Smith Bay in 2016. Photo: Caelus.
Caelus drilled two wells at Smith Bay in 2016. Photo: Caelus.

Caelus Energy said it’s made a major oil discovery on the North Slope, at Smith Bay. The company estimates the oil under its current state leases at 6 billion barrels and says as much as 10 billion may lie under the shallow bay.

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“It’s going to be a massive development,” Caelus CEO Jim Musselman said.  “Very important for the state of the Alaska, and it’s going to create, you know, thousands of jobs.”

Musselman said two wells drilled this year, sidewall cores and 3D seismic work suggest a large reservoir of light oil in good rock.

“And we have the same fan complexes under each well, so that gives us courage that the fan extends over this big area,” Musselman said.

Production is years away. The company says the development could eventually boost the amount of oil going down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline by about 200,000 barrels per day, an increase of nearly 40 percent over current daily averages. And Musselman said, the light oil

Caelus Energy CEO Jim Musselman. Photo: Caelus.
Caelus Energy CEO Jim Musselman. Photo: Caelus.

will help cut sludge, improving the pipeline’s flow.

The CEO estimates the cost of the project at $8 billion to $10 billion. He says he’s confident he can get financing if the price of oil goes up to at least $65 a barrel. He said state tax credits are also crucial.

“We can in fact help with their fiscal crisis going forward if they’ll help us, and I think that’s all we’re looking for,” Musselman said.

This summer, Governor Bill Walker vetoed oil tax credits worth $430 million, saying the state couldn’t afford to pay so much to oil companies. However, the state is still obligated to pay them at some point in the future.

Smith Bay is 150 miles west of Prudhoe Bay. The Caelus leases are in state waters, off the

Smith Bay is about 150 miles west of Prudhoe Bay. (Image: Google)
Smith Bay is about 150 miles west of Prudhoe Bay. (Image: Google)

National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Lois Epstein, Arctic director for The Wilderness Society, says there’s a lot to worry about with this project. Smith Bay is next to the Teshekpuk Lake area, a large freshwater wetland that Epstein says is important to waterfowl, caribou and polar bear, and for subsistence.

“Essentially, what we’re talking about is a massive industrialization in an area that’s very, very important to a large number of species,” Epstein said.

The company plans to begin environmental studies now and drill an appraisal well during the winter that begins in 2017.

Alaska to receive federal grant to process over 1000 untested sexual assault kits


Governor Bill Walker announced today that Alaska will be receiving $1.1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to process over 1,000 sexual assault kits currently in possession of Alaska State Troopers.

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“While we cannot solve these problems overnight, this grant will help us to make great strides in reducing the number of unprocessed sexual assault kits in Alaska,” Walker said. “These kits represent real people who are the victims of horrific crimes. We owe it to them, and all Alaskans, to end this pattern and ensure sexual assault kits are processed in a timely manner.”

(Chart courtesy of UAA Justice Center)
(Chart courtesy of UAA Justice Center)

The three-year grant will allow for the kits to be analyzed at a state crime lab as well as paying for cold case investigators and prosecuting attorneys to carry out cases that emerge from the findings.

The grant follows an inventory review that determined that there were more than 3,000 unprocessed kits across the state in possession of law enforcement.

“Alaska has some of the highest rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in the nation. We must end this terrible epidemic, and that starts by addressing the thousands of sexual assault kits in the possession of law enforcement,” Walker said. “We owe it to victims and their families to deliver justice to perpetrators and bring closure to these tragic experiences.”

KYUK in Bethel begins airing live translated news from around the world


KYUK has added a new service to its Yup’ik News programming. The Bethel public radio station is now airing news from around the world in Yup’ik. Their targeted audience includes elders, and people in the region who have Yup’ik as their primary language.

John Active at KYUK. (Photo by Charles Enoch, KYUK - Bethel)
John Active at KYUK.
(Photo by Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel)

John ‘Aqumgaciq’ Active recently introduced his new show, which features world news translated into Yup’ik. Active translates news stories from around the world, and he says it’s mainly for the elders who watch TV news at home.

“When they hear and watch the news on TV, they ask their family members, ‘Where is that happening? What is happening? How is it happening? Why is it happening?’ I mainly considered those guys when we started this show,” Active said.

KYUK already airs local and state news weekday mornings after 8 a.m., again a little after 12 p.m., and in the evenings around 5:30 p.m. Shane Iverson, KYUK’s General Manager, came up with the idea for the new show.

“The idea was just to expand that, to make sure our Yup’ik audience is fully informed of all the big events happening in the world, specifically people who speak Yup’ik as their first language, to make sure they hear the news in the language that makes the most sense to them,” Iverson said.

The show started on Monday, September 26, but was not heavily promoted. A few elders and Yup’ik speakers whom KYUK contacted were interested in the content, but did not know the show existed. The show airs live on weekdays around 8:45 a.m., after the morning Yup’ik news and the Tundra Drums announcements.

Catholic Church announces Alaska’s next Archbishop

Archbishop-elect Paul Etienne addresses the public at the Archdiocese of Anchorage on Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Archbishop-elect Paul Etienne addresses the public at the Archdiocese of Anchorage on Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church have named Alaska’s next Archbishop.

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Archbishop-elect Paul Etienne was introduced to the community Tuesday by outgoing-Archbishop Roger Schweitz at the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

“This is a very, very special day for me personally since it’s been 15 months since I sent in my resignation to our Holy Father, and he responded – I thought maybe he lost the letter,” Schwietz said.

Schweitz has been at the head of the Archdiocese of Anchorage since 2001 and submitted his resignation last year when he turned 75-years-old, as required by the church.

Upon receiving the news that he was selected to lead the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Archbishop-elect Paul Etienne – who is 57 – says it took him by surprise.

“Truthfully, I did not say yes immediately, but asked for a day top digest and discern what my best response might be to this unexpected turn in my life in the church,” Etienne said.

Etienne has spent the last 8 years serving as the bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming; and the appointment and prospective move to Alaska would take him even further from his family in Indiana.

But, Etienne says after a night of contemplation and prayer, he found his answer.

“I’ve been a priest 24, 24 and a half years now and I promised the Lord in those ordination promises that I would follow wherever he led,” he said. “So, I’m here because I followed the Lord here.”

Despite the initial apprehension, Etienne says he is looking forward to getting to know the land and people that make up his new home.

And, Etienne says he’s a longtime supporter of “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which was established in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy — which included several Alaska communities.

“I’m very committed to doing everything that not only we are required to do, but what we as a church desire to do,” Etienne said. “To create a safe environment for our young people and our vulnerable adults, and to do everything necessary when and if there are abuses to take the appropriate steps to make sure that we respond accordingly.”

Etienne says he was the first priest from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to serve on the committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, and he’s currently serving his second term on the bishops committee.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage serves more than 11,000 families and maintains parishes and missions from Anchorage and Eagle River, to Valdez and Cordova, to Dillingham and Dutch Harbor, and many in between.

Online fundraiser nets nearly $50k for erosion control project at Delta-area park


Donors gave nearly $50,000 to an online fundraiser last month to help pay for a project to prevent the Tanana River from washing away the bank that runs along Big Delta State Historical Park near Delta Junction. Alaska State Parks will use the donations as a match for further fundraising to pay for a bank-stabilization project riverbank to prevent further erosion.

Alaska State Parks is trying to raise money for a riverbank-stabilization project that would halt the Tanana River from washing away the bank that's already been eroded to within 13 feet of this historic cabin at Big Delta State Historical Park. (Photo courtesy of Monica Gray - Alaska State Parks)
Alaska State Parks is trying to raise money for a riverbank-stabilization project that would halt the Tanana River from washing away the bank that’s already been eroded to within 13 feet of this historic cabin at Big Delta State Historical Park. (Photo courtesy of Monica Gray – Alaska State Parks)

Superintendent Brooks Ludwig said Monday the online crowdfunding drive that ended late last month went well, but fell just a bit short its $50,000 goal.

“We’re at about $48,200, I think, at the last count,” Ludwig said. “And actually, the donations are continuing to come in.”

Ludwig said State Parks will continue to accept donations through February while the agency applies for grants and other funding to pay for work to stop the Tanana River from washing away more of the south bank that runs along the Big Delta State Historical Park. The Tanana cut deeply into the bank last summer after rains raised the level of the river to near flood-stage, and the high water undercut a bluff on which an historic cabin was located. The bluff collapsed to within 13 feet of the structure before State Parks jacked it up in August and moved it away from the river.

“We’re working to see what we can do with the state funding and the private donations,” Ludwig said. “Maybe we can leverage that for some federal funding for bank stabilization and some habitat work.”

Ludwig said 87 people donated to the cause, along with several private and public sector donors that kicked in big bucks and in-kind donations of materials such as boulders and “root wads.” Those are the big, gnarly bundles of tree roots that’re yanked out when land is cleared and that are useful in building aquatic habitat.

“If we can find some root wads, that’d be very beneficial because it’d be really nice to incorporate that in the bank restoration to preserve the salmon habitat there,” Ludwig said in an interview Monday.

Ludwig said engineers are surveying the bank now to develop a design for the project, which he said will get under way in the spring.

“We’re going to get at it in April, while the water is still very low,” Ludwig said, “and get in there and harden the bank before the water starts coming back up again.”

Outside health experts stress low infection risk from YKHC dental instruments


The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation is testing patients for Hepatitis B, C, and HIV after partially sterilized dental instruments were used on patients. Out of the 191 patients seen during the nine-day period in question, up to 13 patients might have had contact with the instruments. When YKHC discovered the error, they consulted with the Alaska Section of Epidemiology and the Center for Disease Control. KYUK talked to some of the same people.

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The YKHC Dental Clinic is the lower level row of windows to the right of the entrance. (Photo by Dean Swope - KYUK, Bethel)
The YKHC Dental Clinic is the lower level row of windows to the right of the entrance. (Photo by Dean Swope – KYUK, Bethel)

Here are two of the people YKHC talked to: Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist with the Alaska Section of Epidemiology, Division of Public Health and Dr. Joseph Perz. epidemiologist with the CDC Division of Health Care Quality Promotion.

When asked about the risk of infection, both said the same thing:

“This is a situation where the chances are rather low, and maybe even theoretical, that there would have been an exposure,” Castrodale said.

“This is something that in our risk assessment poses a very, very, low, theoretical risk of infection,” Perz echoed.

It’s a theoretical risk, because it’s not known if any of the instruments were contaminated with Hepatitis B, C, or HIV.

First, the instruments would have had to have been used on a person who carried one of those viruses. Second, the instruments would have had to have retained some blood. Third, the virus would have had to survive the first two steps of the three-step cleaning process: detergent and ultrasound. YKHC just missed the last step: heat.

Susan Jones is the HIV/STD Program Manager for the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. She didn’t talk to YKHC, but she thinks the cleaning that did happen was enough to kill HIV, which was highly unlikely to be on the instruments anyway.

“We have very few new infections a year, and very few folks that have infections who live in Alaska,” Jones said.

So few, that last year there were only 64 cases of HIV reported in the state. None were in Southwest Alaska.

With Hepatitis C, 91 cases were reported in Southwest Alaska last year, and no cases of Hepatitis B were reported in the area.

There’s no vaccination for HIV or Hepatitis C, but most people get vaccinated against Hepatitis B as infants.  In fact, a National Immunization Survey showed that between 2000 and 2001, 90 percent of Alaska Native infants were vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

So few people in the region even have these illnesses to pass on, and the viruses don’t do well outside the body.

“Hepatitis B is an example where experimental studies have shown that the virus remains viable for weeks, potentially, in the environment,” Perz explained. “Hepatitis C is more medium level in that regard, so its viability would be measured in hours or days. And HIV is thought to be the least hardy of those three, so it might only survive a very short while on an inanimate surface.”

A CDC study showed just drying HIV caused a 90 to 99 percent reduction in concentration within several hours.

“I would say, again, in this situation,” Perz said, “patients can be reassured that there was very little risk.”

“But it’s not zero,” Castrodale warned. “And so the decision was made to continue to reach out to those patients.”

YKHC wasn’t required to contact patients and tell them what happened or to offer free blood tests. Perz calls their situation a gray zone, but one where transparency is encouraged and one where it was chosen.

To anyone who got one of those calls, he offers this way to look at it:

“Thirteen patients might have been exposed to these instruments. There are actually 191 patients who’re sort of in the risk pool. That translates to 178 patients who have zero risk at all. I would say for the remaining 13 patients, the risk is so low, it is to be close to negligible.”

The take away is that few people in the area have the viruses to pass on; and the viruses probably couldn’t survive the initial cleaning process; but a risk still exists. So, as HIV/STD Program Manager Susan Jones said, “Get tested.”

Anyone with medical questions can talk to a nurse by calling YKHC at 1-844-543-6361.

YKHC’s Calricaraq gains national recognition and is invited to receive Honoring Nations award


Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s preventative services program Calricaraq is one of a chosen few to be honored at a national awards ceremony called Honoring Nations.

Left to right: YKHC VP of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky, Behavioral Health Administrator Ray Daw, and VP of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney. (Photo by Charles Enoch, KYUK - Bethel)
Left to right: YKHC VP of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky, Behavioral Health Administrator Ray Daw, and VP of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney.
(Photo by Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel)

Calricaraq has been selected as one of six finalists, out of almost 90 applicants across the nation, to be recognized at the 2016 Honoring Nations Awards presented by Harvard’s Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachuetts. Calricaraq will receive either a High Honors or an Honors award, which will be announced during the ceremony. Ray Daw is the Administrator of Behavioral Health at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

“The team is very excited to get this award. It took a lot of work for them to obtain the award,” Daw said.

Daw said the team was asked by the Harvard Kennedy School to submit an application to their awards program, which they did last spring. After applying, a team from Honoring Nations was sent to observe the program at work this summer.

Megan Hill is the director of Honoring Nations.

“I think that the programs that we work with are really changing the conversation,” Hill said. “You know, talking about what works in our communities and sharing those stories, and I think just making all of us stronger for it. These are complex issues that many of us are dealing with and trying to figure it out together, I think, is a positive way to go,”

Calricaraq began four years ago, and is a program in YKHC’s Preventative Services under Behavioral Health. It focuses on cultural values that many in the region were taught all their lives. It works to heal some of the complications caused by historical trauma and colonialism by strengthening families through learning from Yup’ik elders, prescribing healthy ways of living, developing curriculums, and responding to tragic events in the region. Their activities include talking circles, healing ceremonies, traditional dancing, prayer circles, craft and tool making, storytelling, teaching values, ancestral wisdom, knowledge, and subsistence activities. All of this is done with guidance from elders.

Rose Dominick at the Camai House after they acquired it for their program. (Photo by Shane Iverson, KYUK - Bethel)
Rose Dominick at the Camai House after they acquired it for their program. (Photo by Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel)

Daw said that Calricaraq started when Rose Dominick, who is now the head of the program, was exploring ways to start a culturally relevant program in their Behavioral Health department. At the time of writing, Dominick was meeting with elders about their program and how they could include cultural values in other departments, so she could not be interviewed by KYUK for this story.

Hill said that the team is invited to be honored during a meeting in Phoenix.

“On October 12, the six programs are going to come to the National Congress of American Indians and we’re going to take over a morning General Assembly, and they are going to be able to share their work with the audience of tribal leaders and program managers across Indian country,” Hill said. “So that’s sort of exciting, and after that we’ll make the awards, and three programs will receive High Honors, and three will receive Honors.”

Hill said that programs selected for High Honors will receive $5,000 and those selected for Honors will get $2,000. All six programs will be featured in both Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indians, and an online Google exhibit.

The Honoring Nations Awards are a part of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Their mission is to recognize and share the stories of programs in Native American governments that take steps for self-governance in areas like education, health care, resource management, government policy development and reform, justice, inter-governmental relations, and economic, social, and cultural programs. It was formed in 1998.

Daw said that, for now, the Calricaraq team of elders, behavioral health aides, and tribal representatives will focus on strengthening families and values in our region. He said that the response has been so enthusiastic, that they are barely keeping up with demand.

“We have more requests for gatherings, and meetings, and teachings, than we can manage as a unit. And I think the region has really been responsive to understanding how viable this approach is. There are always people who are asking when Rose Dominick and her team are coming to do a gathering, or coming to do a teaching, or coming to spend time with them,” Daw said.

YKHC will send a team of representatives to receive the award on October 12 in Phoenix, Arizona.

To cut costs, UAF merges Journalism and Communications majors


One of numerous cost saving realignments within the University of Alaska system, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Journalism and Communications departments have merged. Professor Charles Mason said the merger should save money, and shore up the journalism department, which has seen a declining number of majors in recent years.

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”The point of this merger is to have, probably, a smaller core faculty over the long run, but increase the number of majors in the two programs together so that it’s a single department with a reasonable number of majors and a pretty large number of students,” Mason said. “And the savings will come in through that.”

Mason says the combined journalism-communications program has more than sixty majors, and a dozen graduate students. He said the merger, which includes plans for co-location at a single facility, has resulted in the elimination of an administrative job, but that no other cuts are currently planned. He noted that the department hopes to hire for an open journalism professor position.

Due to funding reductions, Alaska DOT cuts back on maintenance


The Alaska Department of Transportation is cutting back more on maintenance due to state funding reductions. DOT norther region spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said the department is ceasing maintenance at the Circle airport, and closing 5 road maintenance stations on the Steese Highway at Central, on the Edgerton at Chitina, along the Richardson Highway at Birch Lake, and on the Taylor Highway at Obrien Creek.

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”We’ve been talking about this kinda since last December when we knew that we’d be facing some pretty significant budget cuts,” Bailey said. “And we went and talked to these communities. All of them are really upset about this. It definitely impacts these communities.”

Bailey said the maintenance will be picked up by staff and vehicles operating out of other DOT stations within a hundred miles.

“While all roads are going to remain open, it’ll take us longer to plow snow and ice, especially after a heavy storm or an ice event,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the cut backs, which also include reducing the Richardson Highway maintenance station at Thompson Pass outside Valdez to winter only, reflect a 60 million dollar reduction in DOT general fund dollars for statewide maintenance over the last 2 years.

”We’ve already, for the past two years, been reducing our number of staff. So we have laid people off,” Bailey said. “We’ve been letting go of equipment, cutting back on our overtime hours. So we’ve been doing all of that for as long as we could without impacting the actual maintenance stations. Really disclosing the maintenance stations is kinda the last thing we wanted to do.”

Bailey said if the budget cutting trend continues, more maintenance stations will be closed

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters


Child abduction is a nightmare not many parents have had to deal with, but Anchorage author Lizbeth Meredith knows first hand how terrifying it is. In 1994, her former husband kidnapped their two young daughters and took them to Greece. It took two years to get them back. Meredith has written a memoir of that time called Pieces of Me. She says she tried to make her marriage work for herself and her girls but it just got worse.

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Pieces of Me
Pieces of Me

MEREDITH: It had been a miserable, miserable union. But I thought, “I can do this. I can stay in this marriage”. It escalated in 1990 to the point of violence, that he strangled me. And the girls were there. One daughter was upstairs and the other one was watching. And they were very little. And I think something snapped in that moment, I had a friend who said, “You alone will know when it’s time to leave. Only you will know this.” And that was that moment where I thought, they cannot be raised like this. I don’t deserve this. They certainly don’t deserve this, and I don’t want them growing up thinking this is normal.

TOWNSEND: When you left, what kind of court battle did you have about custody and visiting?

MEREDITH: It was ugly. It was an extension of the control. I had made this bold move in ascent to get away from this kind of life and this abusive relationship. And so I was fortunate to have the assistance of Alaska Legal Services, and my husband hired an attorney and it was just very contentious. In the end, I got joint legal custody and sole physical custody. The girls were pretty tiny. Sometimes my former husband would visit during the days that he’d asked for and that was, quite honestly I needed a break, sometimes he would take the girls for visitation very regularly. I thought, well this could get better over time and then it would just change. And so he’d stop visiting or he’d start driving around the house, break into the house, look in the windows. One or two times, I got protective orders and it was just tense.

TOWNSEND: What kind of support did you have around you? How isolated did you feel in this?

MEREDITH: I by then, had been on food stamps, had finished my degree. I had a couple years of college before I got married and then got a job at a wake and abused women aid and crisis. And that was just a fabulous time for me because by then I’d made some friends back, I wasn’t isolated anymore, I had a roommate who was grandmotherly age for the girls. And she, to this day, still loves them. But I didn’t realize then was the more strong I felt, the more independent, the more I accomplished, the more at risk I would be. Even though I was no longer with my former husband, that for him was absolutely unacceptable. So when I graduated college, when I got the job, all of those things seemed to really enrage him.

TOWNSEND: He was still threatened somehow…

MEREDITH: Yes. He was still threatened and he one time did tell me, “I do these things because I think if I make you miserable enough, you’ll come back.”

TOWNSEND: 1994 arrives. You’ve had this sort of back and forth tense relationship and then one day he leaves with them. How did you first find out that he had actually left?

MEREDITH: I went to pick the children up. We just finished renegotiating that he wouldn’t come to my home to drop off the girls. That we would have to do it at the daycare. I showed up to pick the girls up on a snowy day after work and they weren’t there. And staff had not heard from him, which was kind of unusual. I thought, “Well. OK. We’ll just go figure this out.” And so I went back home, tried to make some phone calls and then it just became abundantly clear, “This is not normal.” So I went ahead and eventually called police. And I think the officer first said, “Ma’mm. He’s the dad. Why do you gotta be so hard on him? Can you just let him have extra time? Why does this have to be such a high-tone thing?” Because he didn’t know. And so when I explained it to him more clearly, he was like, “OK. I understand. So I’m going to do some digging around.” And then within a couple hours he heard conformation that two days before, the day that my kids went to be with their dad for visitation, that he had taken them and left the country.

TOWNSEND: I can’t imagine what you were feeling when you realized that he not only abducted your daughters, but had left the entire United States. What was that moment like?

MEREDITH: It was terrifying and yet almost immediately after, I realized the worst thing has happened, and if I can resolve this, if I can get the girls back, we are done. I can bring them home and this will be the end of all of these years of chaos.


Lizbeth Meredith’s new memoir is called Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters. Her book launch is Wednesday at UAA’s book store at 5 pm.

Chuitna mine application changes may muddy a lengthy process


A proposed coal mine near the village of Tyonek could move a step closer depending on a draft environmental impact statement expected to be released this month by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Changes in a state application for the Chuitna mine could complicate an already lengthy process.

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Although PacRim’s plan to mine coal near the Chuitna River on the West side of Cook Inlet has been in the works for years, an expected draft environmental impact study on the project is now behind schedule. Jason Berkner, a manager with the special actions branch of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory division said the EIS is on hold for the time being.

“Essentially, the project went into a hiatus mode,” Berkner said.

The Corps is waiting for portions of the state review process to catch up, so this is putting them behind schedule, according to Russell Kirkham, who manages Alaska’s coal regulatory program. Kirkham said in an email that Department of Natural Resources completed another round of review of PacRim’s application in late August. PacRim is currently working to address the state’s comments. Kirkham said he does not have an estimate on when they will be complete.

Berkner said if PacRim doesn’t provide the requested information by October 21, the EIS application is

“If we have 90 days of inactivity in this particular case, we would administratively withdraw the application,” Berkner said. “It is important to note that is an administrative process. The applicant can start working again on the project again at any time, once they provide the information that we require.”

Environmental activists opposed to the Chuitna mine are also waiting for the draft EIS to be released. Carly Weir, a program manager with Cook Inletkeeper said she’s in the dark as to the delay.

“This has been such a long process,” Weir said. At the beginning of this year, we assumed that we would see finally the draft application and documents and the public would have a chance to review this project. Unfortunately it is now October and we are looking at yet another delay and another year and uncertain future for this project and really the fate of the Chuitna watershed.”

Weir says her organization is against the mine because PacRim’s plan would mine through a salmon bearing tributary of the Chuitna. There is contention as to whether the salmon habitat can be restored after mining stops.

“That is precisely one of the questions that we are trying to get at through this EIS process,” Berkner said.

Weir said not having an EIS will stall the mine project for a while, but it is still a concern.

“We’d like to see the project’s books closed permanently,” Weir said. “The reason we’re looking at this project again, for ten years, since 2007 when the most recent rendition of the Chuitna coal mine project came up, is because the environmental impact statement and projects that was theoretically approved in the 1990s, was shelved due to low coal markets.”

The price of coal has tumbled during the past couple of years, but Dan Graham, a project manager with PacRim said in an email that PacRim is not focused on today’s prices. He says coal forecasts are strong to 2030 and beyond, and that “an investment like this looks to the long term.”

Graham said PacRim is in the process of responding to the state’s review, and that should be done this week. He said a 60 day state public comment period will coincide with a public comment period on the Corps’ EIS.