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  • In rural Alaska villages, families struggle to survive

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/09/rur...ges/index.html

    In rural Alaska villages, families struggle to survive

    * Story Highlights
    * Villagers paying up to $1,500 to heat homes for a month, $400 for groceries a week
    * Some families say they have run out of food, others eat only one meal a day
    * Resident: "We have remained quiet, cried and suffered in silence"
    * Early winter, devastating fishing season, high fuel prices crippling economy

    By Mallory Simon
    CNN

    (CNN) -- Thousands of villagers in rural Alaska are struggling to survive, forced to choose between keeping their families warm and keeping their stomachs full, residents say.

    Harvested nuts and berries, small game animals, and dried fish are the only things keeping some from starving.

    To get to the nearest store, Ann Strongheart and her husband, who live in Nunam Iqua, Alaska, take an hour-and-15-minute snowmobile ride to Emmonak, Alaska. Their town does not have a store of its own.

    Normally, they would each ride a snowmobile, in case one broke down. But now, they can't afford to waste the fuel, so they just take one and hope for the best.

    At the store, the Stronghearts buy groceries and supplies for the family for the week, which cost more than $400. They buy only as much as their snowmobile can carry.

    In many stores, 2 pounds of cheese costs between $15 and $18, milk costs $10 a gallon, a 5-pound bag of apples costs $15, and a dozen eggs costs $22 -- more than double the price in the area just two years ago.

    Many area residents don't even bother with fruits and vegetables, which can be damaged by freezing on the trip home.

    After shopping, the Stronghearts pack their groceries into boxes, tie them to the snowmobile, and begin the 25-mile trek home, passing moose, rabbit and fox tracks along the way. VideoWatch how transportation is a challenge in rural Alaska »

    The trip sets them back about $50 in fuel alone.

    On top of high food prices, some residents are paying nearly $1,500 a month to heat their homes.

    The Stronghearts live in one of a group of Native American communities along the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

    They and other residents of these villages of 200 to 800 residents are feeling the impact of a devastating perfect storm of events. See where the towns are and learn more about them »

    Commercial fishermen couldn't make money from the seasonal king salmon harvest this year, because there was barely enough fish for subsistence. In fact, most fishermen lost money.

    Then a brutal early winter brought the longest cold snap in five years. In September the temperature in many villages dropped as low as 20 degrees, a record low for many, according to the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

    The 1,200-mile Yukon River, which the villages use as a highway, froze completely in September, at least two months earlier than usual. That left residents cut off from some basic necessities, and forced them to have pricey bulk fuel flown in.

    These residents and their ancestors have lived for hundreds of years in the Yukon Delta, which Emmonak resident Cindy Beans describes as something out of National Geographic. VideoWatch how rural Alaskans celebrate their culture »

    Though they send their kids to school, many speak the native Yup'ik language, and live a much simpler life than even urban Alaskans.

    They have always had the comfort of food around them -- whatever they can pick, catch and hunt.

    "But in order to have access to all the subsistence food, you have to be able to get out there and hunt for it," Beans said.

    And that requires them to go out on their snowmobiles, which means using more fuel.

    The community is always gathering food, Beans said.

    "All summer long we are putting away fish for the winter, by fall working on moose, then setting nets under the ice for winter time. But now, this food which used to supplement groceries is all that people have, since they can't afford to buy food at these prices."

    So residents have been forced to rely more on these subsistence methods.

    Beans said her brother walks three miles in 20-below-zero weather to check on nets under the ice for fish. The fish is a staple they need to keep themselves fed.

    "The life out here has always been hard, it's just that its a lot harder now," she said.

    Emmonak resident Nicholas Tucker wondered if others were feeling the impact, so he broadcast an inquiry via VHF radio, one of the common ways to communicate in the village.

    Tucker said many residents sobbed as they radioed him back.

    "His family has been out of food for quite some time now," Tucker wrote about one resident in a letter sent to legislators and the media. "Their 1-year-old child is out of milk, [he] can't get it and he has no idea when he will be able to get the next can."

    "There are days without food in his house," Tucker wrote.

    A single father with five children choked back tears as he told Tucker of his struggle to help his kids.

    "Right now, we can't eat during the day, only at supper time," Tucker wrote of the man. "If there had been no school lunch our kids would be starving."

    Many of the tribal leaders said they are begging the state and federal governments to do something to help.

    George Lamont, tribal administrator in Tuluksak, Alaska, said because of the crisis and villagers' inability to pay their utility bills, he fears many may have their electricity shut off. VideoWatch how heating the house is a daily struggle for one family »

    Alaska has given many residents $1,200 energy rebate checks, but residents say it barely helps them with one month's heating costs. Aid agencies, including the Red Cross, aren't an option right now -- the Alaska Red Cross said they couldn't help unless a disaster is declared.

    But the state hasn't declared an emergency yet, and it can't because of a state statute that requires the average income levels in the villages to drop below $26,500 -- regardless of the cost of living.

    Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's office said the state is trying to find a way to free up government help.

    "Local government specialists in the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development continue to crunch numbers and seek creative approaches to finding a statutorily acceptable way to justify a disaster declaration, which would open the door to federal aid, as well," deputy press secretary Sharon Leighow said.

    Leighow said Palin is sending her new rural advisor, John Moller, to the area next week, accompanied by representatives of the Alaska Food Bank.

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to step in and help the towns most in need.

    "I find it ironic, tragically ironic, that it takes an economic downturn in the rest of the country for this Congress to consider an economic stimulus for Indian Country," she said during a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs economic stimulus hearing.

    The villagers hold out hope that the state or federal governments can come through.

    "People have really been looking forward to some emergency assistance," Lamont said.

    After hearing the stories from his neighbors, Tucker said it's clear help is needed now. "We have remained quiet, cried and suffered in silence," he said.

    "So now, this is our simple cry to others for help."

    All AboutAlaska • Bureau of Indian Affairs
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  • #2
    What is terrible about this is the welfare system that was established in the first place, personally I see it, the native tribes aren't a new thing in that part of the world...So what changed?.
    It's appalling that American citizens in this day & age are forced to pay for things they can't afford perpetuating a debt cycle that will carry for generations, it's practically slavery without chains but instead through their wallet.
    I've helped with relief efforts all around the globe from Haiti, S.E. Asia, & to the horn of Africa. I’ve seen the Billions spent in those regions, but every time I read this it almost makes me feel sick and guilty that our own population is suffering in their own homes on American soil, are forced to starve s while their tax dollars are spent so frivolously.

    Comment


    • #3
      it's awful, and I've always thought of Alaskans as some of the most self-sufficient people, since their climate is so hard.
      "Be Excellent to Each Other"

      Comment


      • #4
        Wow, I never knew things were so bad in Alaska.... I thought that they would have been better prepared for something like this happening. What happened to hunting for dinner and using firewood for heat? What kind of cold are we talking about in that area right now?
        Wolverines!!!:D

        Comment


        • #5
          When it gets cold in Alaska, it is COLD let me tell you. My son lives in Anchorage, AK. And it gets cold enough there, but the more norther parts are much worse. I am not sure where those towns are, would have to check a map, but if they do not have any forests around, then they are really hurting indeed because it is all snow and ice.

          This is a prime example though of what moderinazition has done to the Natives of the world, not just Alaska and forcing them to comply with so called modern standards of living instead of letting the various Native cultures be free to continue their ways of life. Entirely too many government rules and regulations forced upon all, not just the Natives, but this is a disgrace indeed for these Natives to have to be living like this for sure.

          Yes things definitely cost more in Alaska on all levels, but I thought that all Alaskan citizens were supposed to be getting their shares of this oil monies providing they sign up for it. THey have this program there and each family member gets so much per year, I just do not know if this also applies to the Natives, but it certainly should.

          I suggest that we all email the Governor Sarah Palin and put some pressure on her to make sure these peoples get help as soon as possible.


          brightstar

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          • #6
            Sorry I was a little late in finding this post but here is a little tidbit of info I learned while living in Alaska. Before the hunting/fishing regulations were enforced on the native villages there were very very few cases of obesity, heart disease, diabetes or cancer, now those people are forced by our government to take the help and now these places are just like anywhere else except for the fact that I believe that most of them can and will survive when TSHTF, they have not forgotten what they have learned in life.

            Comment


            • #7
              Diesel and Fellow Survivalists,

              As gut-wrenching as the story may sound, this is really not news. Alaska ain't no Northern Exposure CBS sit-com for damn sure.

              Twenty years ago, I read that in Alaska, while you can make $20,000 a Summer working for a fish boat operation (a college dorm mate of mine did that once,) at the same time, a Big Mac at a McDonalds would cost $11!

              :eek:

              Everything up there is necessarily more expensive because it takes more fuel and greater transit costs (to compensate truck drivers for the greater road hazards, as well as to compensate sea shippers) to get products into the State.

              Alaska's Pipeline may be a source of crude oil, but that doesn't mean they have easy access to the refined product. Alaska only has 6 refineries, compared against California's 21, and I'm sure not all of that product stays home.

              List of Oil Refineries--Wikipedia
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_refineries

              And there is no way for Alaskans to develop more refineries or drill for more oil to use domestically because Eco-Wackos think that "Caribou Are People Too!"

              :rolleyes: :mad:

              And, of course, the bulk of the land in Alaska is owned by either the Federal Government, the State Government, Tribal Goverments, and by a few large corporations, so there is little way for private individuals to develop independent agriculture, even with hydroponics and greenhouse technology to extend the growing season.

              As it stands now, Alaska is far from a bastion of self-reliance. If it were still the property of Russia, it would be scarcely different than it is now, it's just that the government owners would be different.
              "Apocalypse is by no means inevitable." --Jim Rice.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by TheUnboundOne View Post
                Diesel and Fellow Survivalists,

                As gut-wrenching as the story may sound, this is really not news. Alaska ain't no Northern Exposure CBS sit-com for damn sure.

                Twenty years ago, I read that in Alaska, while you can make $20,000 a Summer working for a fish boat operation (a college dorm mate of mine did that once,) at the same time, a Big Mac at a McDonalds would cost $11!

                :eek:

                Everything up there is necessarily more expensive because it takes more fuel and greater transit costs (to compensate truck drivers for the greater road hazards, as well as to compensate sea shippers) to get products into the State.

                Alaska's Pipeline may be a source of crude oil, but that doesn't mean they have easy access to the refined product. Alaska only has 6 refineries, compared against California's 21, and I'm sure not all of that product stays home.

                List of Oil Refineries--Wikipedia


                And there is no way for Alaskans to develop more refineries or drill for more oil to use domestically because Eco-Wackos think that "Caribou Are People Too!"

                :rolleyes: :mad:

                And, of course, the bulk of the land in Alaska is owned by either the Federal Government, the State Government, Tribal Goverments, and by a few large corporations, so there is little way for private individuals to develop independent agriculture, even with hydroponics and greenhouse technology to extend the growing season.

                As it stands now, Alaska is far from a bastion of self-reliance. If it were still the property of Russia, it would be scarcely different than it is now, it's just that the government owners would be different.

                I disagree, outside of Anchorage which is about 1/3rd of the states population the people there are very sufficient and of the remaining 2/3 I would guess that 75% of those people live a substitence lifestyle. The cost of living is still cheaper than California and many other states due to the fact that wages are higher and taxes are lower. In the towns that do have a sales tax it is only 1 to 2%. The citizens in Alaska pride themselves in being self reliant. However you are correct about the property being owned by the BLM and Native Corporations. I think terrain, isolation and an abundance of wild game combined with the knowledge of self reliant living will make Alaska a place to be when it all comes down. This is of course just my opinion.

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