APRN Alaska News
The University of Alaska Fairbanks fell just short of a national title at the NCAA Rifle Champions on their home turf over the weekend. For the second year running, the Nanooks placed second to West Virginia University. The margin of victory was just 2 shots, with UAF taking Friday’s small bore match at the Patty Center, and the Mountaineers coming back Saturday, with just enough in the air rifle competition to nab the overall title in the 8 team competition. West Virginia’s Maren Prediger was the top individual shooter. UAF’s Tim Sherry was best Nanook in 8th place.
Chilly winds and whiteout conditions didn’t stop a team of emergency responders from mounting a unique exercise at the Port of Dutch Harbor on Friday.
If you have a health insurance plan through Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, your personal information may be vulnerable to a data breach. According to Premera, about 650,000 Alaskans are among the 11 million people potentially affected by a cyberattack of the health insurance company.
A Premera press release says attackers may have gained access to customers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mailing addresses and bank account information.
Eric Earling is vice president of communications at Premera Blue Cross based in Washington.
“This is data going back to 2002, so this affects current and former members, in addition to other individuals and organizations with whom we may have done business,” he said.
Earling says Premera is the largest health plan in Alaska. It has about 110,000 current members in the state.
The health insurance company discovered the attack at the end of January and notified the FBI, which is now part of the investigation. Premera issued a press release about the cyberattack and notified employers and health brokers on Tuesday. It also plans on mailing letters to notify everyone potentially affected.
Premera’s offering two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.
Customers can sign up at the website premeraupdate.com or by calling 1-800-768-5817.
In Nome, onlookers welcomed the first racers off the Iditarod trail on Monday – but not for the iconic sled dog race, these racers had wheels.
Jay Petervary, of Victor Idaho, and Jeff Oakley of Fairbanks, were the first to cross the burled arch in Nome on Monday night. But not for the race you might think.
Once called the “Iditasport Impossible,” the re-branded Iditarod Trail Invitational mirrors the 1000 mile sled dog race of the same name – with one major difference: These racers aren’t mushing a team of dogs – they’re
running, skiing or cycling across the finish line.
And, in some ways, man-power appears to have bested dog-power on the trail. The lack of snow, and icy trail conditions, that made the Southern Race Route impassable for dog teams this year actually benefited those tackling
the trail on wheels.
Cyclist John Lackey of Anchorage reached the half-way point in McGrath just 1 day, 18 hours, and 32 minutes into the race – a time four hours faster than the leading dog team on record.
Oately himself holds the current cycling record for the full course – an astonishing 10 days, 2 hours, and 53 minutes set in 2014. For comparison, if he’d been mushing a team of dogs, Oately would have placed 21st in last
year’s Iditarod race.
“You know, I just got lucky with that,” Oakley said. “That’s what it takes to do that kind of time. But this is the race that I wanted. I didn’t want to do a time trial to Nome last year. I wanted to go out and ride the Iditarod
trail. And this year we got that. I was a little bummed for the first 300 miles. I was like, ‘This used to be a winter race. But then I lived to regret saying that out loud.”
Indeed, Oately and Petervary ran into more than their share of winter after the halfway point. Petervary says the *real* weather kicked in just as the pair was leaving Tokotna.
“The trail just deteriorated from there, and speeds were slowing, and then it just dropped to negative 40 for about six nights straight,” Petervary said. And this is about the warmest day we’ve had since then.”*
After a grueling 15 days, 6 hours, and 29 minutes on the trail. Oately andPetervary pedaled under the burled arches just seconds apart – so perfectly in sync that even their fans couldn’t spot the winner.
When pressed about who actually won, Oately points to his friend and competitor.
“Jay did,” Oakley said.
“Nah. It was — everyone who comes underneath this arch actually wins in the end,” Petervary said.
Petervary adds that, much like with the 1000 mile sled dog race, arrival in Nome is never guaranteed. Since the Invitational started in 2000, only 52 individuals have ever made it across the finish line – 34 of them on bikes.
Sharing a hug – and a toast – over their two-wheeled sleds, the two cyclists have little difficulty pin-pointing their favorite moment on the trail.
“This one,” Oakley said.
“This was pretty cool,” Petervary said. “Last year I rode in and Phil’s wife was here, my wife was here. And that was it. And it’s like, ‘Here’s a Coke.’ And that was great. I really wanted a coke. But this is better… We kind of rolled up and you can see the lights and it’s like ‘Oh they’ve got the Christmas lights for us. That’s cool.’ And then it’s like ‘Holy —. There’s people here. What’s going on? There must be something going on in Nome today.’”*
Dallas Seavey was the first musher to arrive in White Mountain Tuesday morning. It’s the second to last stop along the Iditarod trail. Teams will take an eight-hour mandatory rest there, before the make the final push for Nome.
The church bell in White Mountain signaled Dallas Seavey’s arrival.
Seavey says he’s pleased with his run, but the defending champion says he’s not quite ready to credit his team with winning this year’s Iditarod.
“We’ve got so much on the line right now, so on the one hand I’m really excited to get to Nome, let’s just get this thing done with, get it in the bag, have it in the record books—you know? But on the other hand, I don’t
want this to end… This has been way too much fun with this dog team.”
Seavey has been in a chipper mood for most of the race. He says he’s never had as much fun driving a dog team, but he also says he’s worked for nearly half a decade to raise the kind of team he is driving this year.
“I mean coming in here today I was just looking at ‘em, up and down the team,” he said. “And every single one of those dogs is a super star. I mean I feel pretty privileged to be able to run with those guys.”
Seavey has won the Iditarod twice before. His dogs are known for their speed. He says his mushing style reflects their genetics.
“Speed is the name of the game for these guys, and most of the time I see people get good speed in their team they don’t hold onto it. They use it in the short term, and then they burn it up.” 00:14
But Seavey doesn’t like to run long, without giving his dogs some extra rest.
“So, you get ahead with the speed and then you give it back to them in rest. And that takes confidence in your dog team that they’ll get up and go fast again and again and again. They know if they go fast, I’ll give
them more rest… and I know if I give ‘em rest they’ll keep going fast, so you have to trust each other.”
The final 70-mile run to Nome is not nearly as long as other runs along the Iditarod trail, and Seavey is unlikely to lose his lead, but the Bering Sea Coast is known for dramatic changes in weather and dog teams have been
known to quit unexpectedly. Seavey is well aware that the final push to the finish line s sometimes the most dramatic.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery will be on two-hour notice starting 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced this Tuesday afternoon.
A test sample taken from a body of herring west of Black Rock showed about 7% mature roe, which is low for the commercial fishery. But the Department said that percentage could rise rapidly over the next few days as less
mature herring separate out from those ready to spawn.
Fish & Game also conducted an aerial survey of Sitka Sound Monday and reported herring predators concentrated in the areas west and south of Crow Island and Bieli Rock.
This year’s fishery is being conducted as a co-op in response to historically low prices for herring. As a result, Sitka is expecting a much smaller fleet than in recent years.
Fish & Game was expected to hold a meeting for permit-holders and processors at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Westmark Hotel in downtown Sitka. That meeting is open to the public
Prince Rupert leaders are in Juneau this week to lobby for continued connections with Southeast Alaska.
Budget cuts threaten to reduce state ferry sailings to and from the British Columbia port city. And policy differences have blocked construction of a new ferry terminal there.
Rupert Mayor Lee Brain says the marine highway link helps economies on both sides of the border.
“We see Prince Rupert as Canada’s gateway to Alaska,” he said. “This is the quickest way to get to Alaska. Most people don’t want to drive through the Yukon up to Alaska. So, we see this as a very important economic and partnership opportunity to continue on with this link.”
The Rupert delegation is meeting with Gov. Bill Walker and the House and Senate Transportation Committees.
The Prince Rupert mayor says Southeast Alaska should also pay attention to major construction projects planned for his city. They include container port expansion and plans for up to six liquefied natural gas plants.
“We don’t see it as just as a Prince Rupert opportunity. We see it as an opportunity for Alaska as well. That there might be an opportunity for trade and commerce and increased tourism.”
Brain spoke Tuesday at the Southeast Conference Mid-Session Summit.
Winter weather doesn’t stop Ellie Mitchell from hitting the road (or the trail) on her fat bike. She picked up cycling from her dad, and now she regularly competes against him and other cyclists in the Anchorage winter racing circuit.
Dallas Seavey – the winner of the 2014 Iditarod – is the first musher into White Mountain. He checked in at 10:10 Tuesday morning.
Mitch Seavey and Aaron Burmeister are running in second and third place, respectively.
Jessie Royer and Joar Leifseth Ulsom round out the top-5.
All mushers are required to take an 8-hour layover in White Mountain before continuing the last Safety and Nome.
White Mountain is 77 miles from the finish line in Nome.
Front running teams are making their way for White Mountain Tuesday morning.
Dallas Seavey left the Koyuk checkpoint in first place Monday afternoon. He said he was not concerned that he may have to break trail through fresh snow and heavily windblown drifts.
“When there’s wind the drifts keep coming, so you don’t have to worry about flattening them all,” Seavey said. “You know there will be more for the next person.”
Seavey may have gotten lucky on his way to Koyuk after rival Aaron Burmeister spent several hours breaking trail out of Shaktoolik. But Seavey says just because a team broke the trail in front of his, doesn’t mean his dogs had an easy time.
“I think Aaron had it easier honestly,” Seavey said. “What we had out here was s surface that had a little bit of a crust, and the first team that went through it, it held up two thirds of the doggy feet. Then the next team that goes through, there’s more holes and more teams are punching through.”
But Aaron Burmeister says the run was a game changer for his dog team.
“I never would have attempted that run knowing it was going to be snowing out,” he said. “I was expecting it to be windy, but it snowed six to eight inches in about four hours, dumped on the trail, created monster snow drifts and we ended up breaking trail through a white out.”
He says he had to switch his leaders out multiple times. He believes the run took enough energy out of his dogs, so that teams behind could take advantage. He says he’s not sure if he will maintain his second place standing all the way to Nome.
“I’m definitely looking over my shoulder right now, because that took a lot out of my dogs to get them here in this position,” Burmeister said.
Burmeister is running his fifth Iditarod. He has never run as far up front in any of his previous races. That’s the case for Jessie Royer as well.
“It’s kind of exciting because I have never been one of those teams before,” Royer said. “I’ve been top-10, but I have never been top five. It’s a nice team this year, I’m pretty happy with them. They are just doing a nice job.”
But Royer says she’ll be careful not to get too excited. She says there’s still a long way to go before Nome.
“There’s so many different situations you can run into,” she said. “I won’t be excited until Safety.”
Safety is the final checkpoint, 30 miles from the finish line. Before teams get there, they will take a mandatory eight-hour layover in White Mountain.
He was the first to reach Elim late last night, leading Aaron Burmeister by just over three hours. The two front-runners were followed into the checkpoint by Mitch Seavey, Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle.
In the final push for Nome, Iditarod mushers are making big moves and cutting rest, but fresh snow, and drifted trail isn’t only slowing the leaders – trail conditions have also slowed dog teams in chase mode.
When Aliy Zirkle pulled her dog team into Koyuk, she was in good spirits, but her dog team was lacking their usually energy.
Zirkle summed up the 50 mile run from Shaktoolik in one word: Slow.
“I didn’t walk, although my dogs did,” Zirkle said. “I jog on the treadmill faster than we were going.”
Overnight, at least four inches of fresh snow fell along the trail to Koyuk. Back in Unalakleet, Zirkle hinted that she planned to make a move. She wanted to blow through Shaktoolik in an attempt to catch Dallas Seavey, but she says the snow slowed her team and ruined her plan.
“This was my – what do you call that when you throw that long pass?” Zirkle said. “This was my Hail Mary and I think they other team caught it and scored a touch down.”
Zirkle says her team is unlikely to recover.
Schwing: “Are you still in this race?
Zirkle: “Oh no, I’m not in it for first, that’s for sure.”
Schwing: “What are you in it for?”
Zirkle: “I don’t know I’ll get back to you on that too.”
Jessie Royer, arrived roughly a half hour after Zirkle.
“This snow is horrible. I do not like this snow,” Royer said. “It is just – I mean it’s not setting up. The dogs just work so hard and they’re not getting anywhere.”
Royer made a big push to catch the front of the pack, but of the teams running in the top five, hers has rested the least number of hours since Kaltag.
“Oh, I’m a little low on rest, yeah, but they’re doing alright though,” she said. “They’re tired, but they’re not exhausted.”
Royer is also realistic about how the race is likely to play out ahead of her.
“Oh, you know, Dallas is pretty tough,” Royer said. “Something would have to happen to Dallas, because right now if you look at the times Dallas and I are running, he’s running faster than I am and he’s three hours ahead of me and that doesn’t look good unless something happens.”
“Of all people I should know that it’s not over till it’s over, after it went down last year,” Dallas Seavey said.
Last year, Seavey didn’t know he’d won the Iditarod until after he crossed the finish line. A fierce windstorm at the end of the race shook up teams at the front of the pack.
This year, Seavey is running a similar race schedule. He was able to grab four and a half hours of rest in Shaktoolik and run to Koyuk in just over seven hours.
“We got speed, that’s our thing,” Seavey said.
As he cut up frozen food for his dogs with his ax, he said he was well aware of the dramatics moves mushers were making behind him, but he also knows they are cutting rest to keep up.
“You can do runs like that, but then you’re in deep debt to your dog team, you owe them rest,” he said. “So as much as the other teams have been running hard to get here, I’ve been resting hard.”
In his attempt to take that lead, Aaron Burmeister tried to run 90 miles to Koyuk from Unalakleet on minimal rest, but it took his team more than 15-and-a-half hours to break the trail.
“I know he had a much easier run than I did coming over here, because he was following a trail, he didn’t have to tell his leaders ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ every five minutes going through the dark with the only thing you can see for the sign of a trail was a reflector,” he said.
Burmeister says it was a gamble, but he doesn’t regret the move. The trail report calls for more fresh snow and heavy drifting, He says he’s happy to hand over the trail breaking effort to rival Dallas Seavey.
The Anchorage School Board is asking the state legislature to restore one-time school grant funds to the state’s budget. The House passed a budget that removed the $32 million late last week.
The School Board passed a resolution during their Monday night meeting explaining how their portion of the funds – worth $8.7 million – has been used and why they need to keep it. The money goes toward pre-K classes, literacy coaches, and keeping early grade class sizes small – strategies that data says are effective at helping students succeed.
The resolution also says that without the funds, the district will have to cut teachers.
School Board member Kameron Perez-Verdia says they understand the extreme financial difficulties of the state, but the district needs the money.
“We’ve experienced four years of cuts. In many cases we’ve heard the term that we’ve cut ourselves so much that there’s nothing left and we’re cutting into the bone. So the loss of these funds would be significant for us.”
If the state government cuts $8.7 million in funds then ASD will also lose $2.1 million in local money because of funding caps.
Last week, Rep. Lora Reinbold voted against the operating budget, breaking one of the House Majority caucus’ rules for membership. Now, the Eagle River Republican has lost her committee chairmanship, and her seat on all but one committee.
The meeting to remove Rep. Lora Reinbold of most of her power was short — under five minutes. While she was not in attendance, every member of House leadership was. Speaker Mike Chenault reassigned her positions in rapid succession.
“Herron will replace Reinbold on the Rules Committee. Rep. Talerico will replace Rep. Reinbold on the education committee,” listed Chenault. “Rep Vazquez is the new vice chair of the education committee …”
And so on. Reinbold lost her co-chairmanship of Military and Veterans Affairs. She was removed from every committee save for Community and Regional Affairs. Members of her four-person staff will be dismissed. While Reinbold will get to keep her office through the legislative session, other members of the House Majority caucus have already been asking about the space.
“In any organization, you have rules,” Chenault said following the meeting. “If you don’t follow the rules, there’s consequences.”
Reinbold’s offense was voting against a budget bill. She felt that the operating budget, which slashed 10 percent in agency operations, did not cut deep far enough.
“I don’t see the willpower to do that in a time of crisis,” says Reinbold, referring to the state’s $3.5 billion budget deficit.
Reinbold says the vote she took was for her constituents, not the majority caucus.
There are only two hard rules for membership to the Legislature’s majority caucuses. A member needs to support procedural moves, like committee assignments, and a member needs to vote for whatever budget gets produced, even if they do not like aspects of it.
Reinbold is in her third year as a legislator, and she voted for the previous two operating budgets — both of which were larger than the one that passed the House on Thursday. Reinbold says she agreed to the budget rule then because she wanted to give the caucus system a chance.
“I was a freshman, first of all, and I had to learn the process,” says Reinbold, before adding that she’s comfortable with her previous votes. “Government had been growing, and the first year we froze that. So that was a big step. Last year, we actually decreased it by two percent. So, knowing that I was a freshman and not on Finance, I wanted to give an opportunity to see how it worked.”
Reinbold says she decided to vote no on the operating budget after cuts that had been made to the education department and the university system were reversed.
The last legislator to leave the caucus system now serves as Majority Leader. Charisse Millett left the caucus in 2010 with then-Rep. Kyle Johansen over a disagreement over committee assignments.
“I didn’t enjoy being out of the caucus,” says Millett.” If I were going to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Millett says she advised Reinbold against breaking with the caucus over the budget vote.
“Being someone who was out of caucus for two years, I told her it was difficult at best to be out of caucus. People you want to work with are less likely to work with you because they don’t trust the way you’re going to vote. When you give your word and say you’re going to vote for something that everybody works on, you’ve got to keep your word.,” says Millett. “Not keeping her word with our caucus members put her at a disadvantage.”
Millett adds that the point of the budget rule is basically to make sure a budget gets passed, instead of having fights break out over specific projects and line items. She says that Reinbold had the opportunity to influence the budget through the subcommittee process or through amendments on the floor. Reinbold was assigned to three budget subcommittees, and attended four of the 14 meetings they held.
“We have finance members that work 20 hours a day on formulating a good budget,” says Millett. “Opportunity to provide input into that budget was offered at every subcommittee level, and if you don’t participate in a subcommittee level, and if you don’t offer amendments, then you subvert your ability to do anything.”
Reinbold defends her subcommittee participation, noting she did not receive the assignments that she requested and that she had travel conflicts. She adds that she did not offer a floor amendment to reverse those changes because she was not optimistic about the chance for success.
With only one committee assignment, Reinbold will have less influence over the legislative process. But she is not worried about her ability to represent her constituents with fewer committee assignments. She says their reaction has been favorable.
“Overwhelming,” says Reinbold of the response from her district. “My mailbox is full, and I apologize to anyone who couldn’t get through. Unimaginable amount of texts, unimaginable amount of support on Facebook.”
Reinbold says she uncertain about her future plans. She does not know if she would rejoin the Majority Caucus if invited back under the same binding rules.
“I’ll have to give that a lot of thought,” says Reinbold.
The Democratic House Minority caucus has no requirements for binding votes, but does not expect Reinbold — a far-right conservative — to join their ranks because of ideological differences.
“In the spirit of being all inclusive, we would let her join, but I don’t think she would do it,” says Minority Leader Chris Tuck. “I think she’s enjoying her freedom. She voted against the budget for different reasons than we did.”
The Republican House Majority caucus now has 26 members, just short of a two-thirds share of seats.
Dallas Seavey and Aaron Burmeister were the first two into Koyuk Monday afternoon. Seavy led by only three minutes, though his 50-mile run from Shaktoolik was the fastest by far — only seven and a half hours. Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer arrived later in the afternoon.
Gov. Bill Walker has named two Alaska fishermen as his top picks to serve on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
The 11-voting member council manages most fisheries in federal waters. The terms of two Alaska members were due to expire this summer.
Anchorage resident Dan Hull, who currently chairs the council, was selected as the top pick for the small boat commercial representative seat. He fishes commercially for halibut, salmon and other species.
Seward resident Andy Mezirow was selected as the governor’s top choice for the seat intended for a recreational fishing representative. He would replace Ed Dersham. Mezirow is a charter operator who also fishes commercially for halibut.
State Asks Court for More Time on Adoption Case
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA-Anchorage
The state today asked the Alaska Supreme Court for more time in a case involving the adoption of a Yup’ik child, a case that tribes say will determine how the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, will be implemented in Alaska, and show whether Governor Bill Walker is serious about campaign pledges he made to work cooperatively with tribes.
After Breaking Caucus Rule, Reinbold Stripped Of Committee Assignments
Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau
Last week, Rep. Lora Reinbold voted against the operating budget, breaking one of the House Majority caucus’ rules for membership. Now, the Eagle River Republican has lost her committee chairmanship, and her seat on all but one committee. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
Proposed Arctic Drilling Regs Take Holistic Look At Safety
Anne Hillman, KSKA-Anchorage
The heads of the two federal agencies in charge of off shore oil and gas drilling visited Alaska last week to discuss proposed safety regulations for drilling in the Arctic. They spoke with stakeholders in Anchorage and around the North Slope, including hosting a town hall meeting in Barrow.
Lease Sale 193 Decision Expected Late March
Anne Hillman, KSKA-Anchorage
The Secretary of Interior will issue a Record of Decision on Chukchi lease sale 193 by the end of March. The decision will determine if Shell can proceed with its drilling plans for the region this summer.
Seavey, Burmeister First to Koyuk; Zirkle, Royer Behind Leaders
Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor
Dallas Seavey and Aaron Burmeister were the first two into Koyuk this afternoon. Seavy led by only three minutes, though his 50-mile run from Shaktoolik was the fastest by far — only seven and half hours. Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer arrived later in the afternoon.
Anchorage Homicides, Shootings A Spike, Not Trend Say Officials
Zachariah Hughes, KSKA-Anchorage
Since the start of the year, Anchorage has seen eight homicides and a spate of shootings. Officials say the incidents in Alaska’s largest city represent a spike, but not an overall rise in violent crime. The remarks, which came during press conference at City Hall, was, just hours after a stabbing victim was pronounced dead following an early morning dispute. The pronouncement is at odds with widespread concerns over public safety.
Walker Names Two Fishermen to Management Council
The Associated Press
Gov. Bill Walker has named two Alaska fishermen as his top picks to serve on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The 11-voting member council manages most fisheries in federal waters. The terms of two Alaska members were due to expire this summer.
“Scrubbers” To Cut Cruise Ship Pollution
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska –Juneau
Cruise lines that sail Alaska waters are installing new pollution-control equipment. It’s aimed at clearing the air – and meeting new regulations. But it’s also dodging some stronger, more expensive measures.
Juneau Library to Launch Alaska Native Stories Project
Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau
The Juneau Public Library system embarks on an oral history project this spring collecting Alaska Native stories on educational experiences. The capital city’s library is one of ten picked from more than 300 national applicants to bring StoryCorps to the community.
The Juneau Public Library system embarks on an oral history project this spring collecting Alaska Native stories on educational experiences. The capital city’s library is one of ten picked from more than 300 national applicants to bring StoryCorps to the community.
Freda Westman is a product of Juneau’s public school system, a 1974 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School. Westman is Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.
One of her strongest childhood memories is from when she was in middle school.
“I asked a teacher at the end of the year why my grade was a C and could we go and look at the grade book, and we did and averaged it out and my grade was really a B, and so it was changed. That took a lot of courage for me to do that,” Westman says.
Freda Westman, right, at a school board meeting in November 2014. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
At the time, she learned that teachers, who she greatly respected, could make mistakes and those mistakes could be fixed. She learned the value of standing up for herself.
Now, Westman looks back on that situation and realizes those types of errors were likely made on a regular basis.
“Expectations for Alaska Native students were low, so maybe that was the motivation,” she says.
Westman’s mother stopped going to school in the 8th grade to care for sick family members.
“She was not allowed to speak Tlingit in school and was not only not allowed to do that but was punished for doing that. She told us that that is why she didn’t want to teach us Tlingit. She didn’t want us to experience that,” Westman says.
These are just a couple of memories that exist in Juneau’s Alaska Native community, stories that the public library hopes to capture through StoryCorps interviews.
The Juneau Public Library will hold a community orientation on the StoryCorps project on March 31, 5:30 p.m. at the downtown library. Anyone interested in volunteering or helping with the project should attend.
StoryCorps is a national oral history project based in Brooklyn, New York. You’ve likely heard snippets of StoryCorps interviews on National Public Radio.
Juneau librarian Andrea Hirsh says the interviews aren’t formal. It’s a conversation between two people.
“A lot of people pick a family member, a grandparent, a child, a sibling, a neighbor and they tell their story,” Hirsh says.
The theme of Alaska Native educational experiences sprang from an issue that took place last year concerning the Juneau School District’s elementary language arts curriculum.
Community members raised concerns about school texts depicting Alaska Native and Native American tragedies, including the boarding school experience in Alaska. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, the federal government split families and forced Native children into boarding schools to assimilate. The texts were called distorted, inaccurate and insensitive.
The district eventually decided to remove the controversial texts and replace them with locally developed materials. The superintendent invited Alaska Native community members into the classroom to tell their stories.
Juneau Public Libraries librarian Andrea Hirsh and program coordinator Beth Weigel. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Library program coordinator Beth Weigel hopes the StoryCorps project can help fulfill this need and others.
“Oral history is a big part of the Alaska Native tradition so if we have it available then those are available to teachers if they want to use those as part of the resource materials in their classroom,” Weigel says. “And they’ll stories by Alaska Natives, their stories that they tell in their own words.”
Before applying for the project grant, Weigel and Hirsh sought advice and support from members of the Alaska Native community in Juneau, like Sorrel Goodwin.
Goodwin is a librarian at the Alaska State Library. He says the project is an opportunity to get Alaska Native perspectives on the American educational system. In the mid-1990s, Goodwin interviewed Alaska Natives on that topic for a teaching course at the University of Alaska Southeast.
“Most of their perspectives were largely negative, dealing with such issues as racism and assimilation, and the degradation of Alaska Native cultures, languages, histories, going right on into flat out physical, mental and sexual abuse in many of the boarding school contexts,” Goodwin says.
He hopes the library’s project will include interviews of the younger generation, Alaska Natives who are currently going through the educational system.
“A lot of our parents’ and grandparents’ negative experiences in the American education system have been carried forward. It created a sort of intergenerational post-traumatic stress in the ways that many of our people are either able to engage or not engage with the dominant society’s system of educating people,” Goodwin says.
Sorrel says the more stories that are told, the more understanding will take place. He thinks the StoryCorps project can help the community work through issues that still remain.
One of the library’s goals is to capture a range of voices.
“We would love to talk to people who are still in school and this could be grade school, middle school, high school, college, technical school. It could be young adults, it could be older adults. We want to hear everyone’s story,” Hirsh says.
With permission of the participants, all of the StoryCorps interviews will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and locally at the Juneau Public Library and Sealaska Heritage Institute.
The state on Monday asked the Alaska Supreme Court for more time in a case involving the adoption of a Yup’ik child, a case that tribes say will determine how the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, will be implemented in Alaska, and show whether Governor Bill Walker is serious about campaign pledges he made to work cooperatively with tribes.
Under the terms of ICWA, Alaska Native children must be placed for adoption with their relatives or tribal members unless it’s clearly in the child’s interests to do otherwise. But an Alaska Supreme Court ruling last September allowed a non-Native couple to adopt a Native child after the Governor Sean Parnell administration successfully argued the child’s Native grandmother failed to file a petition to adopt, a requirement the state contends was set by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
But attorneys for the grandmother and the village of Tununak maintain the grandmother’s request to the state’s Office of Children’s Services, and her court testimony stating she wanted to adopt her grand-daughter, meet the higher court’s standards. They say requiring a petition to adopt would create a costly barrier between Native children and Native families. They submitted a petition for a rehearing of the case, and the U.S. Department of Justice joined them with anadvisory, or amicus, brief.
Jacqueline Schaffer is an assistant attorney general in the Alaska Department of Law. “The state has requested an additional 30-day extension because the administration needs additional time to determine its response to the issues raised in the petition and the amicus brief,” she said.
Lloyd Miller, of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson, who is representing the grandmother, says he’s encouraged the state has asked for more time. “I think it’s to the attorney general’s credit that he is now open to the possibility of taking a different position, and sorting through whether or not to do so. I think that’s very important and it does takes time.
Miller says the Walker administration is right to take the time to look at the larger implications of Tununak v. Alaska.
“This case is a potentially explosive case and could well define the administration’s position in Alaska Native affairs and in particular the relationship the administration is going to have with tribes in Alaska,” Miller said. “So the more time the state takes to carefully decide what it’s going to do, the better. It’s now up to the Alaska Supreme Court to decide whether to grant the state a time extension.
Schaffer says the state is working to make it easier for relatives and tribal members to adopt Native children:
“Regardless of whether the state changes its position in this appeal” Schaffer said. The state has already started down the path of finding ways to work with tribes to ease the adoption requirements and to improve OCS services to Alaska Native communities.”
The state’s request for an extension comes after the Alaska Federation of Natives and organizations like the Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska last week asked the state to change its position.
Since the start of the year, Anchorage has seen eight homicides and a spate of shootings. Today, officials say the incidents in Alaska’s largest city is a spike, but not an overall rise in violent crime. The press conference at City Hall was, just hours after a stabbing victim was pronounced dead following an early morning dispute. The pronouncement is at odds with a widespread concerns over public safety.
While the Anchorage Police Department can’t point to any one cause, Deputy Chief Myron Fanning says in his 23 years on the force he’s seen waves of violent crime like this before.
“Occasionally you’ll have a spike, and sometimes we’re able to identify the reasons, and sometimes not,” Fanning said.
A task force assembled in February made up of federal, state, and local agencies has made 26 arrests, and solved all but one of the recent homicide cases, Fanning said. In the process they’ve seized hard drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, 40 illegal guns, and $35,000 in cash. But Fanning says while there are similarities in the homicide cases, they aren’t connected by any pattern.
“I mean, like I said, they’re all high-risk type lifestyles that they’re involved in–they all are either associated with drugs or alcohol,” Fanning said. “But I don’t know why last January we had two, and this January we had four, I don’t know, it just happens sometimes like that.”
Fanning said the task force continues investigating January’s double homicide in East Anchorage.
Mayor Dan Sullivan echoed the high profile crimes being a blip rather than an upward trend. Looking at the data, Sullivan said, it’s important to not miss the forest for the trees, as Anchorage’s five-year average for major crimes continues to fall.
“There’s fewer crimes reported now than there were 30 years ago when we were 120,000 people fewer in this city,” he said. “2014, for example, we saw the lowest number of murders in 20 years in Anchorage. And we always caution folks when they see a spike in one activity or another that it doesn’t really mean Anchorage has somehow become more dangerous. We look at trends, and the trends are very good.”
That is a hard sell when concerns over public safety are emerging as the biggest political issue in this year’s mayor’s race. Sullivan’s approach to staffing levels at APD has been controversial. Two years-worth of academies canceled during his tenure to curb spending have meant a smaller force. During a recent forum on public safety all eight candidates in attendance agreed on the need for more police officers, though details on paying for them remain hazy.
What you do with those officers is a trickier question. Sullivan said it is inaccurate to assume more police necessarily leads to less crime.
In fact, he said the numbers prove you can have an effective force by just apportioning man-hours differently. According to Fanning, a combination of flex time and using local partnerships helped the police department quickly make arrests without racking up overtime hours. What’s less clear in the numbers is whether the resources are there to proactively have police out in Anchorage’s neighborhoods before violence occurs.