Category Archives: Alaskan Natives

Alaska Tribe Wins to Continue Emergency Hunts During Covid-19

“Kake is a village of 550 people on Kupreanof Island in Southeast Alaska. About two thirds of the population is Tlingit Indian. The village has received permission to hunt two moose and two deer to ensure the health of its elders and provide culturally nourishing food during the pandemic.”J. Estus, Indian Country Today

Kake is a village of 550 people on Kupreanof Island in Southeast Alaska.File photo- Creative Commons)

Excerpt:Emergency hunts in Alaska can continue,  By Joaqlin Estus, ICT

In August, the state of Alaska sued to stop federal agencies from allowing emergency hunts. The U.S. District Court for Alaska last week sided with the federal agencies and dismissed the state’s motion for a preliminary injunction.The state has been fighting federal land managers over fish and game management off and on for decades.

This latest bout stems from COVID-related food shortages.

Moose at Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (Photo by Barbara Miers, courtesy of Creative Commons)

Last summer, store shelves in the Tlingit village of Kake, in southeast Alaska, were getting bare. COVID-19 outbreaks had slowed production at Washington state meat processors, Kake’s main source of non-game meat.

The state had mandated travel restrictions. And state budget cuts had all but shut down the low-cost ferry system used to ship food to island communities.

The Organized Village of Kake was one of three tribes that requested emergency hunts. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game denied their request. The village wrote to the Federal Subsistence Board, which manages subsistence on federal lands in Alaska.

A home in Kake, a village in Southeast Alaska. (Photo by Joseph Umnak, Courtesy of Creative Commons)

The letter said vendors were having a difficult time meeting the needs of Kake’s stores…Kake tribal President Joel Jackson, Tlingit and Haida, also testified to the board. He said Kake tribal citizens, especially elders, needed the best nutrition they could get to be in the best health to fight COVID if they came into contact with it… The board authorized the emergency hunt and delegated details to the local U.S. Forest Service ranger.

The village ended up being approved to take two bull moose and five male deer…the village is using some of its COVID relief money to get a community walk-in refrigerator/freezer to safely store deer, fish and moose for the community.”

 

The Indian Health Service continues to work closely with our tribal partners and state and local public health officials to coordinate a comprehensive public health response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat.” IHS – November 2020

Global Warming and Climate Change Are Affecting Kodiak Bears in a Bad Way

“Alaska’s Kodiak bears, also known as grizzlies, have been passing up their famous salmon hunts due to climate change.”J. Tetpon, ICT

Alaska Kodiak bear (Alaska state Fish and Game photo)

Excerpt:Global warming and climate change are real, and Kodiak bears are saying so, by John Tetpon, [Inupiaq] ICT

I’m a firm believer in global warming and climate change. There’s too much evidence that firms up that conclusion. Alaska’s permafrost is melting, coastal villages have had to move further inland to avoid being washed away by seasonal storms, and Kodiak bears are hanging out on the streets of that town longer and getting labeled ‘nuisance bears.’

Alaska wildlife officials in Kodiak are considering killing the bears if they don’t go into hibernation soon. That’s the word from Kodiak City Manager Mike Tvenge. That’s according to a news report from the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Biologists say Kodiak bears usually get into their dens by the end of October but some haven’t done so yet and are wreaking havoc among townspeople.

‘Kodiak Police Department is working closely with Alaska Department of Fish and Game to deter the bears from getting into the (trash) roll carts, but those efforts have had short-lasting effects,’ Tvenge recently told city officials. ‘The bears are now becoming used to the non-lethal bullets and pepper shots.’

Bears will eat trash. Credit- Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Tvenge also told the city council last week that state Department of Fish and Game officials working with Kodiak police will likely kill these bears, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.   According to Larry Van Daele, Kodiak Area Wildlife Biologist, Kodiak bears are a unique subspecies of the brown or grizzly bear and live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago and have been isolated from other bears for about 12,000 years.

There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears on the island and are the largest bears in the world. A large male can stand over 10′ tall when on his hind legs, and 5′ when on all four legs. They weigh up to 1,500 pounds. Females are smaller and lighter than males. Only one person has been killed by a bear on Kodiak in the past 75 years. About once every other year a bear injures a person, Van Daele said in a report.

According to a recent report, climate change can be tough on specialist animals, whose focus on specific foods may backfire as seasons shift…Alaska’s Kodiak bears, also known as grizzlies, have recently given up their famous salmon hunts due to climate change, according to a new study, but not because salmon are scarce. Warmer weather led a different food source to overlap with the annual salmon run, presenting the bears with an unusual choice between two of their favorite foods at the same time.

Kodiak bears are known for their famous salmon hunts. Credit- destination 360.com

While they love salmon, bears seem to want the other food even more. When it made an early debut, they left the salmon streams — where they typically kill 25 to 75 percent of the salmon — and moved onto nearby hillsides for elderberries…Data from tracking collars showed the bears were on nearby hills instead of fishing in streams. Hills with red elderberry seemed most popular, and a survey of local bear droppings revealed lots of elderberry skins and little sign of salmon. Kodiak bears are already big elderberry fans, but the berries usually ripen in late August and early September — the end of salmon season. The bears are used to eating these foods in order, switching to elderberries after the salmon are gone.

A brown bear with two cubs along the Cook Inlet. (Bob Hallinen : ADN)

But using historical temperature data, the study’s authors found that rising temperatures have been helping Kodiak elderberries move up their schedule… ‘As climate change reschedules ecosystems, species that were once separated in time are now getting a chance to interact — in this case the berries, bears and salmon. This is going to have large impacts that are hard to predict.’

Kodiak police say killing a bear in a residential area is not an easy task…Making the decision to dispatch a bear is not something ADF&G often endorses, as this does little to curb the fundamental problem of bears getting into easily accessible and unprotected trash.”

 

~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

“2020 Election Live Updates: Democratic convention speakers will include the Clintons and Obamas, along with Sanders and Kasich. 

The big names will be augmented by testimonials from “from voters of all kinds — delegates, parents, teachers, small-business owners, essential workers, activists and elected leaders,” culled from “1,000 crowdsourced videos,” officials with the convention’s organizing committee announced on Monday.” The New York Times

The Democratic Convention Begins:  Monday August 17 — Ends Thursday August 20  Visit  The Democratic National Convention  Schedule Information Here

Kamala Harris Is Biden’s Choice for Vice President!

Biden taps Kamala Harris as his pick for vice president-New York Times

“A former rival for the Democratic nomination, she will be the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major political party.” By A. Burns and K. Glueck, The New York Times

Joe Biden with his VP choice Kamala Harris

From Indian Country Today (ICT):

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

Are you a Native student whose college or university has been closed or switched to online classes? Visit this spreadsheet for resources involving technology in Native communities. It is updated by San Juan College’s Native American Center.

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basic information.

Indian Health Service

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Health Board

COVID-19: Native advisories and event updates

The Haida Nation Forbids Visitors During COVID-19

“The Haida Nation put up roadblocks and is turning back visitors seeking to enter its communities off British Columbia. Members held a rally this week to reinforce the message.” J. Estus, ICT

Some of the crowd on the road near the roadblock. Photo by Mary Helmer

Excerpt: Island tribal nation rallies behind travel restrictions, By Joaqlin Estus, ICT

Tribal members on a cluster of islands off British Columbia are stepping up efforts to keep out visitors after the province declared sports hunting and fishing essential activities.

The Haida Nation, one of several Pacific Northwest tribes whose rainy, forested homelands extend from Oregon to southeast Alaska, put up roadblocks about a month ago and has been turning back nonresidents traveling by ferry to Haida Gwaii, or the ‘Island of the People.’

On Monday, dozens of tribal members turned out for a rally at the roadblocks to reinforce the tribe’s stance.

‘We want to send a stronger message to the outside world that we’re just not welcoming visitors at this point,’ said Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor of the Skidegate Band Council. Haida Gwaii has had no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

The Haida Nation’s position puts it at odds with the British Columbia provincial government, which last week designated sports hunters and fishermen as essential food and agriculture service providers — opening the door for them to travel to Haida Gwaii by ferry. Airlines have halted air service to Haida Gwai until May.

The province’s chief medical officer has reminded British Columbians that the ‘Haida Nation and other first indigenous nations have our own jurisdiction and our own governance,’ Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop said. ‘And you know, in situations like this … we can turn people away to protect our own people.’

Normally this time of year, visitors would begin arriving to travel to area lodges for sports hunting and fishing, to visit national parks, and to go sightseeing in Skidegate and Old Massett, the two villages on Graham, the largest island in the Haida Gwaii archipelago…’There’s been a couple of them [epidemics] in the past. And that’s how all the Haida people ended up getting in Skidegate and Old Massett. Smallcox came here and just about wiped out all of our people.’  He also noted the island has only two ventilators and no medical expertise or equipment to provide appropriate care to patients seriously ill with COVID-19…’Once all this changes, it [COVID-19] goes away, things are back to whatever normal looks like, we would welcome people back again.’ Alsop said. ‘But at this point, the direction is ‘stay at home.’ I absolutely want people not to come visit at this time.’

No outsiders arrived on the ferry Monday, but a few have in the past few weeks, Alsop said. They were told to shelter in place in their vehicles in the parking lot and to take the next ferry home.”

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY:

COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update  5/1/20   Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states

If you are interested in Indian Country Today’s continued coverage of COVID-19, please feel free to access our continually updated Coronavirus syllabus.

(See related: Indian Country’s COVID-19 syllabus)

If you are working from home and the process is an unfamiliar one, see last week’s #NativeNerd column on the topic.

(See related: #NativeNerd: Best practices for working virtually due to COVID-19)

What services are available?

Though some individuals might be aware of services offered by their prospective tribes and states, others finding themself in an unfamiliar situation may not be aware they qualify for several benefits offered by human/social services and unemployment services.

It is worth noting that the majority of social services websites in each state now have a COVID-19 warning on their landing pages, warning people not to come to social and human services locations in person. With this in mind, these services should be completed online only. Some states have — in addition to their online applications — telephone numbers applicants can call to have a representative that can fill out the application for you over the phone.

Such benefits include, but are not limited to:

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Formerly known as food stamps

• Food banks

• The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

• Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

• Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

• Medicaid

• Childcare assistance

• Housing assistance

• Programs for persons with disabilities, or are homeless, seniors, veterans and/or in the military

• Unemployment compensation

Where to begin?

After extensive research, the most comprehensive and user-friendly website for finding assistance from a multitude of programs is arguably Benefits.gov.

Native and Homeless During the Coronavirus

“American Indians and Alaska Natives clustered in camps or on the streets; ‘It’s been a crazy time’J. Estus, Indian Country Today

As many as 4,000 of Anchorage’s 300,000 residents don’t have permanent housing. Photograph- Ash Adams:The Guardian

 

Excerpt: Homeless. Vulnerable. And no option for ‘self isolation’ By Joaqlin Estus, Indian Country Today

“Every major city has a virtual suburb for the homeless. Homes consisting of tents, scrap wood, shopping baskets and cardboard boxes. In shelters, a family dwelling might have a common kitchen and bedrooms with bunk beds. Others may have a large room filled with dozens of bunk beds or canvas cots. Some have dozens of rubber-coated thick pads placed a foot apart in rows laid across a concrete floor.

Chronic diseases are higher than normal in the best of times. The ideal terrain for a virus, such as COVID-19, to take hold and spread…Seattle has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. There have been 1,187 COVID-19 cases and 66 deaths in Washington as of March 19. (New York City has more cases, 4,000, but fewer deaths, 22).

‘It’s been a crazy time,’ said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Pawnee, chief research officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board. ‘I’m just trying to put out as many resources as I possibly can and serve my community to the best of my abilities. I’m just grateful to all my ancestors that came before me, who have taught us how to be strong, resilient people.’

The Seattle Indian Health Board offers medical, dental, and behavioral services as well as elders and youth services. It provides resources to prevent homelessness. It also runs the Urban Indian Health Institute, one of 12 tribal epidemiology centers in the nation. In King County, where Seattle is located, American Indians and Alaska Natives are seven times more likely to be homeless than whites…She said the Seattle Indian health board is working to live up to CDC guidelines that, for now, are beyond its reach. ‘If we shut down our programs [involving more than ten people], our elders have nowhere to go for shelter and they have nowhere to go for their meals, which we provide. So from that harm reduction approach, we are making sure that there is distance between them of six feet.’

Echo-Hawk noted although the largest outbreak was in an affluent suburb, the first quarantine and isolation facility opened in one of Seattle’s lowest income neighborhoods. She said, in the interests of equity and social justice ‘we have to ensure that all of the risk is not just taken by low income communities.

We have to recognize it is now the time for the community as a whole to come together and to support one another.’

Tuesday evening at a press conference, municipal manager Bill Falsey said, ‘The sheltering capacity for homeless individuals in Anchorage was a challenge before COVID-19. The new issue is that our homeless community includes many individuals with underlying health conditions.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in a homeless shelter could be particularly severe. That would be terrible for the residents, but it also potentially affects everyone.”

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY:

COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update 03/26/20 at 3 pm.  Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states Federal and state services include monetary and food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more. The National Retail Federation also has over 70 corporations looking for workers.

COVID-19 online resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Basic information.

Indian Health Service

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Health Board

 Online Teaching  Activities Sites with Free Materials for Teachers, Students and Parents

STEM Teaching Guide

“Learning Packets” for students During School Closures By Larry Ferlazzo:It seems like a fair number of districts don’t have any kind of learning plan in place for their students right now. Some districts, however, even if they don’t have a full-fledged remote learning program going on, are creating “learning packets” for students to complete. It’s not great, obviously, but it seems like it’s better than nothing and can help out parents.” For more information visit  STEM site.

Home With Your Kids? Writers Want to Help” –  The New York Times Mo Willems, Gene Luen Yang, Amie Kaufman and other authors for young readers are reading their work online and offering drawing tutorials, to help fill our strange new hours. 

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide – Boston Children’s Museum & WGBH Welcome! Are you ready for some fun?

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Kit is the product of a collaboration between National Grid, Boston Children’s Museum, and WGBH. The goal of this curriculum is to assist preschool educators in focusing and refining the naturally inquisitive behaviors of three to five-year-olds on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Be Smart, Be Careful, Be Safe!

Coronavirus Risk Higher in Native Rural Areas

“When you start out with health conditions that are worse than a majority … you’re already vulnerable and at risk’. As the coronavirus spread outward from cosmopolitan hot spots it reached the rural Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation on Monday. In due course, it’ll reach more isolated rural areas.” J. Estus, ICT

 

Edward Enoch, Yup’ik, unloads chunks of ice chipped out of a river and hauled home by snow-machine to melt for drinking, washing, and other uses in western Alaska. (Credit- Charles Enoch,)

Excerpt: Coronavirus Risk Compounded in Rural Areas By Joaqlin Estus, ICT

“Unfortunately, indications are rural areas harbor conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection and people getting more sick than in urban areas.

According to the First Nations Development Institute’s report Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America, 54 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native people live in rural and small-town areas on or near reservations.

The Notah Begay III Foundation report Native Strong lists factors in Indian Country that contribute to diabetes and obesity. The same factors affect overall health. They include poverty, low educational attainment, and historical trauma. Housing shortages and overcrowding facilitate the spread of disease. A lack of self determination and cultural activities affect Native health too.

Dalee Sambo Dorough, PhD, Inupiaq, is the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. She said the health of Indigenous people living in rural Arctic Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (in Russia) is compromised by a range of conditions ranging from food insecurity to air pollution.

‘The overall general condition of individual health and wellbeing is contributing to a lower life expectancy,’ Sambo Dorough said. ‘We’ve had a whole history of epidemics that have devastated our communities in the past and tuberculosis being on the rise now, all of these things are compounded with other adverse impacts like climate change that make it really difficult for our communities to even respond to something like the coronavirus.

So when you start out with health conditions that are worse than a majority of the people in the rest of, for example, the United States, you’re already vulnerable and at risk,’ Dorough said…’We have had really decades of lack of public health measures to prevent the spread of disease. And then you add all these other layers including the limited space and capacity to treat patients with severe illness in rural areas,’ said Sambo Dorough.

‘These are matters that are nothing new. And that’s why the Inuit Circumpolar Council calls upon governments to take action to close those gaps.’

No one wants to get that sick, so prevention is key. Covering coughs, staying home when sick, and the CDC recommends, ‘Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,’ to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Twice as many homes in Indian Country lack running water compared to other Americans. (Credit- Joaqlin Estus)

However, Indian Country has about twice as many homes without running water and flush toilets as other Americans. In its annual report on sanitation deficiencies, the Indian Health Service said of 68,000 American Indian and Alaska Native homes, ‘approximately 7,600 (or 1.9 percent) lack access to a safe water supply and/or waste disposal facilities, compared to less than 1 percent of homes for the US general population.’

Overcrowding is a major factor in the transmission of diseases. Housing shortages can force families to live in small, older homes similar to this one in Kwethluk, Alaska. (Credit- Joaqlin Estus)

Alaskans without piped water can buy water, which even if only ten cents a gallon is too costly for most villagers. Many collect rainwater and chip ice out of rivers and lakes to melt for daily use…When COVID-19 does arrive in Indian Country, some of the places it lands will be areas without long-standing systems of reliable access to primary and specialty care. In some places, it will land amid people living in conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection. Properly handled, however, risk can be minimized.

The Inuit Sharing Old Traditions With New App

“A social media app geared toward the outdoor lives of Inuit launched Wednesday with features that tie traditional knowledge to smartphone technology. The Siku app named after the Inuktitut word for sea ice, allows users to trade observations about dangerous conditions, document wildlife sightings and trade hunting stories… It also allows travellers to add in the traditional terms for potentially perilous conditions using their own language.” The Canadian Press

Puasi Ippak tests out the Siku mobile app… (The Canadian Press:HO-Arctic Eider Society)

Excerpt: Inuit sharing ancient knowledge of ice, sea and land with new app  The Canadian Press

“The app was created by a team of developers assembled by the Arctic Eider Society, a charity based in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, and launched at a conference in Halifax on Wednesday.

Joel Heath, the executive director of the society, says the project was born from a desire by Inuit elders to document and share oral history with young people.

Heath said during the launch at the ArcticNet conference that Inuit hunters are out on the ice or land most days gathering food for their communities, and they have unique needs that existing social media like Facebook and Twitter don’t address…Through the app, hunters can upload such information into Siku and tag other areas of interest, such as particular wildlife they’ve tracked.

A file photo of Joel Heath, of the Arctic Eider Society. (Google Canada:Aaron Brindle)

Safety is among the key attractions of the program, said Heath.

During his presentation, he explained how one hunter testing Siku had placed a triangular warning sign on a map of an ice field near Sanikiluaq in the spring, providing a traditional Inuit term for its dangerous condition.

‘It looks like a normal tidal crack … But he knew the difference that if the wind comes across this kind of crack it can break it open,’ he said.

Hours later, the satellite map showed how the crack had widened enough that Ski-Doos on the wrong side of it wouldn’t be able to return.

The hamlet of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut.

‘It shows how [a hunter] taking a few photos and tagging can mobilize Indigenous knowledge,’ said Heath.

The app has four main types of posts: Social, Wildlife, Sea Ice and Tools. There are 80 Arctic species listed under Wildlife, including birds, fish and land animals. Users can make posts that include observations of individuals, groups, tracks, nests and dens, as well as fields such as habitat, diet, body condition and other details about rare or unusual events.

The Social button is where users can post about hunting trips and share photos, tagging them with location and other information.

The project was the winner of the 2017 Google.org Impact Challenge in Canada, bringing $750,000 in funding.”