by Nick P. Andrew Jr.
The Lower Yukon River Delta region of western Alaska is encompassed by the Kusilvak Census Area that includes the twelve (12) communities of: Alakanuk, Chevak, Emmonak, Hooper Bay, Kotlik, Marshall, Mountain Village, Nunam Iqua, Pilot Station, Russian Mission, Scammon Bay, and St. Mary’s. This area’s per capita income makes it one of the poorest places in the United States.
Of the twelve villages, five (5) are excluded from the Yukon Fisheries Development Association CDQ, and the Coastal Region Villages Fund CDQ. Pitka’s Point, St. Mary’s, Pilot Station, Marshall, and Russian Mission were disqualified based on the 50-nautical mile zone baseline from the Bering Sea stipulation of the act, and it is within our best interests to appeal for a 100-nautical mile extension.
This congressional legislation created an economic void in one of the most impoverished areas in the state and nation. Disparities are evident in the lack of economic development and high unemployment rates in the five omitted villages. All elected tribal and municipal leaders must come together and write letters/resolutions to the state legislators and congressional delegation to urge reform to the existing Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program. Be advised that the CDQ expansion is needed to fully accommodate one of the poverty—stricken census areas in the nation.
SEC.305(i)(1)(ii)(iii)(iv) of the MSA (Magnuson-Stevens Act), as amended by the Coast Guard Act (July 2006) and the MSA reauthorization (December 2006). (ii) to support economic development in western Alaska; (iii) to alleviate poverty and provide economic and social benefits for residents in western Alaska, and (iv) to achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western Alaska. Be advised the leadership in our region must take proactive steps and make this inequality known. To achieve this goal our villages will need political allies and influential advocates to lobby congress.
Residents of Pitka’s Point, St. Mary’s, Pilot Station, Marshall, and Russian Mission are stakeholders and have much to gain. An expanded CDQ range will provide an economic base for long-term sustainable economic development, job opportunities, a stable Y-2 commercial fishery, higher education/vocational training scholarships amongst other social benefits.
Efforts such as this takes persistence and determination on the local village level. We must also remember our fiduciary (in good faith, for the best interest of others) responsibilities to our people and those yet to be born. Congressional legislation can be changed, it is our obligation as stakeholders to advocate suitable reform.
The entire Kusilvak Census Area, all twelve (12) Yukon Delta communities are predominately Yup’ik Eskimo, with a unique intimate relationship with the land, river, and Bering Sea for food security since time immemorial. Our people rely heavily on Yukon River salmon that migrate from the Bering Sea for sustenance along with sea mammals that defines the subsistence way of life.
Please seriously consider taking tribal/municipal action on the premise of the Kusilvak Census Area’s challenged economy, and of the region’s reliance on the Bering Sea for food security.
Nick P. Andrew Jr. is the Marshall Traditional Council Tribal Administrator and Tribal Member.