Back to Chefornak in 51 years

Last week I returned to Chefornak for the first time in fifty-one years.
In 1966/67, when I was 20 years old, I spent seven very formative months in Chefornak. I taught the youngsters before they entered the BIA School, and in the evenings I taught their parents and grandparents in my adult education classes.
But, truth be told, the villagers took me under their collective wing and taught me much more than I taught them. Indeed, in retrospect, I’ve come to realize that my time in Chefornak set me on a path that structured my life.
Eternally grateful, I offer a heartfelt Quyanaqvaa-lli Elpeni for the hospitality extended last week and so many years ago.
Wishing you, Chefornak, all the best.
John Bunn
VISTA Volunteer 1966/67
Chefornak, Alaska

Vote No on Ballot Measure 1
Generations of Alaska Native people have revered salmon for its life-sustaining properties and role in the growth and survival of our communities. To say that Alaska Native people respect fish, especially salmon, is an understatement. Salmon constitutes a big part of who we are as Native people.
As a proud Alaska Native woman and the Executive Director of the ANCSA Regional Association, I have the privilege of working with the CEOs of the twelve Alaska Native Regional Corporations. Together, our corporations, formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, are owned by over 127,000 Alaska Native people.
The Association exists to promote and foster the continued growth and economic strength of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations on behalf of their shareholders. Our mission is simple: collaborate to create a sustainable socioeconomic future for Alaska Native people.
Recently, our organization took a public stand opposing Ballot Measure 1, also called “Stand for Salmon,” which its organizers claim is designed to protect fish, including salmon. Some Alaskans question why we became involved, and why we chose not to support the Ballot Measure. It’s critical for our shareholders and others to understand that the position we took was in no way “anti-salmon,” as some false accusations have claimed. On the contrary, our position is very much pro-Alaska, and especially pro-rural Alaska.
Salmon have provided the bedrock of our communities for hundreds of years and must be protected for the next generations− no one disputes that core precept. But this ballot measure is so deeply flawed, and does so little to actually protect salmon that we were compelled to speak against it. Indeed, we feel so strongly about this issue that we have committed our official support to the ballot measure group, Stand for Alaska, which opposes the Stand for Salmon measure.
It’s important to note that we do not take issue with the purported purpose of Ballot Measure 1, which claims a desire to protect fish, especially salmon. However, when more is learned about the Ballot Measure, including who wrote it, the lack of public input, the legal questions it raises, and the economic harm that it would cause to our communities, we could not in good faith stay silent. Not only would its passage jeopardize important resource development projects in Alaska, but also smaller infrastructure projects in rural Alaska.
I listened with great interest when Doyon, Ltd. President & CEO Aaron Schutt told a group that if the Ballot Measure passes, water and sewer projects would become all but impossible to construct in rural Alaska. As an organization whose membership is dedicated to improving the quality of life for thousands of Alaska Native shareholders and descendants, we can’t allow this to happen.
We must stand together and reject this Ballot Measure that purports to be designed to protect salmon, but that will likely set our communities and Alaska Native people back by decades.
Salmon has sustained our people for many generations; it’s become a part of who we are as people and what has allowed our communities to thrive and exist today. It represents our past, present, and future−and it’s engrained in our heritage. But on this issue, we must join and stand together for Alaska and our future by voting no on Ballot Measure 1.
Kim Reitmeier, ANCSA Regional Association
Anchorage, AK
Stand for Salmon statement regarding Senate hearing on Ballot Measure 1
Today (July 20, 2018), members of the state Senate Majority showed their true failure to lead on one of the most important issues to Alaskans.
For more than 100 days this year while the Legislature was in session, the Senate had an opportunity to take up the issue of salmon habitat protection. They did nothing, even though tens of thousands of Alaskans had been asking for improved protections for Alaska’s salmon rivers and streams.
Now, with salmon runs struggling across the state, this committee is doing the bidding of foreign mining companies and attacking a commonsense measure to protect salmon.
What’s more, they did it in a closed hearing with invited testimony from government officials who were clearly pressed into the attack. What they offered was pure conjecture and worst-case scenarios.
This was not only a political hit job on our wild salmon, which are so important to Alaskan life — it’s also an attack on every Alaskan’s constitutional right to make law by ballot measure. More than 40,000 Alaskans have signed on to put this measure on the ballot. But this committee disrespected every single one of them, and all Alaskans, by providing misinformation today aimed at swaying their vote.
Clearly, elected officials here today and others around the state are trying to tip the scales against this measure — and do the bidding of the mining industry that funds their campaigns this election year.
To be clear, Measure 1 promotes responsible development. It will not shut down nor impede the state government’s ability to do business.
It will:
•Establish clear, enforceable standards for development around salmon streams, requiring things like adequate water in streams, fish passage, and good water quality that wild salmon need;
•Ensure that Alaskans, for the first time, have a voice in the permitting process for major development projects that could harm salmon streams;
•Give Fish and Game authority over all salmon streams in Alaska;
•Ensure that responsible development projects move forward in a way that protects our wild salmon legacy.
Stand for Salmon
Anchorage, AK

Bill Walker embodies that essential Alaskan value
The 1st Alaskan Combat Intelligence Platoon was assembled to defend Alaska during WWII. The members of this platoon gave themselves the name “Cutthroats” as a nod to the special freedoms the military granted them in their operations. Fisherman, trappers, and hunters; these men were chosen because they had demonstrated an ability to survive and thrive in the harshest situations, to dig in amidst the heaviest storms. In times of peril, they could be counted on to run towards the fire.
Ed Walker was one of Castner’s Cutthroats. And his son, Bill Walker, must have learned a thing or two from him. Bill has been Alaskan since he was born, and since before Alaska was a state. When the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964 wiped out his family’s business, Bill, 12 years old, earned a job as school janitor to make extra money for his family. He would go on to support his parents and siblings as a carpenter, teamster and laborer on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Bill went on to work as an advocate for his home community, Valdez. He became the city’s youngest-ever Mayor and later its lead attorney in high-stakes battles with the oil industry, taking Exxon all the way to the US Supreme Court and winning. At the pivotal moments in his family’s history and his state’s, Bill stepped up.
And then he became governor. There he has proven over and over again that when the going gets tough — Alaska-tough — Bill gets going. He came into office facing a criminal justice system that left whole swathes of rural Alaska unprotected, a healthcare system ill-suited for the state’s unique challenges, and a budget spiraling out of control.
Our governor has dug into the most important issues: raising funding for prosecutors, investigators and 911 services in rural Alaska; expanding Medicaid to ensure healthcare for thousands of Alaskans ; and rebuilding our finances to put Alaska back on a path to fiscal sustainability, restoring Alaska’s credit rating in the process. Now there is obviously still work to do. But the “Cutthroat” mentality that raised Bill Walker was never about quick, easy answers that let you face the cameras with your boots clean.
Bill has certainly had plenty of critics in his first term. That’s what happens when you have the guts to make some “politically incorrect” decisions. I often wonder though, while Bill was in the trenches everyday fighting for our state, where were those critics?
Two of the staunchest naysayers are running against Bill for governor. Mike Dunleavy has levied plenty of complaints about the fiscal situation. However, in the senate, he had a record of blocking practical budget solutions. Earlier this year the Senator quit his seat. Tellingly, he decided that facing the tough decisions before the Senate was not compatible with his gubernatorial ambitions.
There is also Mark Begich. His alignment with Bill’s scoffers has only come about recently… because the man just has not been around. While the state took on water and the Governor and the Legislature faced a series of tough decisions, Mark was living out of state, working for one of the largest lobbying firms in the world.
Largely unseen for 3 years, he came back only when he saw an opportunity for himself: a three way race with no democratic challenger. With no regard for how his return weakens and divides the Democratic Party, he has careened into the race with a poll-driven, self-serving, populist message: Slash state spending even further, roll back criminal justice reform, pay record-sized dividends—with no math on how to make it all work.
We’ve all known folks who’ve come and gone from Alaska… living it up during the good times and skipping town when things get rough. Sticking around in the face of hardship means something to the longtime sourdoughs. We value most the friends we know will be there through the winter and out onto the other side. To me, it is clear that there is only one candidate in this race who embodies that essentially Alaskan value: one candidate who has run towards the fire, who has manned his post when others have fled. That man, Bill Walker, is who I will be voting for come November. Gil is a born-and-raised Alaskan, a Tlingit, and a US Navy Korean War veteran.
Gil Stokes
Wrangell, AK