Interview with Mike Williams, Sr., on Voting and Virus: A Village View

by Vicki Turner Malone

Interview on March 20, 2020

I called my old friend Mike Williams, Sr., to check on him after his near death experience this winter from a serious leg infection.

So Mike, tell me a little more about what happened to you and how are you feeling?

Last September, I went to an international conference on the impact of climate change on ocean conditions called Ocean Ops in Honolulu, Hawaii. My leg got infected and I was hospitalized in the US Army hospital there. I almost came back with one of those Hawaiian mahogany legs, but after 25 operations they saved my leg. We finally got back home on New Year’s Eve. I continue to get stronger. I haven’t been able to train dogs as of yet, but I’m ready to rock and roll and get back to work.

How do you think the Democratic Presidential Primary went in the villages?

Well the deadline isn’t until March 24th. I think everyone pretty much knew it was down to Biden and Sanders. This was the first mail-in ballot for the villages, so it’s something new; but I think a lot of people sent them in.

It’s important that we are getting ready for the next presidential election. I think we need a change right now on the current president. We have to get behind candidates at every level who will help the people in our communities with essential services. People like Alyse Galvin who is running for our congressional house seat. I really believe a change of leadership at the national and state level will benefit our region.

Well, speaking of our President, Mike, how do you think he is doing with this virus response?

Oh well, I listen to his reality show performance every morning. This guy is a salesman, not a leader. The federal government should be doing a lot more and a lot sooner. I wish we had a different kind of leader. Someone who could really help all the people work together.

How do you feel about the Governor’s request to stop non-essential travel?

I think he should stop all non-essential travel as soon as possible. The less travel the better. Several days ago in Akiak, we started requiring people who come back from Anchorage to self-quarantine for two weeks. We haven’t said anything about inter-village travel yet. Grayling and some of the other villages are stopping everyone from coming and going.

Are you or people in the village worried that this flu could be like the bad ones in the old days?

“In the old days there were no medical services and nothing to protect us so it spread quickly. We were more susceptible back then because we had zero immunity. Today we have had our flu shots and have had more contact with related viruses. I don’t think it will be that way this time. It is scary, but I think living out here might be safer than in Anchorage and other big cities. I am encouraging people to take care of themselves, wash hands, and don’t shake hands. Shaking hands and hugging is the way we grew up it is hard not to do it. We’ll just have to think of something else like eye contact, waving, or maybe even bowing like other cultures do!

Any other thoughts, Mike?

I am seriously wanting to set up our spring camp and go like we used to do traditionally. Our camp is five miles away. This is where we set up our tents, moved our family and our dogs. After that, we will move to our fish camp for the summer and be away with our own families This is a healthy way to do it and prevent us from spreading the virus. With cell service we can still get some work done from camp.

Mike Williams, Sr., resides in Akiak, Alaska. He is currently Chief of the Akiak Native Community, Counselor /Advocate for the ANC, and a leader in the District 38 Democratic Party. He is widely recognized as an Alaska Native leader who held many leadership positions regionally and nationally.