Kuskokwim Village Leaders visit Juneau pressing changes to Donlin Plan

Local tribal representatives challenging state permits, looking for changes.

A group of Kuskokwim regional leaders are visiting Juneau to push for several changes to the existing and pending State of Alaska permits for the Donlin Mine beginning Tuesday, February 26th and departing on Thursday, February 28th.

In between several meetings with legislators and administration officials there will be multiple chances to meet with, interview, and learn from some of the people who would be most affected by the largest open pit gold mine the ever to be permitted in North America.

Donlin sits in the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River, the greatest food source for the people of the region who rely on and consume more salmon than any other region in the state of Alaska.

Opportunities to meet the travelling delegation aside from individual interviews included: Shadow of Gold Movie Screening – Tuesday, February 26th, 6pm at the Goldtown Nickelodeon Movie Theater and the Kuskokwim Village Leaders Reception – Wednesday February 27th, 6pm at the Baranof Heritage Coffee Shop

The following representatives were part of this delegation:

Peter Evon is originally from Akiachak on the Kuskokwim River approximately 20 miles north of Bethel. He and his wife Katherine Evon have five children, ages two to 11. Evon grew up subsistence hunting and fishing and serves as Executive Director of the Bethel Orutsararmiut Traditional Native Council. He has previously been the Environmental Director for Akiachak Native Community before moving to Bethel several years ago. He has the experience of understanding the impacts from both the village and hub community of Bethel’s viewpoint having lived and subsisted in both areas.

Dora Wassillie is visiting from her home village of Kasigluk where she serves as Council Secretary of Kasigluk Traditional Council. Originally born in Nunapitchuk, Dora later moved to Kasigluk where she worked and retired from the general store. In the winter Dora enjoys walking to the Tribal office on the snow and ice and in the summer she boats on the river to get there. She loves to cut fish with her ulu and her favorite food is broth made from boiled white fish.

Agnes Azzarella is visiting Southeast Alaska for the first time from her home village of Kasigluk where she serves as a Council member of Kasigluk Traditional Council. She was recently voted in to the Tribal Council in December and pursued a seat because of her desire to help her people. It is important to her to maintain her peoples’ way of life and feels that traditional foods are an important part of that picture. Her favorite foods from the land are moose and salmon.

Richard Slats is a Cup’ik Eskimo and 2nd Chief of Chevak Native Village Tribe. Richard is bilingual and English is his second language. He is a lifelong resident of Chevak, but left home to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Western Oregon State College. Richard earned his Associates degree from the UAF Kuskokwim campus in Human Services via distance learning. Subsistence hunting and fishing on his traditional lands, rivers and seas has been a pursuit of his since childhood and Richard has been a supporter for Tribal rights and the protection of subsistence resources and practices. In his work, Richard advocates for children.

Jean Simon was born in Anchorage and raised in Bethel to a subsistence way of life and currently works as the Clinical Facilities Manager for the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation. She grew up commercial fishing on the Kuskokwim and was based at her family’s fish camp across the river from the fuel dock in Bethel. Jean is accustomed to eating moose, caribou, berries, dried fish, birds, walrus, seal, tom cod and pike and hopes this way of life will continue into the future for her people. She has concerns around earthquakes and humans’ inability to control nature and these concerns are centered around the Donlin Gold project.