Making ends meet

by Peter Twitchell

We were all limited in our income – those of us with big families. I had a family of five and I worked three jobs for 50 years. My regular job, custodial in the evenings, driving cabs on the weekends, and calling bingo. And when I was young I could work to make ends meet. That’s how it is when you have a one income family.

It’s a sacrifice to make sure your family isn’t hungry in order to keep our children healthy and happy.

I came from a family of workers – my grandfather on my dad’s side was a gold miner. He never struck it rich back in the 1800s, it was a tough life living in the frigid cold and lacking proper equipment and resources to live a healthy life. But people like my grandfather and John Samuelson delivered mail. They crisscrossed Alaska my grandfather and his dog team went from Flat, Alaska to Tununak, Saint Michael to the Bristol Bay trading dry goods, guns, ammo. Later in his life Grandad depended on homegrown gardens to supplement his food and herded reindeer in the Takotna area.

Towards the end of his life. My dad David Adams Twitchell was in the third army in World War II with General Patton in the European theater. Dad came home with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

My dad after the War years lived in Bethel and worked at the hospital. He started the Twitchell Mercantile general store, fished in the Bristol Bay with Oscar Larson of Napakiak in the summer, and Dad and his life partner and best friend trapped for mink and land otters in Baird Inlet three months out of the winter and sold their pelts to Apple Bum in Seattle.

He always mailed his pouch through the post office and then in return earned $4000 in the early years of trapping that carried him and Mom and me through the winter.

I was proud of Dad and followed his footsteps in servitude to the community of Bethel. People aren’t hardy like that anymore but some still trap to this day.

We’ve lacked an economic base in the Bethel area for a long time. We’ve been overregulated in the Yukon Kuskokwim region for the last 71 years and today our fisheries have been reduced, taken over by the deep-sea fishery where I believe regulations should have been in place and not waste thousands and thousands of pounds of salmon caught in the ocean.

Our salmon fishery in the Yukon and Kuskokwim has been reduced and fish racks were empty for many people this past summer. Meaning less and less subsistence food from the ocean, land, and air for our people in southwestern Alaska. We no longer had an economic base before Donlin/Nova Gold was on the horizon.

I could not retire in Bethel and live there any more due to the high cost of living in rural Alaska where our store bought food is flown in. I had to move to Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley where there is a lot of competition and grocery stores making food affordable in my retirement years.

Lastly, I want to thank Creator God for taking care of all of us in our old age and during the COVID epidemic. He said, “Give thanks for everything”. Quyana.