The YK Delta Flight School

I would like to take this opportunity, and also on behalf of the twenty four other flight school students, all from the Yukon Kuskokwim delta of 1999, to thank Mr. Francis Reich publicly, with a big, huge THANK YOU, which is way overdue. I have yet to see any type of appreciation send forth to Mr. Reich for the enormous ordeal he went through in starting and getting us through flight school. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but at any rate here it is. If you don’t know Francis Reich, I think he is the person that owns the White House Bed and Breakfast in Bethel.

Back in 1999 Mr. Reich started a flight school in the Yukon Kuskokwim delta, Bethel, and I say “He” because he did not seem to have support from or by administration of AVCP. I say this because no one from AVCP ever met with us, congratulated, or acknowledged us on our accomplishments. Mr. Reich at that time was an employee of Association of Village Council Presidents, (AVCP) his position then, I forget.

At that time Mr. Reich enrolled twenty five students from the Yukon Kuskokwim delta. I do not know who funded the initial program, but I know a lot of us once accepted had to jump around looking for additional funding. I know funding came from the State of Alaska, Coastal Villages Regional Fund, Calista, but regardless of where funding came from Mr. Reich had his hands full, and he had to juggle the funds to make the program work, He had twenty five students who all wanted something different, and amazingly Mr. Reich seemed to accommodate all.

When the flight school started, it started off with an orientation where twenty five students traveled to three or four different villages within the Y.K. Delta, pretty much to say to the communities we are your future aviators, and we are from this area.

With the flight school underway we pretty much had no building to work out of in Bethel. I can only guess that Mr. Reich had to come up with agreements with the flight schools in Anchorage, I don’t know what the agreements entailed, but he had us training at the University of Anchorage, Aero Tech, Take flight. The bulk of our training was at Aero tech.

Twenty five students took the courses required to obtain privates through commercial instruments, fortunately 6 graduated with a commercial instrument ticket, which was a huge success. The others had other obligations and did not finish the courses. Because of the huge amount of students enrolled to train, flight school took about 3 years to complete.

The flight School that started back in 1999, pretty much had no official name. AVCP seemed like they did not want to be associated with the flight school, maybe because of liability issues. The flight school went forth though with the leadership and fortitude of Mr. Francis Reich and produced Professional Pilots.

Just my personal opinion; would be, if Mr. Reich had not started what he believed in, there would have never been a flight school in Bethel. Thanks again Mr. Francis Reich, you are responsible for creating local pilots. You never faltered even when things got bad.

The Yuut Yaqungviat Flight School was created by AVCP way later in the years, and was not created in 1999. Mr. Francis Reich is most responsible for the initial creation of the flight school in 1999, but not Yuut Yagungviat flight school which now sits dormant.

Thanks from all the local Pilots.

Henry Simons, Commercial Pilot

Toksook Bay, AK

Nominee Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior

If confirmed, U.S. Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico will become the first Indigenous person to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Her historic nomination by President Biden demonstrates the Administration’s bold plan to address the climate crisis and commitments to Environmental Justice.

The U.S. Department of the Interior plays a critical role in upholding the federal trust responsibility and treaty obligations to Tribal nations. Indigenous leadership in decision making over public lands is long overdue.

“Deb Haaland is the right person to lead the U.S. Interior Department and it’s about time. Indigenous women have been the backbone of healthy communities that have successfully stewarded the lands of North America for millennia. Deb is rooted in these traditions of knowledge, strength, and leadership. She has demonstrated her commitments to land stewardship and charting a path towards a sustainable future for all of us. By confirming Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior, our congressional leadership affirms their commitment to all people.” – Enei Begaye, Executive Director of Native Movement

“Deb Haaland’s nomination is an inspired choice. She has been a tireless advocate for climate policy that is built with the voices and needs of the communities most impacted. This nomination shows this administration’s commitment to investing in the future of our lands and waters. The shift from oil lobbyist, David Bernhardt, to the first Indigenous person to lead Interior gives us hope that this administration is ready and willing to pivot away from extractive practices at all levels.” – Polly Carr, Executive Director of The Alaska Center

“It is our honor to uplift and support Representative Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo to lead the Department of the Interior. We look forward to Rep. Haaland’s Indigenous leadership, knowledge and ancestral ties guiding this department to ensure that we move forward together with the strength of our diversity and inclusion.” – Kendra Kloster, Executive Director, Native Peoples Action

“The nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland to the Secretary of the Interior is a crucial step in healing during this moment in history. Indigenous women have been on the frontlines of the movement to protect lands and waters, and to see that leadership represented in this administration’s Cabinet sets a powerful precedent for the work yet to be done. Having Indigenous knowledge and values leading the Department of the Interior will provide needed guidance and grounding to expeditiously move towards a just transition.” -Jessica Girard, Executive Director of Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition

“We call on Alaska Senators Murkowski and Sullivan to support the nomination of Representative Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. We respect and honor Rep. Haaland for her leadership, knowledge, and experience. We trust her as a strong, fierce Indigenous woman to guide the department in protecting our lands and waters, in ensuring a healthy future for all of us, and to uphold the federal trust responsibility and treaty obligations to Tribal nations. There is no better person for this critical position.” – Vi Waghiyi, Sivuqaq Yupik Mother and Grandmother, Environmental Health and Justice Program Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics

It is time for Alaska to move beyond a fossil fuel and extractive economy. As Alaskans we are living through the crippling decline of a dying oil and gas economy. Calls to continue funding and subsidizing the oil and gas industry in Alaska are casting our state further into an irreconcilable financial hole. There is a total of 75 million acres of Native Land in the hands of the Alaska Bureau of Land Management. By permanently protecting Alaska’s sacred lands and investing in regenerative economies, a path is paved to create new jobs and careers that value the health and wellbeing of workers.

As Alaskan citizens, we must raise our voices louder to ensure the security of future generations by building just and equitable transitional steps toward regenerative economies. We need to embark on transitional steps toward building regenerative economies that utilize resources sustainably and ensure equity. Alaska is poised to lead in the advancement of this “Just Transition” we only require the political courage and will power.

Rep. Haaland is the force needed in the leadership of the Interior Department to move our country forward and give voice to the original stewards of these sacred lands. The global pandemic has emphasized the need to protect public lands for the health and well-being of our communities. COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color, exposing the gaps in healthcare caused by systemic racism.

Furthermore, the uprisings of police brutality in the fight for the Black Lives Matter movement and the lack of policing during the insurrection of the Capitol has put white supremacy and systemic racism into stark focus. The Biden administration gives us a window of opportunity to center leadership and voices of frontline and marginalized communities. The confirmation of Rep. Haaland is critical and will prove to be in the best interest of all people and the shared lands we depend on.

Alaska Just Transition Collective Partners: Native Movement, Native Peoples Action, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Gwich’in Steering Committee, The Alaska Center, Alaska Public Interest Research Group, Alaska Poor Peoples Campaign, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition

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