by Janet Bavilla
Villages have always done their best to adapt to a changing world. Many in the present have tried their best to adjust to western civilization while maintaining native cultures. It’s easier for a younger generation to get used to western civilization than it likely was for older generations. It’s because that’s what younger generations have grown up in. I have nothing against modernization. One of the things you hear often is our ancestors were adaptable in many situations.
Any villager knows how much we have come to rely on having mail. The older generation wants to see their bills on paper (my parents are an example) and they want that paper so they can write down on it when they paid off something. Not only that, dry goods ordered through the mail are often cheaper than freight and, even sometimes, than the local stores. They are also able to get some variety through mail order.
Tax season is upon us, so people are waiting on W-2 forms. I’m not sure how many people have access to internet, but if they don’t, they may not be able to apply for their pfd. That’s just to name a few ways people rely on the mail.
Our post office has been closed since October 2018. The main office in Anchorage says a local stole money (he has documents that prove otherwise. He even invited them to do an audit. They have not.) They condemned the old post office (which is reasonable because that building is older than me and starting to wear out) and have agreed to have our tribal office build one inside the tribal office. Several people have applied to be the new post master; they said they were going to get someone on the payroll soon. When I called to ask when we’ll start getting mail they said, “two weeks” and it’s been over a month.
We have to go to our neighboring village 12 miles away. While that’s not far in a place that has roads, there is a bay and a bigger river separating us from that village. With the warmer weather we’ve likely all noticed the last few years, the bay is open in a lot of spots making travel dangerous. Some people have flown over just to get mail, one way is 60 dollars. I was upset that my father, who is 84 years old and starting to lose his sight, had gone over with a four wheeler. He went on his own. This was when I was heading into the city to attend a meeting. If he had fallen through the ice, I would have never forgiven the post office.
Several residents have been post master reliefs and have offered to distribute mail without getting paid since so many people want their mail. They have refused. Some of us have contacted Senators Murkowski and Sullivan in a desperate attempt to have our voices heard. They seem unable or unwilling to help, likely because we are not a big population and likely won’t change a vote outcome when polls come around. Also, they have been focusing on the government shutdown.
The Anchorage main post office has said not enough people have complained; do they want us to coach the children to talk over the phone? We have only so many residents. As a villager to a villager, as an Alaskan to Alaskan, I’m pleading with people who are able, to call this phone number and ask, “When will the Platinum Post office open?” I doubt it’ll make them do anything but there is a slight chance. The phone number is 907-261-5401. Keeping my fingers crossed that they don’t keep making residents pay a lot to get their mail.
Janet Bavilla writes from Platinum, AK.