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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
A group of 16 designers from around Alaska debuted 20 unique garments on Friday at the "Wear Art, Thou?" fashion show, put on by the Alaska Native Arts Foundation and featuring clothing made from a variety of subsistence materials.November 18, 2013
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Today we’re looking back at 10 years of the public radio program Encounters with Richard Nelson. The show originally began as an interview segment that would sometimes take place outdoors. But, Nelson says he never got comfortable interviewing other people. So, he decided to try talking to himself.
“That turned out to be how Encounters began to evolve, purely by accident. I figured out topics I was interested in, researched them, and then basically I would interview myself. And as far as I know Encounters violates a lot of rules in radio, with just a single voice for a half hour,” Nelson says.
The newest season of Encounters begins next month, and Nelson says it will mostly be re-airings of the show’s best programs. “We just decided that this might be a nice time for us to celebrate our 10th anniversary, so we’re going to have a season starting in December and we’ll put up not just our favorite programs but favorites we hear from others about,” Nelson says.
Nelson says listeners have until this Friday to vote for their favorite episodes on the Encounter’s website. As far as his favorite episode goes? Nelson has a hard time choosing, but he can narrow it down to two.
“I was in the midst of recording a program about moose and I was hanging out with this giant Bull Moose, and I noticed there was a grizzly bear coming down the slope behind this moose and the moose started coming straight toward me. And it was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever had recording Encounters, and you certainly can tell that when you listen to the program,” Nelson says.
“Another one I really like a lot is the program about wind that I recorded up in a tree close to Sitka during the biggest storm we’d had in a number of years. I don’t know if I sounded scared during the program but I was certainly scared.”
Nelson says people ask him all the time if he’s really recording himself while these events are happening, and not in a safe quiet studio. “There’s one thing I’m an absolute stickler about and that is all the programs are recorded in the field and only when the subject is as close as common sense and courtesy allow me to be,” Nelson says.
And, listeners can expect to hear some new close encounters soon. Nelson says the 10th season won’t just be re-runs. There will be new content, including several programs that were recorded on the arctic coast near the village of Kaktovik. “One of which is kind of auto biographical, and I also recorded a program about the iced seals up there; the ring seals and the bearded seals,” Nelson says.
The Encounters staff is using its 10 year mark as a chance to slow down and reflect on the show. But they’re also taking this opportunity to try some new things. “Another program we’ll put on this seasonal celebration that’s coming up for Encounters is a program that nobody has ever heard about; one on the koala in Australia. And there’s a bunch of programs recorded down under that we’ll have on the radio as well,” Nelson says.
But don’t worry Encounters fans, Nelson says there isn’t going to be a shift from Alaska as the show’s focal point. He says nowhere else comes even close. “It’s a powerful place, Alaska. And it resonates so deeply in our souls. And I feel privileged to be a part of that in my daily life, as well as in producing this radio program,” Nelson says.
Bethel’s rural status is not immediately at risk. But once the population hits 7,000, it will be presumed to be non-rural unless it proves to have rural characteristics.
The federal subsistence board is in a multi-year process of reviewing how it decides which communities have the critical rural priority for accessing resources on federal lands as described under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
That process was the subject of a meeting in Bethel Wednesday, but most people gave their thoughts on Bethel.
There are communities above 7,000 still considered rural, like Sitka and Kodiak. To remain rural, they have to show rural characteristics. Mary Gregory made the case that subsistence is at the core of many people’s lives.
“If you come to my house right now you will find 10 pikes hanging in my kitchen trying to dry out and a string of tomcods that are also hanging and my house smells like fish because I’m a 99.9 percent subsistence food user,” Gregory said. “A lot of people are like that,especially the elderly people who live here.”
Ignacious Louie Andrew recognized that change has accelerated in recent years, but the basic native values are still strong: “We have gone through a tremendous changes, but as we continue to change, subsistence traditional native practices and values will provide a continuity to the past,” Andrew said.
Bethel specifically sees a lot of turnover, according to Roberta Chavez.
“People come and go to Bethel all the time you see them moving here, leaving here,” Chavez said. “The people that remain have been here since time immemorial and they have the right to continue to live that way.”
There are a total of 10 meetings happening all around the state. Comments will be analyzed and brought to the Federal Subsistence Board. Steve Kessler works as the Forest Service’s subsistence program leader and says the comments are important to the process.
“Are these thresholds guidelines the correct ones to use, or should we be using something else,” Kessler asked. “Should we be aggregating communities in some other way? What does the public think the federal subsistence board and the secretaries of interior and agriculture ought to be using to determine which communities are rural?”
The board will meet in April and could propose changes to pass up to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, who ultimately make the call. Comments can be emailed to: subsistence@FWS.gov. The deadline for comments is December 2nd.
Alaska’s congressional delegation has introduced bills that would clarify that it’s OK for Alaska Natives to sell artwork adorned with bird feathers.
Under the legislation introduced by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, some traditional Alaska Native art and crafts would be exempt from a provision of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act barring the sale of items containing the feathers and non-edible parts of migratory birds.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that issue began receiving attention after the case of Archie Cavanaugh, a well-respected Tlingit artist fined $2,200 for trying to sell a headdress adorned with feathers.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says giving a financial incentive to harvesting bird feathers through the sale of art could lead to illegal bird hunting.
The City and Borough of Juneau’s Docks and Harbors Department announced Friday evening that it will delay opening bids for a $54 million floating cruise ship berth project until the city is granted ownership of submerged tidelands by the State of Alaska.
Bids had been scheduled to be opened on Tuesday, November 19th. But now they will remain sealed until at least January, according to Port Director Carl Uchytil.
“The new bid opening date will be announced following the Final Finding and Decision of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to convey tidelands to the City & Borough of Juneau,” Uchytil said in a press release.
DNR’s preliminary decision recommends transfer of the nearly 18 acre parcel to the city. But Uchytil said the bid opening will be delayed out of “an abundance of caution.”
The city this week received four bids for the project. However, they were to remain sealed until next Tuesday’s opening.
The Port Director could not be reached for comment late Friday. He and Port Engineer Gary Gillette came under fire this week by the Juneau Assembly and concerned citizens for their decision to move forward with the project despite the unresolved land conveyance and for not revealing the matter before a state public comment period started last week.
Interested parties have until December 9th to comment on DNR’s preliminary decision approving the land transfer. After that there will be a review period before the final decision is issued. DNR officials say the review period could take several weeks.
Todd Salat was born an Iowa country boy, making his way to the mountains as often as possible. Once he came of age, it didn’t take him long to find his way to Alaska.
Over the past 20+ years, mostly by trial and error, Salat has become one of the best photographers of the northern lights in Alaska, and the world.
Aurora Video & Photography: