Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK - Bethel
Angela Denning-Barnes is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.
The first King salmon are being caught on the Kuskokwim River and state managers don’t foresee any restrictions for at least a few weeks. Fishermen on the Kuskokwim River can use 8 inch King nets right now, something that was highly restricted last year due to a very poor run. The State’s preseason data calls for another low return this year but so far, managers say there’s no reason to restrict fishing.
A young brown bear cub was recently found near Platinum and turned into the Fish and Game office in Bethel. The bear was a tiny male, 9 pounds in all. It was reportedly being chased by some dogs so Jay Bitney picked him up to try to keep him safe. Bitney had been in the area for work, crushing gravel.
The Kuskokwim fishermen trials continued today at the Bethel Court House. More fishermen were found guilty for illegal fishing last summer during King salmon closures. The fishermen’s defense attorney continued to ask the court to dismiss the cases and the judge continued to find the fishermen guilty. The fishermen took turns on the stand, some breaking down when they talked about what subsistence meant to them.
Nearly 50 fishermen were cited for illegal salmon fishing last June. Half of them pled not guilty and have been fighting it in court ever since.
A former Bethel police officer is being charged with being intoxicated while on the scene of a police shooting last fall. Last October, a Bethel police officer shot and killed a man in a neighborhood near Brown’s Slough. The man, 24-year-old Sam Alexie Jr., was intoxicated and pointed a rifle at the officer who then shot him.
Last year, an unprecedented 12-day King salmon fishing closure on the Kuskokwim River devastated the subsistence harvest of the fish. Instead of taking about 75,000 Kings as usual, residents only caught 20,000. However, this year should be different.
A group of about 40 people held a rally in Bethel this morning for subsistence rights. They gathered in the parking lot of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office. Most of them were Yup’ik, from Bethel and nearby villages.
Closing arguments were heard today in a Bethel courtroom in the trial of 22 subsistence fishermen accused of fishing for king salmon during closures. The trial began on Monday and included testimony from expert witnesses on both sides.
Senator Lisa Murkowski hosted a Senate hearing on subsistence in Bethel Tuesday afternoon. Over 25 people spoke and many more turned in written testimony.
The Alaska Federation of Natives has changed its bylaws to give tribes more votes during conventions. The move separates tribal votes from tribal corporation votes.
The Violence Against Women’s Act that is making its way through Congress has the support of the Association of Village Council Presidents for the most part. However, the Native non-profit organization which represents 56 tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is opposing part of the legislation, the part that doesn’t allow Alaskan tribes to prosecute non-tribal members.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is joining the Yup’ik fishermen trials. The group has filed a “friend of the court brief” in support of the fishermen’s right to fish as part of their religious practice.
The conclusion of the investigation into the shooting death into the shooting death of 24-year-old Sam Alexie Jr. has spurred the Bethel police department to release the name of the shooting officer. It is Andrew Reid, who is still with the department. He had only been on the force for three months at the time of the shooting although he had been an officer in Massachusetts for four years prior to that.
The Board of Fisheries adopted a new management plan for the Kuksokwim River which includes stronger language supporting the King salmon subsistence fishery.
Jeff King of Denali won the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race for the ninth time Sunday. Twenty-one teams competed.
This week in Anchorage, the Alaska Board of Fisheries will consider 70 Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim fishery proposals. One proposal of special interest to the Kuskokwim looks to update the river’s Salmon Management Plan, including making some changes to the King salmon fishery.
The K300 Sled Dog Race starts in Bethel on Jan. 18 and preparations are in full swing. Twenty-eight teams are signed up to compete, the largest field in about 15 years.
This time of year, many students at Alaska’s boarding schools are heading home for winter break. Boarding schools have a long and complicated history for Alaska Natives; some blame them for loss of indigenous languages, and some students suffered abuse at schools.