Angela Denning, KFSK - Petersburg
Angela Denning-Barnes is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.
Relief funds for last summer’s King salmon fisheries disasters on the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers has taken one step closer to reaching fishermen in the region.
The State of Alaska has submitted a cross appeal in the Kuskokwim fishermen trials. About two dozen fishermen were convicted in Bethel court in May for taking King salmon last summer when restrictions were in place. Fifteen fishermen are appealing that decision.
Peter Tony, age 69, is in jail in Bethel awaiting court proceedings for multiple charges of child sexual abuse. Meanwhile, his case keeps growing. It’s evolving from two sides: the past and the present; a 48-year-old alleged victim and a four-year-old alleged victim. Kimberley Bruesch is Peter Tony’s step daughter who says he abused her when she was 8. She says her abuse lasted for about a year but the aftermath went on for decades.
The main stem of the Kuskokwim River has gone without restrictions for salmon fishing this season. At least, up until now. Restrictions will go into affect this Friday in the form of 6-inch gear limitations.
A former foster parent and daycare provider in Bethel has been arrested for charges that he sexually abused a 4-year-old. Bethel police arrested 69-year-old Peter Tony June 13 after investigating him for six months. They say he could have many more victims going back to the 1970s.
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.