Alaska's oval-leaf blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium.
On a typical late summer day in Kake, Alaska, residents prepare for the day by layering heavy-duty rain gear, protective gloves and rubber boots over jeans and fleece. Most of these Alaskans will head to work supporting the local fishing industry. A select few, however, will be bundling up for a slightly different catch: wild organic blueberries. Read more »
Saint Paul Harbor in the Pribilof Islands. The Native community will soon receive improved broadband service thanks to USDA funding support. Photo courtesy of Scott Schuette and used with permission of TDX.
The significance of a recently awarded USDA Community Connect Broadband grant to the predominantly Native town of Saint Paul, Alaska, can’t really be appreciated until you know about this isolated community on one of the Pribilof Islands in the middle of the Bering Sea. It is not served by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and the major shipping routes are 250 miles to the south. The island is too far from the closest urban centers (more than 700 miles) to reach by light aircraft. No commercial jet service is available. Most supplies arrive by charter or flying service while freight arrives by barge, seasonally when the Bering Sea is ice-free. Winter travel in the Bering Sea can be extreme with violent seas and high winds. Air travel throughout the remaining months is often disrupted by heavy fog and ice fog. To say this is a remote area is an understatement.
The Community Connect project is desperately needed on Saint Paul Island. Available 2010 Census statistics show the community in distress. In 1990 the population was 763; by 2010 it was 479. This is at a time when Alaska’s less remote non-Native rural population is growing. With few available natural resources on this treeless island, Internet Connectivity is the core foundation for economic and demographic turn around. Read more »
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center employee Bahe Rock gives the blessing at USDA's Native American Heritage Month Observance in the Jefferson Auditorium at the USDA South Building in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.
I was honored last week to participate in the annual Native American Heritage Month observance at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium. A near-capacity crowd watched as the Vietnam Era Veterans Intertribal Association presented the colors. That gesture was especially fitting, given this year’s theme of “Serving with Honor, Pride and Devotion: Country, Land and People.”
Following the blessing, given by Bahe Rock of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources Arthur “Butch” Blazer, a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, read a letter of support on behalf of Secretary Vilsack and noted that “When President Obama issued a proclamation designating November as Native American Heritage Month, it made me proud to be an American and a Native American.” He spoke of the continuing efforts of the Secretary to promote diversity in hiring at USDA. Read more »
Many communities in remote rural Alaska are only accessible by plane or boat and essentially inaccessible during the long, hard winters. They lag far behind the lower 48 states in having safe and dependable drinking water and suitable waste disposal systems available. The Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program supports the development and construction of water and wastewater systems to correct dire health and sanitation conditions in those villages. I had the recent opportunity to accompany USDA Water and Environmental Program RAVG Manager Tasha Deardorff and other program partners on site visits of two such remote rural communities to check the status of current projects.
It’s nearly 400 miles from Anchorage to Bethel, the regional hub. Our first destination from Bethel was the remote Native village of Toksook Bay some 114 miles away. We were greeted by a resident who transported us via four-wheeler (all terain vehicle) to the city office. Read more »
Last month, representatives of several federal agencies held a meeting with the federally recognized tribes in Southeast Alaska. The meeting, in Alaska’s capital city of Juneau, was the fifth in a series of government-to-government Tribal Collaboration Meetings scheduled with tribes in Alaska. The venue for the meeting between federal officials and tribal leaders was the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Vocational Training and Resource Center.
Tribal representatives and other partners from the region used the session to discuss issues affecting their villages. Leaders from USDA Rural Development, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, Small Business Administration, Housing and Urban Development, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and Intertribal Agriculture Council were on hand to listen and participate in the dialogue. Read more »
Recently, representatives of USDA Rural Development and other federal agencies held a collaboration meeting with the federally recognized tribes of the Ahtna Region, Alaska. The meeting was the fourth in a series of government-to-government Tribal Collaboration Meetings scheduled with tribes in Alaska. The venue for the meeting between federal officials and tribal leaders was in the beautiful remote Copper River valley at the Tazlina Community Hall. Tazlina is located seven miles south of Glennallen on Alaska’s Richardson Highway.
Tribal representatives and other partners from the region used the session in early August to discuss issues affecting their villages. Leaders from Rural Development, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Small Business Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) were on hand to listen and participate in the dialogue. Read more »