Dear Neighbors & Friends,
This week is Thanksgiving and as we transition into this holiday season I hope we are reminded of all the reasons for being grateful. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve and to work for our community. Thank you!
I want to take a moment and reflect on this holiday and what’s being called the “movement of decolonization and re-education” happening across our country. I’ll admit the Thanksgiving story I learned as a child does not reflect true history. I’m thankful to have now learned the history, even though it has difficult details. It’s often said the way we avoid the mistakes of the past is by knowing our history. It’s for this reason I’ve wanted to learn more about the different perspectives on Thanksgiving and why the romanticized history is so hurtful for indigenous people across the country and in Alaska. We can’t change the past, but we can listen and learn new perspectives and traditions. We can still value time with our families, create cherished memories, and give thanks for all the good in our lives - in addition to recognizing that accurate history is important and how and what we celebrate is important.
It’s a hopeful feeling that so many use this as a day to give back and I value the chance to join others in this tradition, like the annual Thanksgiving Blessing event that provides a Thanksgiving meal to families across our city. In fact, at Monday’s event in Mountain View (pictured to the right with members of the Delta sorority that also volunteer every year) I learned that between 10,000-13,000 meals would be distributed to families citywide. The beauty of giving in a community brings so much good that I can only hope that as we evolve and celebrate our efforts will overwhelm our communities with good deeds. I think that is something we can be thankful about.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and don’t eat too much turkey!
A Very Busy Fall – Part 2 of 3
Kotzebue & Red Dog Visit: It’s hard to really understand the diversity of Alaska without visiting communities across our state. I have cherished the opportunities I have had for travel and learning. This fall I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Kotzebue for community visits and an on-site visit to Red Dog Mine. This was my first visit to Kotzebue and I hope it is just the first of many. I found the community was so welcoming and appreciate the many individuals that contributed to making our trip so successful.
The visit to Red Dog Mine was memorable. First, you have to get there. I learned we were the first and only legislative group to actually get to visit even though several other trips had been scheduled in the past. We were lucky to have good enough weather that we could fly out there. The landscape is incredible and it was early September with just hints of fall colors as we flew over. The flight really helps you understand the remoteness of the project.
Once onsite we had a safety briefing, then NANA staff shared about the partnership with Teck, then about future plans and other mining opportunities. I was blown away by a few things. One was that the NANA staff explained to us that even with mining they still consider the highest and best use of the land is for subsistence. Wow. I’ve never heard of that before. Generally resource development is done with a theory of balance of impacts and rewards. Beyond that, I learned that they could have mined the deposit more quickly, but instead decided to spread out the mining schedule to provide more long term benefit for the region and for shareholders. This is a pretty incredible management practice in an industry known for price fluctuations and a tendency to mine more during times of high prices.
They discussed their efforts to provide educational scholarships and training and a new initiative to advance shareholders into corporate leadership positions. It was clear investment in young people is a core value for NANA.
Pictures: Upper right: Sunset over Kotzebue Sound. They are probably too small to see, but there are seals popping their heads up everywhere in the Sound. Bottom right: A map shows potential mining projects in the vast Amber Mining District. Recent work in the area has become controversial. Below: A panoramic view of the open pit mining operation at Red Dog Mine. Red Dog is a zinc and lead mine and is the world’s largest producer of zinc.
In addition to the visit to Red Dog Mine we had meetings with the Northwest Arctic Leadership Team, an integrated group of local leaders that come together to identify regional priorities and opportunities. They work together on issues related to capital projects, school funding, and regional needs. It was impressive to see their willingness to work together.
Following that we met with health care leaders at Maniilaq Association. Health care delivery in Alaska is difficult at best and being on site made it even clearer the challenge with providing health care to Alaskans across such a vast area. One of the great things offered by the health facility is access to traditional foods. We are able to visit the facility where wild game meats and fish are brought for processing to meet safety guidelines for serving to residents at the long-term care facility. These partnerships are so important and it’s good to see regulatory burdens removed so that elders can have access to the foods that they want. Staff shared with us the joy brought to residents when they have their favorite foods, both spiritually and physically. We ended with a visit to the Alaska Technical Center, where specialized programs prepare residents for jobs in demand in health care, culinary arts, process technology, and construction trades, among other classes. Some of this is done on site and other classes are distance delivery.
I have so many more pictures to share, but can’t fit them all here. Please visit my Rep. Tarr Facebook page to see the album. If you haven’t visited Kotzebue before, I highly recommend a visit. One fact I learned that has really stuck with me was learning that villages in both the Northwest Arctic and across Siberia have been traveling to trade with each other for over 2,000 years! This is history every Alaskan should know. We live in such an amazing place, if only we have the time and resources to get out and visit.
Upcoming Community Council Meetings
The Mountain View Community Council’s next meeting will be Wednesday, December 11th at 6:00pm at the Mountain View Library, 120 Bragaw St.
The Russian Jack Community Council will also meet Wednesday, December 11th at 6:30 at Wonder Park Elementary, 5101 E 4th Ave.
The Airport Heights Community Council will meet on Thursday, December 19th, 7:00pm. Airport Heights Elementary School, 1510 Alder St.
Until next week,
P.S. Please let us know if you’d like to meet about a neighborhood issue or bill idea.