Here is a portion of a letter sent out by Nicholas C. Tucker, Sr., a resident of Emmonak a village of 800 mostly native people in Alaska's southwest.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
From several years ago, our heating fuel and gasoline costs have doubled in Emmonak. Current retail prices are $7.83 per gallon for heating fuel and $7.25 per gallon for gasoline, including the city sales tax. Our village has run out of heating fuel and the first airlift shipment has arrived at the airport. As early as today, the retail for our winter shipments is expected to be anywhere from $9 - $11 per gallon or higher.
Last summer, we experienced a king salmon fisheries disaster. We did not have any king salmon commercial openings. We had a chum salmon commercial harvest which is nothing compared to the king fishery. Chum harvest traditionally covered our king salmon fishing start-up costs, most of the purchase of new equipment, repair and maintenance, supplies, and operating expenses. Our commercial fishermen did not make any money. Our income from this meager, small-scale commercial harvest is basic to and vital to our seasonal subsistence fishing and hunting, berry picking, plant gathering, motor oil and gas, supplies, equipment, and cash for repairs of our outboard motors and our snowmachines used for winter wood gathering. This income pays for our many household bills.
Last fall, we weren’t delivered our usual fall fuel orders due to early freeze up. Following this, we got hit by a rare weather anomaly: It has been very, very cold since last part of September. This cold snap still persists as of this day. Households have tell me that there is more snow covering the driftwood out in the tundra and the coastlines, making it difficult finding the logs for firewood. A lot more gasoline and motor oil is being used in search of the driftwood. This winter-long, extreme cold snap is causing the furnaces and boilers to run constantly and to their maximum.
My family of ten, with a household of six adults and four minors, is one of the causalities of our current high costs of heating fuel and gasoline that are devastating families and households here in Emmonak of 847 residents. I am 63 and my wife is 54. For the first time, beginning December 2008, I am forced to decide buying between heating fuel or groceries. I had been forced to dig into our January income to stay warm during December. Again, for this month, same thing happens. I am taking away my February income this month to survive. Couple of weeks ago, our 8-year old son had to go to bed hungry. My wife and I provide for our family with disability, Veterans’ benefits, social security, and unemployment incomes. We are several months behind on our city water and sewer bills. We had originally used up all our $1,200 energy subsidy to prepay electricity for the winter and other bills in hope of surviving for this winter due to these high fuel costs. We didn’t anticipate the early freeze-up that prevented our native corporation getting its winter supplies of fuel. We didn’t anticipate an unexpected winter-long bitter cold. I don’t recall anything having occurred as cold as it has been and its length that we have to endure. The following are the costs of heating fuel and a 100-lb bottle of propane between December 12, 2008 and yesterday, a period of 29 days:
December 12, 2008, Stove oil, 55 gals: $ 440.54
December 14, 2008, 100# propane: $ 173.04
December 31, 2008, Stove oil, 55 gals: $ 440.54
January 9, 2009, Stove oil, 59 gallons: $ 471.85
Nicholas used a VHF radio announcement to reach out to other villages to find out how bad their situation was as well. Here is just a portion of what he heard back:
P. & K. A.: Middle aged couple, family of five. They are forced to buy heating fuel over food.
M. & M. G.: Middle aged, family of six: No wood at all; hard time buying stove oil.
L. M.: Young single parent, mother of one. On her last energy assistance, 10.2 gallons left, Dad in Anchorage for medical check up; his snowmachine and a 4-wheeler are frozen.
E. & A. U.: Elders, ages 68 and 65, family of eight and helping daughter in another house with food; gets no food stamps and both have no work. They have to buy heating fuel and gasoline for snowmachine over food.
T. & J. L.: Young couple, family of four. Hard time getting heating fuel; have no gasoline for their snowmachine to get wood and credit line at the local fuel tank farm is over limit. Family gets some food stamps but goes fast due to high cost of groceries in the village. Sometimes, having just little bit of food in the house because whatever money they have is used primarily for buying hearting fuel.
R. & T. A.: Young couple, family of seven. Family is having difficult time getting heating fuel. They are having hard time getting any jobs in the village. They are forced to get heating fuel and have little bit of food. Wife has to get heating fuel from her father to keep their house warm and keep the hot water heater turned. Both are having very hard time keeping up with electricity and water/sewer bills.
G. & K. F.: Young couple with family of five. Wife is unable to sleep and stressed out not knowing when they will be able get their next heating fuel. A 100-lb. bottle of propane gas that usually lasts four months is now lasting only two months because they use it to heat water. This costs them $200 every two weeks. They do not have hot water heater. Wife has very little income and uses $375, the one-half of her gross income every two weeks, to get heating fuel. She has no food for her family sometimes, because, she has to split the rest of what little is left for water/sewer and electricity. Gasoline for her 4-wheeler is very expensive. Her parents help her with food and firewood. They cannot afford a snowmachine or a boat to get logs. Heating fuel and propane is taking her food money away. Her added worry is that the village native corporation is running out of heating fuel and is being airlifted in. New cost is expected to be near $9 - $11 per gallon or higher.
And where is our Governor during this time of crisis? She is whining to anybody who will listen about unfair media coverage and those "anonymous bloggers"!
But here are citizens of her state who are literally freezing and starving to death and she does nothing! Nothing!
This poor man has to beg for handouts to save himself and his neighbors because of the cost in Alaska of heating oil and gasoline. And where is his government? Where are his legislators? Where are his Senators? Where is his Congressman? And where in the hell is his Governor?
Sarah Palin is the one who is supposed to declare a state of emergency and get help to these people. Does she not have enough time between interviews with People magazine, Esquire magazine, and John Ziegler to do her goddamn job? Do the needs of our citizens interrupt her social calendar?
Well if our Governor will not help our people I guess it is up to us. Listed below is the contact information that you need if you want to help save the lives of these people before it is too late.
I have already written my check and I am asking for your donations as well. I do not usually use this blog to request money, but these are special circumstances and I cannot just sit idly by and let this horrible situation continue. Thank you for any help you can give.
To help, please call:
City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249
Emmonak Tribal Council, (907) 949-1720
Emmonak Corporation, (907) 949-1129/1315/1411
Emmonak Sacred Heart Catholic Church Pastoral Parish Council Chairman, (907) 949-1011.
Update: I just got off of the phone with Nick Tucker, the author of this letter, in Emmanok.
He told me that the best way to get them help fast is to send a check to this address:
Emmonak Tribal Council
P.O. Box 126
Emmanok, AK 99581
I asked Mr. Tucker if he had contacted the Governor yet and he said that the Tribal Council had just agreed to make a formal request based on the king salmon fisheries disaster. According to Mr. Tucker the lack of heating oil and food resulting in residents barely clinging to life DID NOT COUNT AS AN EMERGENCY TO THE STATE OF ALASKA! Can you believe that shit?
So maybe you would like to ask the Governor's office how this situation is NOT considered an emergency yourself by calling (907) 269-7450. Let me know what their explanation was to you.
Update 2: For those who asked me if there is a faster method of getting money to the city, Mr. Tucker tells me that if you call the City of Emmonak (and the numbers are listed above) they will accept credit card information over the phone.
By the way Mr. Tucker also informs me that his phone has been ringing off of the hook and he had the ADN on the other line as he was speaking to me. He sounds much more upbeat then earlier today.
Update 3: AKM, of the wonderful blog Mudflats, has posted her version of this story over at Huffington Post. Please do me a favor and click on over there and give it a "buzz up" and leave a comment and see if we can't get this story onto the front page. We want this story to get as much attention as possible. And if I can speak for my Alaskan neighbors for a minute I would like to say thank you very much to those who donated to help the people of Emmonak.