Pubdate: Sun, 18 Oct 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Alex DeMarban


Fears that heroin, meth, Spice and other drugs are flooding into 
rural Alaska has prompted local efforts to staunch the trafficking, 
and dominated discussions at the Alaska Federation of Natives 
convention that wrapped after three days on Saturday.

The drug abuse has reached "epidemic" levels in the Dillingham region 
and elsewhere, officials said, but they added that there are no solid 
numbers on use.

"It's all anecdotal," said Ralph Andersen, chief executive of the 
Bristol Bay Native Association. "But we see people who are messed up. 
In villages it's easy to know when people are normal and when they're not."

The uncertainty prompted the Southwest organization to submit two of 
the numerous resolutions addressing drug abuse as the state's largest 
Native organization approved dozens of measures to set its political 
agenda for the year.

Other big resolutions that passed included efforts to secure a 
greater role for tribes in managing subsistence animals, such as 
salmon along the Yukon River, and a call that the federal government 
properly clean up old, toxic military sites.

"It's cancer causing," said P.J. Simon, the first chief of the 
Allakaket tribe, referring to a U.S. Air Force communications site 
called Indian Mountain.

He said it's oozing pollution into a river in the Interior region. 
"The chemicals are bad for the environment and our traditional 
hunting grounds."

Delbert Pungowiyi of Savoonga said a military cleanup of Cold War-era 
radar and antenna sites on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea has 
not been done properly.

"I would like to argue that they have not done an adequate cleanup," 
he said, adding that PCB levels measured in residents are "off the charts."

Numerous other resolutions also passed, including one seeking tribal 
representation on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. But 
it was measures dealing with drug abuse that attracted much of the 
attention. Some urged the state and federal government to pay for 
research addressing the scope of the problem and drug treatment 
centers statewide, including in rural areas.

Three of the six resolutions submitted by the Elders and Youth 
Conference, held earlier in the week, also dealt with drug and 
alcohol abuse. The resolutions passed.

"It's simply shocking to see from our elders and youth the concerns 
about subsistence abuse and the cry that something be done about it," 
said Greg Razo, a member of the AFN board.

Efforts to combat some of the drug abuse were discussed at a panel 
Thursday, with community leaders in places such as Dillingham and 
Sand Point saying they had organized events to educate youth and 
residents about the dangers of drugs.

Emma Wassillie with the Bristol Bay Native Association said heroin 
and other opiates are reaching the village of Togiak in Southwest 
Alaska by skiff and plane.

"We're trying to figure out how to stop it," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom