Making Friends with Flies

img_2480.jpgNo Pebble waves high above drying sockeye in Nondalton. Photo by Lauren Oakes.

“I think I am really starting to smell,” I noted today, looking down at the same set of clothes I’ve been wearing since June. Ben noted, “Lauren, the swarm of flies actually cleared away from the fish when you moved in to make photographs.” We’re hanging in there, cleaned up a little this evening thanks to the beautiful waters out the front door of the Nondalton Village Community Center and the wonderful Belluta family down the street. They, along with many others from this quiet village, have so kindly taken us in, tolerated showers, and fed us while we awaited a plane drop of food from anchorage for two days. I admire the patience that comes so naturally to the locals around us. Any longer and I would have started building our own fish camp here; yet I suspect two days in village time is nothing. It doesn’t take long for one to really see and understand how connected families are to the fish that return year after year, how life and culture is indeed so deeply tied to the renewable resources here. A toast today to Dr. Carol Ann Woody, brilliant fisheries consultant, who somehow manages to juggle white paper deadlines, field research schedules, and emergency food packing, bear canisters and all, for some hungry folks in the Alaskan bush. And to Rick and Nancy Delkiette, who so kindly shared the day with us, helping us learn more about the Athabaskan way of life.

img_2493.jpgNancy Delkiette hangs her fish. Photo by Lauren Oakes.

And thanks to all those who have donated to the Face Fund. It’s actually just a ploy to raise more money for the film, sometimes you gotta take one for the team. So far it has raised us evacuation insurance from my mother, who so kindly sent me some sort of magic number today over the internet. It better be a magic number given our experience with calling cards thus far. And speaking of moms, Happy Birthday to Ben’s mom.

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2 thoughts on “Making Friends with Flies

  1. I think it’s a little early to weigh in until we see what the permit application looks like. I have probably spent more time on the ground in the Upper Talarik/Koktuli/Mulchatna/Nushagak watersheds than most posters on this site. The most vocal opposition has been coming from the sport fishing industry in the area. These folks contribute very little to the local economies and generally to not matriculate well with the locals. There is hardly a more impactive group of people, as you can see each spring by the amount of garbage left at the Newhalen rapids. For what? To abuse and torture rainbow trout, without giving the fish enough respect to eat it. I recall a March afternoon at the ‘rock” on lower Talerik. We had just shot a few caribou and made our way down to the creek where we met a group with an elderly lady cooking up a nice 25″ Rainbow. This was against the ‘law’ written by sportfishermen who would deny her this pleasure and ‘gasp’ actually eat a fish they caught. It was a nice sunny day; the annoying float planes were not buzzing everywhere yet. She was beaming and so happy to be eating that fish. Coming from Nondalton and due to the rigors of the trip and her age, she may have never made it back to that site to sit on that bank and enjoy surf and turf like that again.
    So if the mine is developed will that be lost? What if the locals could not afford to live out there any more? High fuel prices, lack of jobs (thanks for the great jobs sportfishing industry, commercial fishing industry)
    Let’s rant about commercial fishermen for a bit shall we. How about 60-70% participation by out of state folks who have other sources of income. How about walking any shoreline anywhere, what do you see? A good portion of it is commercial fishing gear debris. Rope, nets, pots and floats. How many liquored up fishermen have taken out marine mammals with their mini 14’s bored on the hook waiting for an opening. I know that most commercial fishermen are good, honest, folk, but their actions have an impact (actually as a species we have virtually raped the oceans by commercial harvest, so the commercial fishing industry pointing their collective finger at anybody- loggers, miners, is hypocritical).
    We like to point out the evil mining industry but really the culprit is us. Look around, we create demand for metals through personal consumption. I notice shotguns and boats and planes in your pictures. These things come at a price.

    Is the answer no mining anywhere on earth? Or perhaps just somewhere else where the government is corrupt and the environmental laws nonexistent, where workers have no MSHA regulations?
    What is missing from this particular discussion is the input from the Villages of Iliamna, Nondalton, Newhalen, Pedro Bay and Pile bay/Williamsport. What do these folks have to say? There are differing points of view and you should takl about the economic anxiety that exists.
    If the mine is developed, is that the end of the Bristol Bay fishery? I find it hard to believe that Upper Talarik Creek is driving the whole ecosystem out there. What about the Naknek, Ugashik, Nushagak, districts?
    My mind is not made up on this issue. But I get frustrated when the discussion is so dominated by groups that are not the primary stakeholders in the region and by people who, by their consumption habits cause the environmental degradation they so decry.

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