A tale of two villages: Angoon's call to punish, and Anaktuvuk's call to not panic - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, June 6, 2020
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A tale of two villages: Angoon’s call to punish, and Anaktuvuk’s call to not panic

VILLAGE LEADERS TRY TO KEEP VILLAGES SAFE — THEIR OWN WAY

When Michael Pitka came back to be with family in the Tlingit village of Angoon on Admiralty Island, the city published a press release to let the community know he had violated its local travel restriction and wasn’t welcome.

“This traveler does NOT qualify as a resident as they have not physically lived in Angoon for 10 of the last 12 months. Also, this traveler has passed through at least two Alaskan ‘Hot Zones’ on their way to Angoon,” the city wrote and posted on its Facebook page. Pitka had been in Russian Mission, 70 air miles north of Bethel.

Pitka, according to the City of Angoon EOC, was informed that he wasn’t welcome since he is not an Angoon resident, but came to Angoon anyway by plane. He would have had to pass through Anchorage and Juneau.

“Please do everything you can do to avoid any contact whatsoever with this individual. A code violation citation will be issued for the violation of our local travel mandate, punishable by a fine of $500,” the city wrote.

In addition, Pitka would have to be quarantined somewhere for 14 days and any violations will mean a year in jail and up to a $25,000 fine, according to the City of Angoon.

The city asked for the community’s help in reporting Pitka to Alaska State Troopers if he was seen violating any mandates.

The story is more complicated by the fact that Pitka has a list of prior criminal offenses dating back years, and the village of Angoon might not have wanted him around for other reasons.

Angoon has issued earlier community messages via Facebook about whether people belong in the village during its COVID-19 shutdown. A couple had been anchored in a nearby bay over the winter and had brought their sailboat to the dock at the ferry terminal. After investigation, the city determined the couple was practicing self-quarantining. In another case, a college student was returning home, and the city provided an explanation that the student would be allowed back into the village.

In a third case, an on-and-off resident of Angoon was granted permission to return to the village to take up permanent residency.

“As this person has sold their Juneau residence, they have no place to go except for their permanent residence in Angoon. As such, this person has been issued a travel waiver by the Angoon EOC and will be coming to their new permanent residence on tomorrows ferry,” the Angoon EOC wrote on Facebook.

Angoon, it appears, it taking it on a case by case basis, but adopting a fairly aggressive stance to whether people are permitted in the village.

ANAKTUVUK PASS MAYOR REMINDS PEOPLE TO DO WHAT THEY ALREADY DO — STAY AT HOME

Mayor Charles Hugo of Anaktuvuk Pass, had a gentler message for his far-north Inupiat village, reminding members that since they all stay home anyway, they should “keep doing that.”

His letter to the village is one for the ages:

“Morning Anaktuvuk Pass:

It is time to stay home in our mountains but we can go out hunting or fishing; and we need facilities to be open. Try not to panic though, life still functions and we just need to stay home, we’ve been staying home from each other for years anyhow. Since we never visit each other we should be safe, but all our kids need to be home too for the time being, we love seeing them but sometime in life we have to teach them to obey parents. We recommend no outside travel unless you really have to go such as medical travel, loss of loved one travel, medevac and also family emergency. We ask returning residents from traveling outside to go home and stay home like we always do anyways. Just count 14 days so those that are iksi will not be affected … young folks be safe, you’re not superman or wonder woman yeah ok, but you need alone time for the moment … a long moment, go hunting fishing … just do it for the elders from the old ways … your young and most likely to fend this virus off, but you may affect little baby infant bro or sis or your dear old grandparents, and common sense in you should be practiced. Everything else has been said a million times and it is very stressful also we get tired of hearing it, so just do those above things we ask, that’s all and I have no other words but stay home like you always do anyways … you’re doing good already.”

Anaktuvuk Pass, population 282, is in the North Slope Borough and is remote, while Angoon, population 452, can only be accessed by boat or seaplane.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Excellent examples of local government serving their citizens, each with a unique perspective. Unique to Alaska.

  • “…we’ve been staying home from each other for years anyhow. Since we never visit each other we should be safe…”
    Seems like a charming place to call home.

    • To each his own.

    • Yeah we stick with in our family a lot in Anaktuvuk doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us or we are less charming. We just like our peace and quiet. We like our privacy. It’s a amazing place to live we take care of our elders have pride for our history. We love each other and come together to help any family in need. Most hunters hunt for all. We just respect each other’s space. Please don’t judge some place you never been. We take this quarantine seriously and haven’t had a confirmed case of this virus because of such. Our mayor takes care of us.

  • People are afraid or they should be. They react differently. Some not at all. The foolish. It is not unique to Alaska however. This is happening everywhere.

  • Mayor Josh Bowen and the Angoon community are doing what they need to do to protect themselves and their elders. I see nothing wrong with what they’ve decided and how this young mayor is responding to this crisis. I have the utmost respect for Mayor Bowen and I am proud to consider him a friend.

    • Yep. That is what we are finally doing.

  • In MANY communities new “Little Hitlers” will emerge,
    It’s just human nature. While drastic actions might be effective and initially popular the popularity will not last.
    When that time comes it is not going to be a simple task to restore all that used to be normal. Dictators never relinquish power easily.

  • Disgraced former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has been quarantining for about a year and a half. He stays at home, far away from the Lemon Creek Correctional Facility where he really belongs.

  • I was born n raised in Anaktuvuk Pass. And, I may say that what the mayor said is not true and is a lil arrogant(must be the stress,who knows)! But We gather as a community for many events,even during a loss of a family member. We are taught to take care of one another and support eachother as one. But during this epedemic, it is wise to stay home, esp with our elders being effected the worst and also protecting the whole community from a deadly virus. We still hold strong to our native values an continue to do so. Anaktuvuk Pass is a beautiful n friendly place😍

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