Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Feds to give refuge jobs to 10 tribes

ANCHORAGE - Federal officials are poised to give a noncompetitive bid to 10 northeastern Alaska tribes for work in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, ranging from moose population surveys to changing oil in refuge vehicles.

If the $59,000, one-year contract is approved, it would be the first in the nation in which a tribal organization used the Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act to take over activities on Department of the Interior lands, refuge manager Ted Heuer said.

The refuge proposes to have the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments, whose members live in and around the 8.5 million-acre refuge north of Fairbanks, perform tasks that had been done by other contractors - or were not done at all, Heuer said. No refuge employees will lose their jobs, he said.

Council spokeswoman Anna Huntington-Kriska said in a news release that the tribes are "honored to begin this unique step in our government-to-government relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."

The proposed agreement asks the council to locate and mark dedicated trails across Native corporation land in the refuge, perform educational outreach programs in Fort Yukon and nine neighboring villages, and maintain the refuge's summer headquarters and vehicles in Fort Yukon. The projects, all of which are new to the refuge, will provide a small amount of cash to local residents.

Aleut elders help name undersea volcano

ANCHORAGE - Aleut elders from Atka have selected the name for the first confirmed undersea volcano in the Aleutian Islands.

In Unangan, the Aleut language, the volcano is called Amchixtam Chaxsxii, or Amchitka Reef.

The name selection was coordinated by Moses Dirks, a longtime teacher of Aleut language and culture now working in Unalaska schools. Dirks had previously consulted with Aleut elders to produce a Native word for new species of fish.

The coral-covered volcano rises 1,900 feet from Amchitka Pass and comes within 380 feet of the surface a few miles off Amchitka and Semisopochnoi islands, more than 1,000 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Long known to commercial fishermen as an undersea pinnacle, the feature was surveyed last summer by a team of scientists investigating its coral habitat. Marine geologist Jennifer Reynolds - with the West Coast and Polar Regions Undersea Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks - confirmed that it was a volcano with black lava rock rising to "a perfect conical shape."

Dirks, who grew up speaking Unangan on Atka, was contacted by Reynolds and shared the request last fall with elders and friends of his family in his home village. At first, they suggested a name that evoked an island or surface feature.

But the new volcano still remains underwater, so Reynolds asked them to revise the name. Dirks said they chose a term that evokes submerged rock and waves: the Reef belonging to Amchitka.

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