Juneau relieved at todays news

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 1997

August 21, 1997

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Thursday, August 21, 1997Juneau relieved at todays news

Last modified at 5:10 p.m. on Thursday, August 21, 1997

By KRISTAN HUTCHISON, MIKE ROGOWAY, RILEY WOODFORD and MARK SABBATINI

THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

Mayor Dennis Egan sent his wife to buy a salmon derby ticket as soon as he heard the boycott was called off.

``I'm really happy that the two sides finally were able to agree,'' Egan said. The mayor initially suggested the city provide mediation to end the dispute between the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Territorial Sportsmen Inc.

``It was very divisive and that's what concerned me the most,'' Egan said today. ``Hopefully this will be behind us now. The two sides will probably continue to disagree, but at least there's dialogue. Only positive things can come out of this now.''

City leaders and residents alike reacted enthusiastically to today's announcement that the ANB is calling off its boycott of the 51st annual Golden North Salmon Derby. Many said it wouldn't have affected participation in the derby greatly, but long-standing feelings of ill-will might have resulted.

``I'm reminded of the headline when the Second World War was over: Peace - It's over!'' said Ray Coxe, owner of Rayco Sales, a sporting goods store and derby sponsor.

``It's good that it's over and to get everything back on an even keel and let everybody have some fun,'' he said.

Coxe, a member of the Territorial Sportsmen, said the boycott hasn't made a big difference in sales and he thought many Natives were not planning to observe the boycott.

``A lot of the common folks, the shareholders, they were ignoring it. They were going to fish,'' Coxe said. Still, he expected at least a modest boost in business with the Native community again lined up behind the derby.

``It'll help a little,'' he said. ``There'll be more sales. There's no doubt about it.''

A boycott would have kept at least some participants away.

``It's good news because there's a small fleet of boats that's intending to come up from Kake to participate,'' said Peter Metcalfe, director of communications for Kake Tribal Corp. If the boycott hadn't been called off, Metcalfe said, their trip would have been scrapped.

``It's not necessarily a Native, non-Native issue,'' said Metcalfe, who is not Native. ``For people like me, who are involved in the Native community, we were going to honor the boycott.''

He said he's had several excited calls from friends this afternoon, but still won't be fishing this year - he made other plans when the boycott was announced.

If it hadn't been resolved, the dispute between the two groups could have divided all of Juneau, said assembly member Tom Garrett.

``This one isolated incident is a bit of an example of the type of things that have torn our community apart before,'' said Garrett, pointing to other debates such as that over the Alaska-Juneau gold mine and a road to Skagway.

The dispute was really a symbol of some longstanding issues, including subsistence and Indian country, said assembly member Jim Powell.

Mayor Egan, who's fished the derby many years in the past, said he hadn't decided whether to fish this year, until he heard that the boycott was off.

At Western Auto, another derby sponsor, sporting goods manager Perry Williamson said the boycott hadn't affected business.

``It's been busy, busy, running around frantically,'' Williamson said. ``For the last two days it's been going from 8:30 on: tickets, tickets, tickets.''

Some charter fishermen said they weren't expecting a drop in business because of the boycott.

``Every boat that's available will be out there this weekend,'' said Don Kubley, owner of Club Pacific Charters, who is planning to take the weekend off and fish elsewhere this weekend. ``I've turned down eight to 10 calls today.''

Kubley said he had doubts the boycott would be resolved in time, but credited Catholic Bishop Michael Warfel for mediating the negotiations.

``I hate to say this, but I think the bishop did a hell of a job,'' Kubley said. ``I was amazed he was able to do this.''

Angler's Choice, a charter fishing company, will be taking 50 to 60 anglers out fishing this derby weekend.

``The boycott didn't help things, and I'm glad they've resolved that so the derby can start on a positive note, '' said Rudi Von Imhof, the director of operations for Alaska Travel Adventures, which operates Angler's Choice.

He said he wasn't sure if the boycott had affected the number of charters for derby weekend. Many Angler's Choice clients are visitors who are not specifically here for the derby.

``This is typically a very busy weekend for charters,'' he said. ``Some have booked for the derby, but many are visitors that just happen to be here during the derby. A lot of locals do come in specifically for the derby.

``It's been kind of tough with the controversy, and it's exciting they're on the same page now and moving forward.''

Dennis Thomas, owner of Grand Slam Charters and a derby official, said he didn't think the boycott would noticeably affect derby participation because many people he talked to - Native and non-Native - didn't understand why it was happening.

``I never saw the reason for it in the beginning,'' he said. ``As much as I tried to understand the reasoning I couldn't. It seemed more like a political thing than anything else.''

Some said the dispute was inappropriate for the derby because much of its proceeds are used for scholarships, but Thomas noted there is another reason why many people ignored the boycott efforts.

``There's an awful lot of money on the line,'' he said. ``The bottom line is boycott or no boycott there's a lot of people who fish all the time who want that $100,000 fish, especially since one was caught last year.''

Copyright © 1996, 1997 Southeastern Newspaper Corp.

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