Wolf Song of Alaska News

Outsiders' Propaganda is Bad Fuel for the Ol' Wood Stove

Compass: Other Points of View / Anchorage Daily News / August 17, 2008

By Seth Kantner

I'm sure I'm not the only Alaskan this summer to have their mailbox plugged with politics, those helpful how-to-vote pamphlets and brochures, all slippery and easy to carry as an armload of trout.

As a commercial fisherman -- presently short on sleep, busy, tired and this summer cold -- I've been stuffing a lot of propaganda in the wood stove.

Occasionally I've had time to read the little bits of information, and skim the larger chunks of misinformation. Allegedly Outsider-greenies want to shut down Alaska's mining. And wolves and bears are out to get our food, taking our subsistence meat, those narrow-eyed buggers.

Unfortunately, most of it smells more fishy than my wristlets and Helly Hansen raingear.

Big corporations telling me how to vote warms me up anyway, but when multinational mining conglomerates (with legacies of leaving land turned upside down, toxic and ruined) inundate me with slick photographs and lies about how they care about caribou and fish and the land, how they actually clean up rivers -- and then have the nerve to label local Bristol Bay fishermen Outsider-greenies, I get hot.

And when groups like Safari International and the Outdoor Council -- big sport hunters, no friends of subsistence -- suddenly act concerned about their rural and Native brothers' food supply, I get really suspicious.
The state of Alaska is even in the propaganda business. Out of newspaper ads in a Sunday Daily News dropped a little state-sponsored predator control infomercial to "help" me decide how to vote. An earlier one I received showed caribou hamburgers, salmon fillets and Native hunters. No photographs of camo-clad sport hunters with trailers loaded with four-wheelers. (Strange -- isn't there a high population of that species down where there are shortages of moose with big antlers, down where state predator control permits dentists and chiropractors and others with airplanes to shoot wolves from the sky?)
I shoved it all in the stove. It didn't burn very well -- too slippery.

Compared to what wolves have been in my life, why should I believe fliers from entities who want to use my vote for what they really have in mind? Wolves have been good company, good furs, seldom stealing even a fish from me. If any of these helpful strangers -- and that includes you, Sarah -- bothered to ask, folks here would tell them they don't want their wolves shot from airplanes. The only state control they want is on those predators flying up north in airplanes. Humans.

But much more insidious are these monster mining companies and their high-dollar blitz of ads. Compared to what salmon mean to me, to my family and friends, to Alaska -- why should I trust international corporations with their world-class records of pollution? Why should I trust Canadian-owned companies' lines about anti-mining Outsider-greenies "hiding behind a smokescreen of 'clean water' "?

Clean water -- that's quite a smokescreen. I wonder what do these biggest-in-the-world copper and gold, lead and zinc mines use for smokescreens, dirty water?

I'm not against mining, not against jobs. Neither are states such as Montana, where I attended the university at Missoula. Montana got mined; got polluted; got sick of it. They passed laws against toxic mining -- similar to the safeguards Measure 4 seeks -- and Montana still has mining in their state. So will we.

Because I value clean rivers and like my salmon unleaded, I've glanced more closely at the clean-water folks' side of the story. Turns out -- surprise! -- they're not Outsiders. They are Native and non-Native Alaskans. Salmon fishermen, hunters and residents from the Bristol Bay region, united against the Pebble mine with its plans to make a polluted ocean upstream from Bristol Bay.

Salmon fishermen and hunters worried about keeping their rivers clean -- Outsider-greenies? Shucks, they're hometown conservatives.

These multinational corporations, they are the Outsider-greenies -- they are not from Alaska, they are only here for one thing and it's the green that fits in their wallets.

It's time to climb in my hip boots and go check my net. Those smoldering papers in the stove have nothing to tell me about how to vote on Tuesday. I love my homeland, Alaska, populated with wolves and salmon, I love fishing and hunting and drinking cups of water right out of clean rivers -- and I plan to vote yes to that.

Seth Kantner is a writer, photographer and fisherman in Kotzebue. He was born and raised in northern Alaska.

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