Chickaloon, Sutton, and Palmer Comprehensive Plans
Coal Bed Methane
CVESD advocates for industry accountability in the oil and gas sector and other industrial development in our traditional territories. For example, in 2003, CVESD began a public education campaign in the Mat-Su Borough regarding proposed coal bed methane development. The proposed method of natural gas extraction involved extensive disruption of the land surface with drill pads, roads, pipelines, and compressor stations, in addition to the withdrawal of thousands of gallons of ground water per well per day. Because of public outcry subsequent to CVESD’s public meetings, the poorly planned CBM extraction was halted. Now, years later, several CBM test wells are proposed in the region using significantly less invasive methods for extraction, which could prove to balance environmental protection and natural resource extraction.
In 1898 Lieutenant J.C. Castner led an expedition through Chickaloon; during that expedition they found a vein of good quality coal approximately 4 feet wide near the Chickaloon River. In the winter of 1913, 800 tons of this coal was hauled to the navy ships for testing, it was deemed acceptable to use for fuel and would soon fuel the Naval Fleet during World War I.
This development would not have been possible without the construction of the Alaska Railroad, approved in 1914, including a spur line to the Chickaloon Coal fields.
In 1919 over 4,000 tons of coal was mined from Chickaloon, two years after that the navy began building a two million dollar washing station in Sutton.
The U.S. Navy, as well as private companies, mined coal in several areas around Chickaloon and Sutton from 1914 to 1922 to fuel the World War I steamships that patrolled the Aleutian Islands.
While the non-native population of Chickaloon soared, the Native population and traditional culture came close to eradication.
Oral history tells us that before contact there were about several hundred people that called Chickaloon Village home. After the mine pulled out in 1922 there were less than 40 indigenous people remaining. Some moved to other villages less impacted by outsiders and development, but the majority died.
This was largely due to many of the effects of colonization.
The ability to exist in the traditional way was greatly affected, new laws regulated the times we could hunt or fish, and they were readily enforced by game wardens. Over harvest by non-native people reduced animal populations and drove the animals further away. The sewage, tailings, hazardous waste and other pollutants were intentionally washed into the rivers. This resulted in the decimation of the salmon that were a cornerstone of the traditional diet.
The lack of culturally appropriate foods turned our people to sugar, coffee and white flour that came on the train. This relatively immediate change of diet predisposed our people to many illnesses. The effects of this diet are still seen today in the alarmingly high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
The introduction of foreign foods also caused an incredible disconnect with the symbiotic relationship with the land and animals that had always been a crucial part of our cultural identity.
Railway access into and out of Knik and Anchorage also became possible, further exposing our people to external influences. These external influences caused some family systems to break down as people dispersed to these other areas.
The men who would have been our hunters and providers had lost their traditional roles and responsibilities, and had to risk jail to carry out traditional harvesting. Because of the influence of a money based economy many had to assimilate in order to find work to provide for their families.
Perhaps the hardest hit by the influence of this new culture were our women. Women, who previously were leaders in our matriarchal society became little more than property of the men who arrived to work in Chickaloon who were also looking for companionship.
Several devastating epidemics occurred during the immigration boom, in 1912 a serious flu struck a majority of Alaska, then in 1918 Spanish influenza further devastated indigenous people around the state, Chickaloon was no exception. My great great grandfather made my family go outside of the house. All day every day, only coming in to sleep and that is what we attribute to still being here to tell the story. He may not have known about germs but he knew what was good for us.
By 1922, the mine shut down. The ships were converted to diesel fuel. Chickaloon became a veritable ghost town, only a few non-natives stayed.
When the mine was closed, much of the common use infrastructure was deconstructed and moved to other areas around the state.
Unfortunately the structures were not the only things gone after the Navy pulled out of Chickaloon.
Many people lost their families, their tribal identities, cultural roles and responsibilities and their relationship with the natural world. My great great grandparents were so grief stricken that they stopped passing down their oral traditions. These losses impact our people today.
Although the non-native population decreased dramatically, a new influx of colonists moved into the area further introducing Christianity and boarding schools with the forced removal of many Native children from our village.
As a result, the language, religion, clan structures, and the traditional economic activities of Chickaloon’s surviving families were further undermined.
Today, Chickaloon Villagers have worked hard to re-unify and recover from years of trauma experienced as a result of rapid assimilation. Internalized oppression and generational trauma still present themselves today in a variety of ways among our people.
We still struggle to maintain a balance between the environment and economic development. We have an intimate understanding of how thoughtless resource extraction can impact the land, a people and a way of life.
Today coal continues to be an attractive resource to extract in Alaska. With skyrocketing energy prices, we are at energy crossroads. We can choose non-renewable energy sources or commit to diversifying our sustainable energy infrastructure.
According to the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, our state contains coal reserves of about 5.5 billion tons estimates. This means Alaska contains about half of the nation’s coal reserves. The market for this coal is primarily in Asia, and the high grade coal that exists in our Traditional Territory is particularly good for steel smelting. The issues are that there are few environmental standards for the burning of coal in Asian countries and this contributes a great deal of carbon monoxide to our environment and increasing the rate of global warming.
The other environmental hazards to mining include threats to the quality and availability of water, deforestation of the project site causing erosion, noise pollution, air pollution cause by fugitive dust, and safety concerns of coal trucks co-existing with other traffic on our already hazardous roads.
There are several active leases in our Traditional Territory that we continue to monitor. For the most current information please refer to the website listed below.
Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority
ANGDA is focused on getting North Slope natural gas to Alaskan communities as well as identifying feasible LNG opportunities for the State of Alaska. With the support of the Legislature and the Administration, ANGDA started work in 2003 within the Alaska Department of Revenue. Alaska Statute 41.41 contains the law for the establishment and functioning of the authority.
ANGDA Mission Statement
Develop a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to tidewater on Prince William Sound and a spur line to the gas distribution grid in Southcentral, Alaska. (excerpt from ANGDA website) www.angda.state.ak.us
Fish and Wildlife
How to Handle Wildlife Violations
Fish and Wildlife Safeguard
Stop Senseless killings and endangerment to our wildlife!
Report Violations 1 – 800 – 478 – 3377
Fish and Wildlife Safeguard is a non-profit volunteer citizen’s organization that works in cooperation with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. By providing a toll-free hotline phone number which citizens may call to report a resource law violation, the organization gives the public an opportunity to become involved in protecting Alaska’s natural resources.
This program is not a part of State Government. It is an independent non-profit corporation that was organized in 1984 by citizens concerned for Alaska’s fish and game resources. They believed a citizen group, working in connection with Alaska Wildlife Troopers, might help curb unlawful fishing and hunting in Alaska. Wildlife Safeguard’s purpose is to promote fish and game protection by providing a toll free hotline for reporting violations, and funding a reward program for callers. It operates much like Crime Stoppers in that regard.
Does this get the Troopers involved????
The Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers is not formally related to this non-profit corporation; however as the agency charged with investigating wildlife related crimes, they receive and act on the information provided by hotline calls.
Essentially, a person calls the 1-800-478-3377 hotline number to report a violation. (excerpt from the Safeguard website) www.dps.state.ak.us/awt/SafeguardFaq.aspx