Dillingham volunteers organize 'Fish Drive' for Chevak in the wake of Typhoon Merbok
Empty fish boxes are available at the Curyung Tribal office and at L&M supplies. Make sure the box is labeled Dillingham to Chevak. Full boxes can be sealed and delivered to the Alaska Air Cargo freezer. Partial boxes or smaller quantities can be returned to the Tribal office. For more information or to volunteer to help, call the Curyung Tribal Council at 907-842-2384; Mark Lisac 843-2643 or Mike Davis 843-2225.
When the storm hit Chevak last month, half of the community of nearly 1,000 residents lost power to their freezers.
“That kind of ruined some of them, so that was a big impact for most people," said Andrew Charles, the Tribal Administrator for Chevak’s Native Village Council.
Peoplelost equipment like nets and camping gear. The storm also damaged most of Chevak's boats, all of which are used for harvesting food.
“90% of them that parked down by the river floated away or turned upside down. Some of them had brand-new boats or a brand-new motor,” Charles said.
That’s why Dillingham resident Mark Lisac started a “fish drive.” He got the idea after he heard news coverage describing how the storm had affected people in coastal communities.
“There were some folks in Chevak that said the food in their freezers went totally bad and they had to take it to the dump," he said. "I know that if that happened to us we would be in a world of hurt. And I got up one morning and said, ‘You know what, we’ve got some extra fish. I’m going to send it up there.”
Lisac reached out to the Curyung Tribal Council in Dillingham, and they came up with a plan to get fish to Chevak and potentially to other communities impacted by the storm. He and other volunteers also tried to contact the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the Association of Village Council Presidents but didn’t get a response, so they decided to focus their efforts on Chevak.
The Bristol Bay region wasn’t hit by the storm, but the Curyung Tribe’s environmental coordinator Desi Bond said this is an important way to support neighbors, friends and family that are struggling to make up for the losses, especially considering rising prices at the gas station and the grocery store.
“It's very sad to lose a huge part of what keeps our families fed and warm in the winter," she said. "So to be able to ask our community to help share... it's a big ask, but you know, a lot of these families are going to go without, and if we have the means to be able to help them I think this is a perfect way to extend our love, in a sense, our love for our subsistence way of life.”
Back in Chevak, Andrew Charles said the donations from Dillingham’s fish drive will go to people who lost food, like Elders and those who can’t go hunting.
“Any food that we get, donations from anywhere we usually pass them out to the most needy here in Chevak,” he said.
Lisac has also contacted the offices of Rep. Mary Peltola and Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski’s office put him in touch with the state’s emergency operations center, which he said will transport the fish from Dillingham to Bethel. Grant Aviation will take donations on to the villages.
It’s unclear when the first shipments might head for Chevak. The volunteers aim to send 3,000 pounds of fish. So far, they’ve collected 600 pounds of fish that processors had previously donated to the Dillingham food bank.
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