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Testimony

Submitted to the
Alaska Natives Commission
in connection with a hearing at

Nome, Alaska
September 21, 1992

ALASKA NATIVES COMMISSION
JOINT FEDERAL-STATE COMMISSION
ON
POLICIES AND PROGRAMS AFFECTING ALASKA NATIVES
4000 Old Seward Highway, Suite 100
Anchorage, Alaska 99503

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Witness List | Exhibit List | PDF Version

ALASKA NATIVES COMMISSION
HEARING
Nome, ALASKA
SEPTEMBER 21, 1992

Thomas Johnson

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: I notice Robert Fagerstrom, you're here, so you're next on the list. I --

MR. FAGERSTROM: Oh, that's --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: -- have a list: I'm going down.

MR. FAGERSTROM: -- I'd like to apologize, but I didn't have a chance to come down earlier; but what I want to do is find out when we have the rest of our elders, and I could go pick them up so we could --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay.

MR. FAGERSTROM: -- that's what I thought I'd do this morning.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay, sure.

MR. FAGERSTROM: I'd like to apologize.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: We can pick them up. We're ready for them pretty much, so -- in fact, Hannah was on the bottom of the list that I went through, so. . .

MR. FAGERSTROM: Well, if you'd forgive me, I'd like to go get them.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Sure.

MR. FAGERSTROM: That way we could --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Sure.

MR. FAGERSTROM: - - get them out of the way early.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay, sure, sure.

MR. FAGERSTROM: You could have other people that might be here already.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay. Margaret Seeganna? Is she here?
(Pause.)

MR. FAGERSTROM: That's one of the people --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay. Okay (laughing). Thomas Johnson? (Pause. ) I don't know why I read Thomas Johnson. Should have been Tommy Johnson, huh? (Laughing.)

MR. JOHNSON: Well, that's the way I sign my check --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Oh (laughing).

MR. JOHNSON: -- and that's the only reason. Thanks a lot for coming, and I appreciate us to go ahead and say a few kind words. But the thing that Hannah just talked about is really true. Now, if you go ahead and you take a look at the Bristol Bay, the Kuskokwim, the Yukon, and Bering Straits. You look at Bering Straits now, the amount of fish that are coming up here now has dwindled way down. I believe that Hansen (ph.) and the other person out of Dillingham have tried hard to control the fish that would come into their own spawning grounds.

Let's take a look at False Pass, where you have a great many of seiners that come up and pick the fish before they can even get into the spawning grounds. They have approximately 67 miles of area that they can go ahead and fish. I believe, to go ahead and close an area roughly about 30 miles, where False Pass is located now, that would give our subsistence fishermen up here the right to have the fish come back into their own spawning grounds.

Now, in False Pass area, there is no spawning grounds that the fish go into, so technically those fishermen that are fishing down there are stealing our fish to come back to spawn. In time, they deplete the fishing industry. They deplete all the spawning fish that are coming into an area; and then, in ten years time, they do the same thing as the crab system that they're applying now.

I have made application to be on the Fish and Game Board, so you could put some of this into it. have fished in Bristol Bay since 1944. That's approximately 48 years. I plan on going back down there this year. I'm retired; but the thing that I look at is, let's say, sometimes the state and federal government have a deaf ear to those people that want to subsistence fish; and that's the problem that we have here now. They made the decision last year to bring the quota up, and then they brought it back down. That's not the problem. The problem is to close an area there, approximately 30 miles, they still have -- would have roughly 37 miles.

Let' s take Igiugig, where most of the fishermen came out. Eleven million fish going up there this year. They harvested approximately that amount. A million and a half went up the river to spawn. Last year, they went ahead and put two and a half million up there. That's the reason why they have such a amount of fish going out there. Anybody could figure that out.

And Naknek has 12 miles. Igiugig has approximately six miles that all those fishermen can go ahead and go into. But those people out there are stretched on the Yukon, the Kuskokwim, Bristol Bay.

The chum salmon. There's hardly any chums coming back in that area either. The reason why we like the chum, because they're nor a fat fish, and the people like to go ahead and fish them up the river. And that's one of the problems. Now, I also came up, as a senior I'm 67 years young, and I'd like to go ahead and give you some of the programs that are involved up here. But we, as seniors, like to go ahead and direct some of the problems that we have within our area, and I'll give you a copy of the Nome Community Center. As a senior I've looked at this program, and I figured out why we don't have more input on it. The board of directors really are -- or who are they? Then the executive director, where does he get his inf -- marching orders? I believe the Nome Community Center may - - I said may be involved-- through-- the Methodist Church.

The senior -- let's look at the first one. The senior -- X-Y Senior Program. We have an advisory board. Then the senior program director is one of us.

Now look at the Nome Adult Day Care. They don' t have an advisory board. But we like to have somebody sitting there as an advisory board.

Teen Center program. Should there be an advisory board there? Youth Center. Should there be an advisory board?

Community Partnership. Everybody in town wonders where you got that two and a half million dollars to run it for three years or four years, or -- we don' t know. There's no - - the steering committee on one of the letters is there is only one man that's running. The steering committee doesn't have a chairman, where we would go ahead and make our complaints to.

I believe that the seniors should have the chance to go ahead and make a complaint to the chairman -- not the executive director, but the chairman of the board, or the chairman of the steering committee.

These are the things that I dislike about some of these programs. We should be all involved. If the Eskimo community had the procedure of running this, they wouldn't have to answer to no one; but we have a board up there. Sure we made mistakes. All of us do, but there was other things that involved in this process for the seniors that we should -- the seniors should run the program themselves.

We have the Community Center board, and I've -seen the Community Center board members go to the senior building and have their meetings. The senior building itself, the Community Center's moved into it; and pretty soon the seniors won't have a place to move in, for the simple reason the Community Center looks like it's going to take the whole building over.

Now, maybe I talked too long on that. I was also a member of the Operating Engineers, and I was employed from them for approximately 11 years. I'm retired, and I have a good retirement salary. Now, the Department of Labor, Labor Standards and Safety Division. There is some questions that I have in reference to those people that work for the contractors. Let's presume that the subcontractor had the job, and his salary is supposed to be $16.68 an hour for being a truck driver. That's from 10 yards to 20 yards. Now in the contract itself to the prime contractor states that there would be a pension plan and a health and welfare plan put into it. Where does this money go to? Does the contractor keep it, or do they go ahead and give it to the employer, which is roughly about $7 an hour, and you take 15 -- let's say at 15 hours; that would be about a hundred dollars. Let's say if he worked 15 hours a day and you have, let's say, 10 men working, that's a thousand dollars, but where does that money go to? Does that money stay with the contractor, or does he give it up to the employee?

You know the State law to have a teacher teaching, and I think you know that quite well, at the end of his term to retire, he received a State retirement. Within the state, all up and down the coast, you look at the contractor. Why are these -- some of these contractors getting so big? Maybe they're using that retirement moneys for themselves. It should be on the contract. If he's a subcontractor, he should be putting it somewhere. That's the big problem, let's say under the Davis-Bacon Act, which is federal and state; and who's stealing that money? Where is it going? And where do you put a trace on it for the employee that is working here, or in Unalakleet if he's building a school? That's the big problem. Let's turn it back to that person that earned the money, because he only receives that money at a short time of the year, which would be about three months at the most.

And the thing that I look at the education system we have within the state of Alaska, and I think you know it very well, that: there's too many standards from the village to None, from Nome to Anchorage. Why can't we have one standard? If the ki-d can't go ahead and graduate from the second grade, then that standard is looked on, too. I believe, Sam, where you were educated was, let's say, a private place. But the thing that look at is there was a decision being made, let's say, in Anchorage. And that person went ahead -- that judge made the decision in reference to a person being the father or the mother would take care of this little child. The decision's been made that the education system we have here in Nome wasn't as good as the one in Anchorage, so I believe the father taking that children so she would have a better education in Anchorage. And I believe very strongly that we should look toward the education system.

I've been in St. Mary's. You have some very good people down there that's been educated through the Catholic -- and the Catholic Church, but still again, we must remember our education's our lifeline to a better system.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: A lot of the NANA people through the Copper Center, too.

MR. JOHNSON: Yeah. And maybe I've ran off the mouth a little; but still again, these are the complaints you have to take back GO the federal and state government.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: I've got a couple of questions for you. One is on the False Pass. They did reduce their area voluntarily. They re -- quit fishing in a certain area. I was wondering if you'd heard of that They did that on their own. They complained about it, but they reduced it. And I was wondering about the reduction of the Japanese, the Korean, and the Russian trawlers in what they call the doughnut area, with regard to the type of driftnets that they use. I wonder if those areas have impacted Nome yet?

MR. JOHNSON: I believe anything impacts our area for the simple reason is where do the fish come from?

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Right, okay.

MR. JOHNSON: We must remember that the fish come from someplace; but the thing that you must remember, we'd like to keep the spawning grounds open at all times. Just like Hannah Miller said, when the Fish and Game says we can fish from 6 o'clock in the evening 'till 48 hours later, the good Lord, most of the time he goes ahead and he makes a big storm, so we can't even put the net out.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Right.

MR. JOHNSON: And Fish and Game don't look at the good Lord, for the simple reason they gob their own standards they want to go by; and maybe all summer long we only fish when we're supposed to.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Right.

MR. JOHNSON: I think that Fish and Game should control the time that the people want to fish, not the time that they want to do it.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: There's where we need an advisory board sitting right there of elders that could work with that group and says: "Okay, let's go," so that is a good suggestion.

On the Department of Labor, Standards and Safety Division, did -- do you know where your pension went to, or is it any different than what is happening now, or do you think maybe they're just not following up on it?

MR. JOHNSON: Well, the contractor has the right to put that money into a pension fund, but --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Oh, oh, his --

MR. JOHNSON: -- where does his --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: -- own private pension fund?

MR. JOHNSON: His own private pension fund, which would go to an insurance company.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: So what you're --

MR. JOHNSON: My pension fund goes into the Operating Engineers.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay.

MR. JOHNSON: And we have a billion dollars --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Right.

MR. JOHNSON: -- into the pension fund, and it's controlled by four of the industry and four from the union, so --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay.

MR. JOHNSON: -- we can't go south with the money.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Right.

MR. JOHNSON: We can't --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: So you're asking maybe the State set up something like the Teacher's Retirement System, Lo be put into an Operating Engineers or union-type?

MR. JOHNSON: I believe that the best thing that they can go ahead and do is when the contract is let --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Uh-huh (affirmative). A State contract?

MR. JOHNSON: Like the airport job out here. It specifies that amount of money is going to go into a pension fund, and it should remain within the State, so we have control of it.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay, okay. Thank you, Tommy.

MR. JOHNSON: I'm sorry came and ran off at the mouth, but this is the time we're supposed to do it.

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: (Laughing.) That' s right. Francis Johnson?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Can I just make a quick comment?

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I mean, you said earlier that you thought that voluntary --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: -- reduction in fish, and I looked at that as being a reduction because of the lawsuit by --

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (Indiscernible - away from microphone)

COMMISSIONER TOWARAK: Okay.

(Tape changed to Tape #3.)


 

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