Monday, January 4, 2010

Traditional Food Safety: A message from Hank Aqquilluk

Traditional Food Safety: A message from Hank Aqquilluk

POINT HOPE, Alaska -- Since the very first day Point Hope was criticized for leaving sick caribou on the tundra American Food processing plants have recalled hundreds of food products for suspicious reasons of possible food contamination. The most recent recall was on December 24, 2009 which had recalled 248,000 lbs. of beef from a distributor in Oklahoma who
sent products out to six different states and possibly more. Before this recall a distributor in Ashville, New York recalled 545,000 lbs. of beef that may have
been contaminated with E-Coli in the month of

November. After investigations into a rash of local illnesses

Authorities linked the sickness to tainted meat from Meat processors

which initiated recalls throughout all stores that sold the meats.

After two possible deaths and numerous illnesses related to the E-Coli

outbreak the New York company decided not to reuse the collected meat

in other food products as it is legally common practice to reuse

diseased meat by cooking it thoroughly. The company said all the

545,000 lbs. of meat will be going straight to the garbage. Anyone

sited for wasting? Or is this considered wasting at all?

The Indigenous hunters and providers in Point Hope are being charged

with waste and failure to salvage diseased meat when all of the U.S.

including Alaska wastes meat a million fold. All of the hunters in

Rural Alaska need your help now to reveal the safety issues involved

in handling and processing diseased meat. You can't just say: "All you

need to do is cook the meat long enough to eat it" as this is not the

case with this E-COLI recall. I would like to see how the public would

react to the authorities telling them to keep the meat since E-Coli is

safe to eat as long as you cook it long enough.

In the State of Alaska food recalls are almost common practice and

totally legitimate as far as laws may carry them but in Rural Alaska

traditional hunters are forced to go against their traditions and

salvage all diseased meat and pack it home with them no matter what

the case may be. Alaska Fish and Game currently makes it against the

law to leave even the smallest amount of meat behind; diseased or not.

Everyone must take the meat home and store it for at least four days

before throwing it out to waste. This is the Law. This law was

originally established to prevent sports hunters from leaving valuable

meat behind from their expensive trophies which today has not been

very effective in remote areas in Alaska. Although the hunters in

Rural Alaska serve a far greater purpose than sports hunters they fall

victim to these laws therefore endangering the health of the hunter as

well as the men, women, and children handling and consuming the meat.

This law was established in 1991 but none of the Tribal Government

Members claim to have heard of this law being passed. A lawyer for one

of the defendants being charged in Point Hope argued that the law was

not properly passed through the system because of the lack of

information provided to the Native Village of Point Hope. Despite the

absence of local newspapers and internet in 1991 the argument was

thrown out of court. Although the State published it in the Anchorage

Daily News and not in any local or regional newspaper it was deemed

legitimate, even though the news failed to reach the Community of

Point Hope, the judge ruled. So these hunters had never heard of this

law before but only knew what they were taught traditionally by their

forefathers and realized all of a sudden these laws are being thrown

in front of them. The Native Village of Point Hope was shocked since a

large part of their diet consists of raw and half dried traditional


Charges of waste include up to a $10,000.00 fine, at least 7 days in

jail and up to one year in jail and last but not least suspension of

hunting privileges for five years. These punishments may be viewed as

far too great than most people may realize since a Rural Alaskan may

not even make up to $10,000.00 in a single year, then spend up to a

year in prison leaving their children with other guardians or parents

who may just be lucky enough to have one of the few jobs available in

the community now having to quit their job/retirement/benefits and

stay home with the children since there is no such thing as childcare

in the village. Finally at last being convicted would also force their

families and other dependent community members to starve or otherwise

receive handouts for five long years all for the sake of protecting

themselves from diseased meat.

These caribou herds that travel through Point Hope spend their time

grazing, feeding all around the Red Dog Lead/Zinc Mine, sited as the

whole continent of North America's biggest polluter. Also on their way

to Point Hope these herds feed off the historically contaminated

Project Chariot site. And then not to mention the radioactive waste

that was dumped into the water systems around Point Hope as part of a

scientific study by Dr. Hansen to measure the period of time

radioactive waste begins to affect the food chain. It seems Rural

Hunters have a very good reason to take precautions. We have all seen

the effects in these animals as a result of Pollution. Not only have

we seen the effects in these animals but perhaps we have seen them in

friends or family members that have passed on due to high rates of

cancer in the surrounding areas. Our Indigenous Traditional knowledge

passed down from our Ancestors has taught us how to protect ourselves

thus recognizing potential problems found in the foods we seasonally

harvest. Alaska Natives were all taught never to take sick animals

home and we all have survived through this until now. Food Safety will

ensure the future strength of our people. This can be seen only as

common sense to those who just want to survive as their ancestors did

not very long ago.

With the Incredible history of the past and the growing Industries in

our regions we find more and more of these animals unfit for

consumption today. A major factor of this undoubtedly has to do with

the man made pollution of Nature’s wilderness. The Indigenous People

who continue to survive in the wilderness depend on subsistence and

are being fined and thrown in jail because traditionally they cannot

eat these animals which have been made polluted by unnatural man-made


I ask that you open your mind to my people's traditional beliefs and

practices and understand why we do this. From my point of view,

although I was shocked and angry at these beef recalls I can still

understand why this meat is being recalled. Now see that when my

people practice their own safety precautions we are thrown in jail and

fined by the Authorities.

Our traditional foods cannot be found on the grocery shelves in

stores but in the wilderness of our lands and waters. Traditional

foods are not ready to eat foods by any means. We are the harvester,

the butcher, the health inspector, and the consumer all rolled into

one. Most Urban people who buy food from the stores will never know

what it is to have to go through the searching, then butchering,

inspections then finally enjoying the food that sits on the table day

after day with peace of mind knowing that the food is safe to eat. We

too must not take risks of feeding diseased food to others. We too

deserve to have the right to protect ourselves from handling diseased


Write your Governor, Your Representatives and let them know that it

is unfair for Rural Alaskans to be forced to harvest diseased food.

Even the shortest of letters would make a world of difference.

Everyone should know that we as Rural Alaskans are legally referred to

as second class citizens but at the very least, we deserve the right

to protect ourselves from harmful food sources as does the rest of the

Country via FDA, USDA, etc. Anything less than this and it could be

very easily considered genocide on the people.

God Bless,

Aqquilluk Hank Sr. 12/29/2009

### End Message From Hank

Lets work together to send a message that we are united as Tribal

Members in our duty to protect and preserve traditional & customary

Tribal resources. Tribal Communities cannot afford to rest while our

food security is compromised.

Best Regards,

AI-TC Tribal News Team

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