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Food For Thought: Indoor Cats

| Food For Thought | August 12, 2021

An Op-Ed from Abigail FitzGibbon

If you have both a cat and a closed door in your home, it’s likely the former has tried to get through the latter — either by begging you with plaintive meows to open it, trying to scratch straight through the wood, or slipping through as soon as the door’s left ajar.

Some cat owners point to this behavior as evidence of a cat’s innate desire for freedom, and argue that in order to satisfy this desire, their cat needs to be allowed to roam freely — specifically, to roam the outdoors.

However, letting your cat into the outside world unsupervised is far from the best way to meet its needs. In fact, it’s often severely detrimental, both to your cat and to the world around it.

Let’s start with the latter. As a member of a domesticated species, your cat is not native to any ecosystem; cats are an invasive species in any ecosystem they enter, and as such, they carry deadly consequences with them.

One 2013 study estimates that domestic cats roaming the outdoors kill an estimated 1.3 to 4 billion birds and 6.3 to 22.3 billion mammals each year in the lower 48 alone, figures which would give Felis catus the highest death toll out of all human-related causes of bird or mammal death.

Although the majority of these kills are performed by unowned or “feral” cats, owned “outdoor/indoor” cats are still responsible for a significant portion of these deaths; keeping just one more cat indoors can save dozens of lives among your local wildlife.

Just as your cat spells trouble for more vulnerable species outdoors, the perils of the outside world — motor vehicles, larger predators or other cats looking for a fight, poisonous plants and other dangerous substances, et cetera — can put your cat at significant risk of injury, or even death.

The average lifespan of a cat who primarily spends time outdoors is estimated at just 2-5 years, compared to an indoor cat’s typical lifespan of 10-15 years.

Plus, your cat’s excursions can put you at risk of more than just dead animals on the doorstep; some of the diseases cats more commonly contract outdoors, like toxoplasmosis and rabies, can be passed on to their human owners.

It’s understandable to want your cats to have access to the benefits of the outdoors, such as fresh air, new stimuli, and big spaces to stretch their legs. However, there are better solutions than letting them outside whenever they please.

To provide them with fresh air, consider letting them explore a contained outdoor area under your supervision, like a fenced-in yard or screened porch, or training them to walk with you on a leash. Their hunting instinct and need for stimulus can be safely sated with extra playtime, which can also result in a closer bond between you and your furry friends.

With these methods and some time and patience, even cats who are used to going outdoors can learn to live happy indoor-only lives. And in the long run, those lives will likely be much longer, safer, and overall happier ones.

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Comments Off on Artist Profile: Rico Lanáat’ Worl

Artist Profile: Rico Lanáat’ Worl

| Artist Profile | July 29, 2021

On July 30, 2021, the U.S. Postal Service is releasing “Raven Story” – a new “Forever” stamp designed by Southeast Alaska Tlingit artist Rico Lanáat’ Worl.

Sitting at his computer in Sitka’s Sheldon Jackson Museum (he was artist-in-residence in mid-July), Worl shared how “Raven Story” came to be.

A few years ago, Antonio Alcala, an art director for the U.S.P.S., discovered some “Trickster Company” artwork at the National Museum of the American Indian and reached out to Worl. “Trickster Company” is the name of the family business started by Worl and his sister Crystal.

Worl chose “the ‘Box of Light’ as the foundational story that conveys basic info about Raven, a very common figure in Tlingit stories.” As a child, Worl remembers seeing the ‘Box of Daylight’ video produced by the Naa Kahídi theater, “and, of course, I read and heard the story out loud many times.”

“A time ago there was no celestial light. People lived in darkness. Raven heard of a chieftain who owned a collection of items of great light… Raven and the chieftain’s daughter had a baby raven. In that child’s youth, he loved the boxes…which held the sun, the moon, and the stars. A grandparent’s love is immeasurable. He let Raven play with the box of daylight. Raven brought the sun, the moon, and the stars to the universe.”

For Worl, the stamp “depicts a moment of climax in one of (Raven’s) heists. Raven is trying to grab as many stars as he can, some stuck in his feathers and in his hands or in his beak. Some falling around him. It’s a frazzled moment of adrenaline. Partially still in human form… as he carries the stars away. I think it’s a moment we all have experienced, the cusp of failure and accomplishment.” The artist wants “to continue people’s engagement and help them to learn.

Raven’s Tlingit name is “yéil” – the “ei” is pronounced like “a” and to pronounce the “ell” sound, said Worl, you first shape your mouth like an “ell” and then “take your voice out and just push air through your lips.”

How was working with the U.S.P.S.? “I created some drafts and sent them to the art director, who worked with the Stamp Approval Committee and did a good job of advocating for me. Six months of drawings, sketches and back-and-forth, till we got the final design.”

Only recently has Worl “expected the title of ‘artist’. Creativity is integral to our culture. Most of my work comes out of my anthropology and design studies (U of PA) – crafting a tool for its purpose, having contact with museums and old masterworks.” Living in Juneau, Worl works closely with Sealaska Heritage Institute, whose art department he originated.

“My education helped me define a lot of the cultural issues surrounding art, for our community. We can actually go in there and create our own market.”

Lest anyone doubt Worl’s relationship with Raven, they have only to  look at his right arm. Ravens frolic down its length, thanks to Dave Lang (of High Tide Tattoo Shop in Juneau).

“I credit most of my success to ‘playing’ – Raven playing in the wind on my shoulder was the first tattoo. Other Ravens coming down the arm represent me and my community, a variety of people I have learned from.”

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Comments Off on Sitka Eats: The Fresh Fish

Sitka Eats: The Fresh Fish

| Sitka Eats | July 1, 2021

Having just spent time with family in California, I realized that (especially in the heat) we often found ourselves “going out for poké.” Imagine my surprise when I returned to Sitka and discovered that a new mobile food cart was advertising “poké bowls.”

What, you may ask, are poké bowls? Food cart operator, cook and bottle washer Barbara Palacios would be happy to tell you.

Palacios started “The Fresh Fish” in 2019. She first came to Sitka in 2014 to cook for Ludvig’s Bistro. “I came to Sitka to work at Ludvig’s because of an ad I found on Craig’s List. I was also intrigued by the outdoor opportunities, since I had backpacked a lot in Chile.”

Palacios was born in Chile; her parents left when she was three, moved to Costa Rica and ultimately immigrated to the U.S.  As an adult, she has re-visited her birthplace and has explored Alaska – backpacking and working as a cook – in Talkeetna, for example.

But what, the reader may persist, is poké? The word poké is Hawaiian for to “slice” or “cut crosswise into pieces.” That is exactly what Palacios does – she takes fresh raw fish, cuts it into little chunks and serves it in a bowl with rice and veggies (cucumber, jalapenos, green onions, mushrooms, radishes and  edamame). Palacios sources her veggies “from local grocery stores” and her bowls are centered around “locally caught, sushi-grade raw salmon and ahi tuna.” She offers siracha and other sauces to put on top.

“Fluffing the rice is my favorite part of the prep,” she admits.

Long a Native Hawaiian staple, poké became popular in North America about 10 years ago.

Why poké? I quizzed Palacios.

“I actually came to poké through ceviche. We (Sitka) are so associated with fish, have so much fresh fish. I did poké because I love fish; I knew the limitations I had with my food cart and I knew how to make really good ceviche and poké, so I wanted to bring these dishes to Sitka. And from all my customers’ responses, they’re happy I did.”

Ceviche – said to have originated in Peru (possibly as far back as the Inca) – is made from raw seafood that is “cooked” or cured in lemon or lime juice, and combined with chili peppers, chopped onions, salt and coriander. In Chile, the dish often made with halibut or Patagonian toothfish (AKA Chilean Sea Bass), marinated in lime and grapefruit juice and seasoned with minced garlic, red chilis, mint and cilantro.

In addition to poké bowls and ceviche, The Fresh Fish serves chowder, gazpacho (a cold soup made of raw, blended vegetables that is eaten in Spain and Portugal), other soups and curry.

Summing up, Palacios says, “I just wanted to provide Sitka with some other fresh, healthy fish alternatives.”

The Fresh Fish take-away food cart has been found Thursday-Friday at 1210 Beardslee Way and Saturday-Sunday in front of AC Lakeside Grocery. Beginning in July, the cart will be at 104 Cathedral Way (across from ACS) “at least five days a week, probably from 11:30am-3pm – the schedule may vary. Or if I sell out,” she adds as an afterthought. The Fresh Fish will also be at the Fourth of July booths.

Current menu items and locations can be found on Palacios’ Facebook page:

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Anna Prussian & The Medvejie Solstice Run

In The Spotlight: Anna Prussian & The Medvejie Solstice Run

| In The Spotlight | May 20, 2021

SHS sophomore Anna Prussian is looking forward to the 2021 Medvejie Solstice Run. While she’s been running track in Sitka since the sixth grade, Anna actually began running in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in the second grade. She and her family moved to Sitka in 2013 when her mom, KK Prussian, got a job as a hydrologist with the Forest Service.

These days, says Anna, “My main event is the 2-mile and then, I am also on a 4×8 team.” The runner describes the 4×8 as a relay race with teams of four people, in which, “Each person that you hand off to runs 800 meters, which is two laps around the track. I also run the mile.”

Although this will be her first time in the Solstice Run (which was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid), Anna speaks very highly of the SHS track and field program and the folks who coach – Shasta Smith, who coaches distance events and Jeremy Strong, who is head coach and also coaches sprints.

Track and field events have historically included the 1- and 2-mile runs; 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter runs; and the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Relays are the 4×100 meters, 4×200, 4×400 and 4×800, and there are also field events (shot put, discus, high jump and long jump).

Now in its 15th year, the Solstice Run is an annual event to benefit the SHS track and cross-country teams. KK is one of the parents on the committee putting together the 2021 event. She noted that the race has consistently generated at least $1,000 to put towards the teams.

The Run course was modified when Sawmill Creek Rd. was being re-constructed a couple of years ago. Construction inhibited the use of the highway and the race was moved to the dirt road beyond the Beaver Falls trailhead parking. While runners considered the new course more difficult, they really liked the gravel (versus pavement) surface. The race, noted KK, has remained in this location ever since.

This year’s Medvejie Solstice Run will take place on Saturday, June 19 at 9am. The three distance events will begin and end at Herring Cove, adjacent to the Beaver Lake Trailhead parking lot at the end of Sawmill Creek Rd. All races will head out toward Medvejie Hatchery and back. The 1/2 marathon turn-around is at the Green Lake Power House; 10K near the Medvejie Hatchery; the 5K at about half-way out to the hatchery. Solstice Run organizers describe the course as hilly and urge contestants to train accordingly.

Registration fees are as follows: 5K – $25; 10K – $30; 1/2 marathon – $40. SHS students run for free. Pre-registration is highly recommended & available at – search for “Medvejie Solstice Run.” Race Day Registration begins at 8am at Herring Cove and will cost $10 more. Visit the Medvejie Solstice Run page on Facebook for more information, or email

Volunteers are warmly invited to support the event. For more information call Jenn at 738-6635.

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Armchair Travels May 2021

In The Spotlight: Armchair Travels May 2021

| In The Spotlight | May 6, 2021

In 2013, Sitkan Michael Mausbach traveled to Thailand and spent five months there, during the “hot season” from January to May.

Known until 1940 as “Siam” Thailand is (per Wikipedia) “…located at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula…bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by Myanmar and the Andaman  Sea…Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia (Thailand was) the only nation in the region to avoid being colonized by foreign powers…”

Photo Credit:

The 2013 adventure was a solo one for Mausbach, which he embarked upon as part of an independent research project connected with his undergraduate thesis. During his time in Southeast Asia, he also spent two weeks in the (historically fraught) nation of Cambodia. Mausbach’s particular interest, though, lies in Thailand’s role as a (subjugated) ally of Japan during World War II and the cultural memories of that time.

“Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I developed an interest in the ‘politics of memory’ – specifically how and where memory is explored in a dynamic way. My faculty advisor had lived in Thailand and was a fluent Thai speaker. I also became deeply interested in the Japanese role (in Southeast Asia) during World War II.”

Wikipedia describes the “Death Railway” as a 258-mile railway between Thailand and Burma, “built by the Empire of Japan from 1940–1944 to supply troops and weapons in the Burma campaign of World War II.” Construction was completed using forced labor and resulted in the death of 90,000 Southeast Asian civilians and more than 12,000 Allied POWs.

When I asked Mausbach to tell me more about the “Death Railway” he said he became fascinated with “what went into the story of The Bridge on the River Kwai and why America became so invested in this story. It became like a kind of rabbit hole for me – this particular episode in history.”

“Going into it, I was using my research as (an entry point) for this facet of World War II that is often overlooked. So much of Thai tourism (these days) is oriented toward the beaches of the south, whereas I spent most of my time in the central Thai province of Kanchanburi.”

“I took this photo of the building because the color gradient was beautiful, and Bangkok is full of overgrown buildings.” – Michael Mausbach

Kanchanburi (again, per Wikipedia) is home to one of the most well-known parts of the railway… Bridge 277, the so-called ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ built over the Khwae Yai River.

Mausbach also told me a bit about his background and how he came to live in Sitka. “I went to Evergreen State College in Olympia (Washington) with Margot (O’Connell) and got my undergrad degree in Global Studies and International Relations, with a minor in cultural analysis. Then, after SE Asia, I took a seasonal job with the Science Center, and have been in Sitka ever since.”

These days, his day job is as the Manager of Business Operations and Human Resources for Sitka Salmon Shares. He also serves on the Sitka Health Coalition and the board of the Sitka Sound Science Center.

Where does Mausbach see himself in the future?

“I had originally thought of academia, but now more and more I see myself moving into economic impact work, work that honors human resilience, and helps ensure that communities are resilient – economically and culturally.


On Thursday, May 13th the public is invited to hear Mausbach share stories and photos from his travels in Thailand, where he spent time researching the politics of memory and military ruination along the Death Railway. This event is part of Sitka Public Library’s Armchair Travels Speaker Series and will be held via Zoom. The registration deadline is 12pm on May 13th. For more info. or to sign up, please call 747-4020 or email

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Comments Off on Food For Thought: 51st Earth Day

Food For Thought: 51st Earth Day

| Food For Thought | April 22, 2021

An Op-Ed from Sitka Citizens Climate Lobby

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. Roughly 18,600 trips around the sun later, we see the vast effects of climate change. Just in the past year, we’ve seen hurricanes, forest fires, landslides, heat waves, coastal floods, a freeze in Texas, and human climate migrations – all heightened in an environment of Covid-19 and racial & economic injustice.

Earth Week 2021 is a chance to re-think what we owe our planet, ourselves and future generations. What impact can one person, one family, one town/state/country possibly have??

You and I can be part of solutions to avoid further greenhouse gas emissions, decrease CO2 levels and cut emissions in half by 2030.

We can conserve energy by: turning off lights and computers; insulating our homes; walking, biking, carpooling; taking buses; using LED lighting: retiring old cars for electric vehicles; planting a garden; eating less barged-in beef; and switching from fuel oil heat to electric heat pumps. There are ways to find funding for these more energy efficient ways of living.

We can also speak up about policy to our city and state officials. Cities, for instance, can institute (on-bill) financing for landlords and homeowners to install heat pumps, and other measures, with energy savings paying for these upgrades over a few years.

Businesses can benefit with C-PACE. The Alaska legislature in 2017 opened the way for municipalities that do property assessments to develop “Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy” programs. Anchorage is the first city in Alaska to do so, on April 1, 2021. C-PACE makes it possible for owners and developers of commercial properties to get low-cost, long-term financing which is paid back through an annual assessment on the organization’s property tax bill. Since energy retrofits require local labor, we keep more money and jobs in our communities, too!

As Alaskans, we can remind ourselves about the power of moving water – wave and tidal power can be pivotal, given our thousands of miles of coastline and many rivers. We can also be advocates for electric grid improvements by promoting micro-grids and renewable energy sources such as rooftop solar. Wind and solar combined technology would provide year-round energy.

Individual and municipal actions are not the whole story, though. We also need bipartisan national action. A national fee on fossil fuel production can motivate businesses to invest in green energy and infrastructure that will not only protect the environment but will also save money.

With collected fees paid as a monthly dividend to households, most Americans will be protected from increased prices arising from fossil fuel fees. A carbon-fee-and-dividend bill (re-introduced in Congress as HR 2307) may also inspire international cooperation, with a border tariff placed on goods from countries who do not have comparable carbon fees. Forty countries already have some form of carbon pricing.

These strategies will work. They will strengthen local economies and protect our health by decreasing air pollution. We can all be advocates for our planet by calling or writing our legislators – Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Don Young – asking them to support carbon-fee-and-dividend as a first step.

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Comments Off on Artist Profile: Jerrod Galanin

Artist Profile: Jerrod Galanin

| Artist Profile | March 25, 2021

Jerrod Galanin was born in 1977. These days he lives with his wife Brit, nine-year-old Arya, ten-year-old Ruby and their four-month-old son. Their full house looks out over the ocean and other creatures who make their home on the ocean. That water and that wildlife are where Galanin gets much of his inspiration.

Galanin is the Sitka artist who designed the new logo for Brave Heart Volunteers.

How did the notion of designing a new logo for the beloved local organization come about?  Galanin (who serves on the board of Brave Heart) says, “Originally, there was no idea of doing a new logo, I just wanted to create a design that BHV could use on shirts as a fundraising effort. They are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year and I thought maybe if we put the design on a shirt, they could sell the shirts to raise money.”

But then, Brave Heart liked Galanin’s design so much, they decided they wanted to use it as their new logo.

When asked about his artistic influences growing up, Galanin sites first and foremost his dad, Tlingit carver Dave Galanin.

“My dad was my mentor. Another important one was my uncle Will Burkhart. I learned a lot from them. And then, my great grandfather was George Benson (who designed the totem pole in Totem Square). Unfortunately, I did not really know him, since I was born just a year or so before he died.

How did Jerrod arrive at such a distinctive design for the logo?

“I liked the idea of a heart shape and I worked my formline into it. I also liked the idea of Raven and Eagle as lovebirds. Having both together represents a way to keep balance. I wanted to do something with a more contemporary feel – like depicting Raven and Eagle together – this is something that is not commonly done. And, also, having the bright colors. And, finally, I kind of snuck in ‘BHV’ into the negative space.”

Jerrod says he really thinks the best way to learn about art is “through a mentorship, like I had with my dad and my uncle. Steve Brown is another person I worked with.”

The young Galanin has worked in various media. Much of his work is engraved silver jewelry and there’s some carving in wood. But, he says, “I am always trying new media – in the past year I’ve been doing a lot in pastels. Pastels can be really big and messy,” he says. “With my son David being born in December,” he says, “lately I have been grabbing my ipad and doing digital drawings.”

And where can someone who’s interested find examples of Jerrod’s work? He has a show coming up in April at Seattle’s Stonington Gallery. “There will be some drawings and pastel works on display there for the whole month. Then, there’s my website, which shows different kinds of work I have done. The store in downtown Sitka (Galanin & Klein) has some of my work. And, of course, there is the 20th Anniversary celebration for Brave Heart, on April 17th. I’ve been a board member just since 2020, so I’m not terribly experienced, but I think it’s a great organization and I am happy to be part of it.”

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Sitka Tells Tales

In The Spotlight: Sitka Tells Tales

| In The Spotlight | February 25, 2021

When I spoke recently with filmmaker and documentarian Ellen Frankenstein, she explained, “Normally we do Sitka Tells Tales live in a small space in Sitka.” But in the Covid-19 environment, this local staple, like so many forms of art and social interaction, has had to adapt.

On Feb. 25th, people will get to experience Sitka Tells Tales through the venue of Raven Radio – either streaming the live performances or listening to them on KCAW 104.7 FM. The stories will also be archived on

“Storytelling is all about listening – you relate, you’re impacted,” says Frankenstein. It seemed almost like a natural to have live storytelling transmitted via radio.

Each person’s story session is limited to 6 minutes. “The process by which people decide how to tell their stories is super-collaborative,” says Frankenstein, as is putting the event together. “Sitka Tells Tales has a history of collaborating with other community organizations and non-profits.”

The storytelling format is flexible. “Some of the past stories have included poetry and even music.”

“We want to draw in people who don’t always get to ‘go to the podium.’ There are usually about five tellers, who work together on their stories before the public event and offer each other feedback. In the past, this pre-work has been by gathering together in a room, but this time is being done over Zoom.” Not ideal, maybe, admits Frankenstein, but still workable.

Tellers and producer alike must have “a tolerance for uncertainty, because you never know what interesting and serendipitous changes might ring in at the final performance.” These last-minute changes can produce results which are “unexpected and sometimes heartbreaking.” She adds, “The stories are not read; they are shared.”

Frankenstein believes listening to each other, laughing and sharing moments of heartbreak together, changes us. People truly are changed by the hearing of other people’s stories.

In a Sitka Tells Tales some years ago, I heard the story of a Sitka woman whom I had known for many years, but I (as I told Ellen) I never felt I knew this woman so well as after I heard her story. It changed my understanding of her forever.

I asked how Frankenstein came up with the theme for each show – like “Foot in Mouth” for this one.

“Sometimes,” she said, “a person will come to me with a story they want to tell, and I will build the theme around that. Other times, the theme comes out of conversations I have.”

Frankenstein is excited about getting the word out and encouraging participation, “not just in Sitka, but in other places as well.”  She wants to work with storytellers from communities in Raven’s broadcast range. “It would be good,” she says, “for people in Sitka to hear stories from all around.” The collaboration with Raven may prove a perfect opportunity, a kind of lemonade.

Frankenstein welcomes questions and suggestions for future themes and tellers. And she always welcomes volunteers to make it all happen!

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: The Sitka Spelling Bee

In The Spotlight: The Sitka Spelling Bee

| In The Spotlight | January 27, 2021

I recently spoke with Jeff Budd and Kari Sagel about the long and distinguished history – and 2021 reincarnation – of the Sitka Spelling Bee. The 2021 Bee will take place on Thursday, Feb. 24th, and Bee organizers are actively looking for contestants. New news: the first 16 teams to Register will have their registration fee paid by one of the 2021 Sponsors!

“The Bee started in 2009. Davey Lubin came to us with a desire to raise money to help another library in need, and Sarah (Bell, who was the library director at that time) came had the idea for the spelling bee.” says Kari. “Us” is The Friends of the Library, which, together with the library itself, sponsors the Bee.

So, the 2009 Sitka Bee became a fundraiser for a library down in Guatemala through an organization called Probigua (“Proyecto Bibliotecas Guatemala” – a nonprofit that brings educational opportunities to rural children in Guatemala). You can read about their work at

Another year, the Bee was in aid of Haitian libraries affected by the 2010 earthquake.

But where do the words come from? I asked Kari. “I and some other folks pick them out,” she admitted. “It started with words I just liked or found intriguing. Then, over the years I came up with funny sentences for the words. Scripps (the national school spelling bee organization) is now doing this, which I find amusing,” says Kari.

One year, Kari became fascinated with the word “talisman” and her sample sentence was, “He placed his lucky talisman so that it touched both of his bingo cards.”

Sitkan Paul Norwood has also come up with words. Kari describes Paul as “a naturalist, nurse, and National Guardsman. French by birth. He is a great speller, no matter the language. Funny part to me is that the French language accounts for at least 30% of English words.” Kari says one of the most memorable “Paul” anecdotes was “The French Debacle,” in which many words were either French, or English derived from French. Needless to say, Paul won that one.

Kari’s chart of past spelling words is a delight to behold, with word/pronunciation/sentence combos such as:  Bungalow/buhng-guh-loh/She wanted to be the kind of girl who lived in a bungalow and had friends who wore berets. AND Piracy/pahy-ruh-see/Tom contemplated a life of piracy on the Bering Sea.

In more recent years, says Kari, Bee funds have been used for whatever the library needs, and to support “Babies and Books” and the “Imagination Library.” The event, to her knowledge, has never before been broadcast and has actually not been done in the few past years, not since the library remodel.

The original Bee was at least partly the brainchild of one Jeff Budd, who – along with the eponymous Don Muller (as in one who mulls it over) – constituted “Team Zero.” Says Jeff, “Don and I competed in all of the subsequent Bees, maybe six or so.”

The 2021 Sitka Spelling Bee, says Jeff, will take place on Wed., Feb 24th from 7-8:30pm. The Bee – or at least the contestants – will be arranged in an enticingly masked, safe and socially distanced fashion – at the Centennial Building. Then, the event will be broadcast on Zoom for the edification of Sitkans (and others) who would like to view it.

The Rules for this year’s Bee are shaping up to look something like this:

  • A “team” consists of one or two people. The entry fee is $20.00 per person* (*The first 16 contestants/teams to register will be underwritten by one of the Bee sponsors.)
  • Robert Woolsey will be the host and give the words.
  • Lifelines may be purchased to assist your team in spelling. Each team may use two lifelines during the bee. No lifelines will be used in the last two rounds.
    • $5 – Allows the team to Ask a Zoom Audience Member for help. They spell it once and then the team spells it correctly.
    • $10 – Allows 30 seconds to Call a Friend for help. The 30 seconds starts at the end of the question or when the call is placed to the friend (??) Contestant(s) must get the spelling, hang up, and spell the word within the time.
    • $20 – Allows 30 seconds to Find the word in the Dictionary, close the book, and spell the word correctly. You may write on your hand with your finger, but not with a pen or other device.
  • You may restart spelling but must repeat the letters already given exactly in the order they were first given.
  • If no one in a round spells a word correctly, then everyone in that round comes back for the next round. To win the Bee, the last speller has to spell his/her own word and a championship word. If a speller misses the championship word, all the remaining spellers from the previous round will be reinstated.
  • Contestants must wear a mask and practice social distancing as required by the Centennial Building.

People who wish to be in the Bee must contact Jeff Budd to Register. People may call Jeff at 747-4821 or email

When, I ask, can people start contacting Jeff? Immediately! Forthwith! ASAP! Pronto!

2021 Sitka Spelling Bee Sponsors:  The DUCKfather & Sitka Rotary Club, Sitka Checkered Tours, Christine Harrington CPA Services, Venneberg Insurance, Precision Boat Works, Old Harbor Books, Cindy Westergaard/Neurobehavioral Consultants LLC, Hames Corporation, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Foreign Auto, Sitka Soup, First National Bank of Anchorage

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Comments Off on Artist Profile: Tyler Eddy

Artist Profile: Tyler Eddy

| Artist Profile | December 3, 2020

What would the holidays be without Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

That’s the question Tyler Eddy asked himself early in this unusual year. His answer was to create Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in miniature in Legos for the front window of Harry Race.

Eddy and his companions-in-Lego -architecture, Aiden Kennedy and Greg George, have been doing the holiday season window in the Sitka pharmacy for five years now, as a labor of love and obsession.

“Every year has a theme,” explained Eddy on the phone in mid-November. “Last year was Harry Potter, and another year it was Carnival. The theme is important because that’s what gives direction to the project.”

Eddy, who is married and has three kids, was born and raised in Sitka and has been a Lego enthusiast since childhood. He started collecting in 1984 at age 10. “I actually got started because of my older brother Tim, who went to Legoland.”

When Tyler met & married his wife Sarah, “Our first decision was where to go on our honeymoon – it would have to be either Legoland or Egypt” (they ended up doing both). The couple honeymooned at the original Legoland in Denmark. Tyler has also done what he calls “field research” at California Legoland and Legoland in Windsor, England.

“There are Legos in every room of the house. When we had kids, one of the first rules they learned was ‘Don’t Mess with Dad’s Legos,’” Tyler chuckled. “I sort my Legos by piece, I have tubs in the attic and a desk that I use for building.” The Sitkan likes building with Legos “because it’s about remembering your childhood and building whatever you want to in your imagination.”

Tyler & Sarah’s kids are Calysta, 8, Scott, 13, and Isabella, 16. “Scott’s probably the biggest Lego fan,” says Tyler. “He especially likes to add lights. Calysta likes to have Lego people doing things like a woman painting a cat with a roller at City Hall.” Every house or structure in the holiday window “has lights on the inside. When we first started you had to hand-solder the lighting. And this year’s windows contain a total of 600+ mini-figures.”

Tyler got his start building Lego storefront villages with his brother Dan Elstad at the REACH building in Juneau. “Then, one year I asked Trish and Dirk if we could put a Lego scene in their window.”

Eddy eventually met “other people who do Legos, like Aiden Kennedy & Greg George. Aiden also collects; he might have a larger collection than me. I get together with them–or used to before Covid–a couple of times a week. This year we were able to build (the display) in an unused room at UAS. We then take it apart and move it all into the window – it takes anywhere from two to five hours to re-build it in the window.”

Typically, the three Lego architects start planning months in advance and start building by June.

How has Covid-19 affected their process? “Well, there’s not as much getting together and what there is, is with masks. But I have to say, Covid did cement this year’s themes of ‘Parade’ and ‘First Responders.’

Eddy’s current day job is with the Ferry System at the Sitka Terminal. He’s also done photography for 20 years, “mostly for fun and as a hobby” and does the “365 Alaska” Facebook page. “Sitka Volunteer Dive Captain Greg George did the smaller window this year, on First Responders. And Aiden Kennedy was all over, helping out on both windows.”

Eddy adds (and one can picture the twinkle in his eyes), “There’s an acronym–AFOL– Adult Fans of Lego, and that’s a thing.” In addition to enjoying the creation itself, he says, “I’ve also had a lot of fun with the Lego friendships I’ve made. That’s actually more than half the fun!”


Anyone interested in the building process can see a slide show of this year’s on Tyler Eddy’s Facebook page. For the “I Spy” Contest, pick up an “I Spy” checklist from the front desk at Harry Race. Be sure to write your name, age & phone number for the prize drawing. Go see how many different things you can find in the window.


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Artist Profile: Traz Hill

| Artist Profile | October 22, 2020

The winning design for the new Seal of the City and Borough of Sitka was announced Tuesday night, October 13th at the Assembly Meeting. The design was created by Aaron Traz Hill.

Hill – who goes by “Traz” – is a 30-year old tattoo artist who grew up in Sitka and now lives with his wife and two kids in Oklahoma.

Traz attended Blatchley Middle School and graduated from Sitka High School in 2008. He moved to Sitka in 2001 with his parents Sonja & Ron Conner, who came to Sitka through work with their church. Sonja works for AK Air and Ron for Sitka Electric.

In early October, Traz received an “unofficial” notification from CBS that his design had been selected; this was followed shortly by the $1,000 prize check, but it “really seemed real when I heard my name announced at the at the Assembly Meeting.”

How did Hill first hear about the City Seal Contest? “I was here with my wife and kids visiting my folks earlier in this spring, and they brought it to my attention.” Traz says he has traveled to Sitka a couple of times this year – the second time, sadly, for the funeral of his grandma Ursula Zertuche, who died in May. Zertuche (a naturalized U.S. citizen originally born in Germany) lived in Sitka for several years in the 80s and from 2013 until her death in 2020. In early October, Traz received an “unofficial” notification from CBS that his design had been selected; this was followed shortly by the $1,000 prize check, but it “really seemed real when I heard my name announced at the at the Assembly Meeting.”

Traz admits, “It was pretty difficult traveling (with the Covid-19 restrictions) but we were just careful and it was ok.”

Traz says growing up here influenced him as an artist and “filled me with a lot of the qualities of Sitka.” His career as a professional tattoo artist started “about seven years ago. I had dabbled before that but was not initially drawn to (that field) maybe partly because of my religious upbringing.” He has done art his “whole life, coloring and drawing from a young age.” He attended Sitka Fine Arts Camp, where besides art classes, he played percussion in jazz band, and was active in Sitka baseball.

Later on, Traz took some college art classes and “learned a lot.” He got his professional tattoo license in 2014, and is presently licensed in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Alaska.

When asked if he still draws on paper, Traz affirmed, “Every day!” His parents and grandmother were “always very supportive.” He particularly remembers “watching Bob Ross in the late 80s on PBS on grandma’s TV.” He was inspired by Ross’ show “The Joy of Painting” with its “real time” demos of oil painting techniques. Hill recalls Ross’ intimate speaking style and obvious appreciation for Alaska’s natural world.

When asked about how he came up with his city seal design, Traz said how vital it was to him to include Alaska Native design elements, because “There wouldn’t be a Sitka without Natives because they lived here first.” Thus, the prominent totem pole in the foreground of the design. The young artist also attended a “Native carving course at Fine Arts Camp (and learned that) the design elements and the process were very structured.”

“I also wanted to include both the bridge and fishing; I couldn’t decide between them.” He and one of his brothers worked in seining and tendering. ‘It was about more than (making) money,” said Hill. “There was a feeling of tranquility out on the water.”

“And I needed to get the Coast Guard (into the design), somehow, since they rescued my brother Chatham, after a potentially fatal accident.” Hence, the helicopter in the sky in Hill’s creation.

When asked about a couple of slightly different designs he had produced for the seal, Traz said that his original design had brighter colors (a notably bright orange sky). “Sitka has some really pretty days and sunsets,” he admitted. But when the City Seal committee asked the finalists to make revisions, the artist came up with his “revised design with more muted tones, for a timeless, more official feel.”


The new CBS City Seal was selected (in a blind selection process, where artists were not identified), and involved input from both the public, the City Design Review Committee, local boards and commissions, and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

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