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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Erika Apathy & BECCC

In The Spotlight: Erika Apathy & BECCC

| In The Spotlight | December 2, 2021

Erika Apathy

Erika Apathy has been Director of Betty Eliason Child Care Center since August of 2019. Some people might say, “What a time for her to pick!” The 28-year-old understands the challenges and rewards of providing high quality childcare. Part of the center’s success Apathy credits to Assistant Director Ellen Hughes and her decades of experience with young children.

“Right now, the biggest challenge is Covid. Currently, we are not allowing parents into the classrooms. In June of 2020, parents weren’t even allowed into the building.” Apathy tells how the Center closed completely on March 16, 2020. They then staged re-opening, one classroom at a time, beginning with the preschool room. “I met with every single parent before we re-opened and explained Covid policies. We follow the rule book as far as there is one, but we also have to do creative problem-solving. New policies all go to our Board for approval.”

The center currently has only fulltime employees. “Workers are often not interested in having that exposure for their families for just parttime work. The state requires continuing education but it’s more difficult to get those CEUs now that we can’t just go to a 2-day conference in Juneau. Although the quality of online learning can be high. I did almost my entire education online, including my Master’s in educational technology.”

Re-done infant play room

Wait lists are an old story in the world of childcare, and BECCC is no exception. “We always have a wait list, especially for infants and toddlers. Right now, we are the only facility that takes the youngest kids. Part of why we closed initially,” she explains, “was to scope out the distancing and mask requirements and how to juggle different age groups. We do not have the kids wear masks inside our buildings.”

Then, Apathy comes to her favorite topic – improvements.

“We opened our infant room in 2016-17. Then closed it for two years, with a bunch of construction and the intent to re-open it on March 16, 2020. Well, of course, that didn’t happen, not until August of 2020. I wrote several grants and there have been really cool changes. Such as new storage and running water where there was none. Ellen came up with a way of re-configuring the infant space to include a food prep area. This all makes it work better for the people we take care of.

Re-done food prep area

“Outdoors, we completely re-did our sprinkler system. We’re re-doing our playground, added concrete bike paths and plan to add a play structure. Kids love our new “mud pit.” We have spring riders like those at SJ, and we’re having a play boat built, called “Sheet’ka.” These things are meaningful to the kids. We’ve gotten new furniture with help from Sitka Tribe. We re-did our floors. Previously, we had tiles attached with asbestos glue (!!)

“Covid, though, complicates everything. I will have these great ideas, but wood is now more expensive. Expense and supply chain stuff impact projects I want to do.”

Another focus for Apathy has been BECCC’s website. “I pushed to have a good website. Having all the policies, rate sheets, etc. online was something I wanted. The woman who designed the website worked closely with me, like when we changed our hours.

“Oftentimes folks ask about making donations, wondering if they can give books. But now, what I am really looking for is volunteers to help build sheds for bikes and take old stuff to the dump. Help in the spring moving and assembling playground equipment. I am proud of all our projects, but especially of bringing them all together to raise the quality of care. To improve the building to make it look like someone cares. And to make it functional for now and on into the future.”

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Drama, Debate & Forensics

In The Spotlight: Drama, Debate & Forensics

| In The Spotlight | November 4, 2021

2021-22 marks the sixth year Christian Litten has coached Drama, Debate and Forensics (DDF) at Sitka High. “It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I could ever imagine,” and not unlike coaching a sports team.

One of two coaches, Litten is in charge of the drama piece and overall logistics. The other coach is Amy Ainslie, who handles the forensics side of things.

Litten himself participated in DDF in 2000-03. “Back then, SHS had classes in drama and debate, which served as feeder sources for the competitive teams.” The classes ended when that teacher left. Ainslie, says Litten, is a skilled forensics coach, having trained at University of Alaska, Anchorage, a top U.S. debate school. Only in Alaska and one other state are drama and debate bundled into the same tournaments – this set-up works in a state with longer distances and a smaller pool of students.

Southeast DDF has 12 events. Under “Acting” are Solo and Duet Acting, Readers’ Theater and Pantomime. “Forensics” includes Humorous and Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interp (two people), Informative Speaking, Original Oratory (persuasive speaking), Extemporaneous Commentary and Extemporaneous Speaking. The two extemps have subtle differences. “Commentary” typically deals with shorter, lighter topics, while “Speaking” may address domestic or foreign issues, and students have just 20-30 minutes to prepare after drawing a topic.

“Public Forum Debate” is perhaps what we think of when we picture a high school debate. Two-person teams debate topics “that are accessible to the layman. These are meant to be done in front of the public, making it easier to find community judges.” PFD teams get new topics every month (unlike Policy Debate students who study one topic for the whole year). “You do not know which side you’re going to be on. Each tournament has six debates, and you have to prep for both pro and con positions, so you really have to know all sides of your topic.”

Last year, because of Covid the entire DDF program operated virtually. “Covid was very difficult. All of a sudden there’s no more ‘public speaking.’ A year of doing everything virtually. Different rules, such as ‘To make good eye contact, look directly into the camera.’ We were lucky, though. At least we got to have a season, even if bizarre one. This year we’re returning to live tournaments. Coming back has been a little struggle, but infinitely better.”

Upcoming tournaments include one in Juneau mid-November, one in Ketchikan mid-December, and a regional tournament hosted by SHS at the end of January. Finally, there’s the State Tournament in Anchorage the third week in February. The whole season has masking (except during actual debates), distancing and weekly testing. Coach Litten holds practices Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. Both he and Ainslie also put in a lot of personal time, finding and curating scripts.

“I never thought it would be something I’d even be allowed to do, but it’s a very fulfilling way of giving back to the community. I tell students, ‘You’re going to use these skills for the rest of your life.’ Every kid at the high school – there is something they can get out of DDF.”

“It was easily the most important activity I did as a student as far as shaping how I communicate, how I interact with people to this day.”

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Hohner Instruments

In The Spotlight: Hohner Instruments

| In The Spotlight | October 21, 2021

Sitkans who wish to sample or hear about the dulcet tones of Hohner musical instruments don’t have to go very far. Long time Sitka residents Gary Gouker and Michael Litman are both Hohner enthusiasts.

Hohner is a company founded in Germany by Matthias Hohner. The former clock maker began hand-crafting harmonicas in 1857 – that first year he turned out 650 of them! Harmonicas are still the company’s best-known product, but in later years they have also manufactured accordions, recorder flutes, banjos, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins and (perhaps most shockingly) electronic keyboards, some of which were sold in the 1980s as “Casio synths.”

Gouker’s box of harmonicas

Gouker plays and collects harmonicas. “I have boxes and boxes of them. They are kind of throwaway instruments which you play hard at the beginning of their life, then softer as you go on. I can’t say I have ever found another brand of harmonica I like as much as Hohner – it has always been a cutting-edge company.”

“Even if you take good care of them, harmonicas usually last three years max, and some way less. If you buy the better ones, it’s about $60-$70 apiece. Over the course of a lifetime, that’s more than the cost of a piano.”

Litman is also a fan of Hohner, specifically accordions. Two of his instruments are chromatic keyboard accordions – a style popular in Europe and Russia, often heard in European folk music – a genre Litman has enjoyed playing through the years.

“One of my accordions was given to me – accordion players tend to notice other accordion players,” he notes dryly. “I got my other one in Queens through Craigslist in the 1980s or 90s. I bought it for $2,000 from a professional Ukrainian musician – he played that accordion beautifully.”

Litman’s smaller accordion

“I am always looking for an accordion with a perfect tone – Hohners have a lovely tone and the added advantage of a compact keyboard.” He also owns several non-Hohner accordions. Traditionally made in Italy, accordions were crafted, “one-at-a-time, by hand – of wood, wax, leather, felt and metal. What the German company did was apply the principles of mass production.”

Over the years, Hohner has made dozens of different harmonicas but Gouker has “almost always played variations of the original Marine Band model. To capture the tone of 30s, 40s, 50s blues masters, Marine Band’s wooden comb is perfect.”

Gouker admits to an obsession with the blues. “Playing the blues is not so simple as I originally thought. When you really start listening to the early masters – Sonny Boy Williamson, Rice Miller, Little Walter Jacobs – they all played Hohners and that’s how they got that sound. It’s what the old guys played. Since the early days Hohner has been progressive in making improvements. And right now, people are taking the instrument to new places!

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Comments Off on In The Spotlight: Little Shop of Horrors

In The Spotlight: Little Shop of Horrors

| In The Spotlight | September 23, 2021

September 23rd marks the beginning of the “breakneck speed” rehearsal period for “Little Shop of Horrors” – Sitka’s first full-scale musical theater production in nearly three years. The cast and crew is comprised of both Sitkans and musical theater professionals from the San Francisco Bay area.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp organizers are going to extraordinary lengths to bring this show to Sitka while “making sure that people attending the show, the cast and crew are all safe,” says SFAC Operations Director Rhiannon Guevin. Producing a show on this scale during a time-of-Covid “definitely adds layers of complication to the process.”

Rhiannon Guevin

This particular show has an intriguing history and is considered fun and thought-provoking. The horror comedy rock musical was written by the team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (also known for Disney’s “Little Mermaid,” for example). Based on a 1960 low-budget black-and-white (non-musical) film by Roger Corman, the stage musical combines Mencken’s music – a la rock & roll, doo-wop, and early Motown – with Ashman’s lyrics and book. Ashman also directed the earliest NYC production off-Broadway in 1982; the musical ran for five years and was made into yet another movie in 1986.

“There is a lot that is dark about Little Shop,” says San Francisco cast member Katrina McGraw, “but this is not new for Menken and Ashman, nor even for Disney.” McGraw appears in the show as one of three “urchins” – sometimes referred to as “girl singers” – who act as a kind of Greek chorus, by entertainingly conveying the play’s themes. During our conversation, McGraw punctuates her comments with little riffs of music and lyrics from the play.

McGraw explains, “I actually watched (the Corman film) before my last appearance in the musical, in 2016 at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco. The two women who played ‘the urchins’ with me are the same ones who will be singing with me in Sitka, so that’s neat. Also, the woman who voiced the plant in SF will be voicing the plant again in Sitka. This is a modern change from the antiquated Broadway tradition of casting African American (males) as the villains – a refreshing twist which creates a different, very exciting relationship with Seymour and The Plant.”

Katrina McGraw

McGraw plays Crystal, and her co-urchins – Chiffon and Ronette – provide even more homage to 1960s girl groups. “For the first time ever, the three of us were nominated as a group for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ by the Bay Theater Critics Circle – and we won!! I think ‘the urchins’ represent different things: narrators, storytellers. Also, historically, girl groups were a huge part of that era, so that was kind of a smart way to include women of color. Everyone dies at the end of the musical play. My take on the ending is that it has to do with greed and is kind of a warning (Adam and Eve come to mind).”

Guevin discussed the production. “This will be our third musical show we have done on this scale: “Last Five Years” and “Songs for a New World” and this is number three. This one has a pit orchestra and full costumes. We asked ourselves, ‘What is a show that would be do-able for us (at this time, under these conditions)’ – and this seemed like a good choice – pretty small cast, but still fun for Sitka.”

The lead character of Seymour (Rick Moranis in the 1986 movie) is played by San Francisco singer and actor Sam Faustine. Guevin has known Faustine since their college days at the University of Puget Sound. He later attended the SF Conservatory of Music and has played Seymour before. “Sam is the link to the other professionals and the musical side of things,” notes Guevin. “Sitkans may remember him as Freddie Mercury in our Queen Tribute a few years ago.”

Sitkans in the production include Christian Litten as the dentist and Andrew Hames as Mushnick. Jack Peterson is building the plant “Audrey II” and doing the puppeteering. Jack’s mom Soutera is doing costumes and working backstage. And Guevin herself is playing Audrey. The “road pit orchestra” includes Sean Kana (SF Bay Area) on keyboard and music director, Alicia Jeffrey (SF Bay Area) on synth, Trevor Wiest (Minneapolis) on guitar, Drew Sherman (Sitka) on bass and Ed Littlefield (Sitka) on percussion.

“I think the main thing,” says Guevin, “is that this is going to be a fantastic show; the production quality is going to be on a par with any show you would see down south.”

Adds McGraw, “For a lot of us, it’s going to be our first time back on stage in a year and a half (or more). It is very exciting and might be emotional.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” will be presented at the Performing Arts Center at 7pm on Oct. 1 and 2, and 2pm on Oct. 3. Tickets may be purchased online at

Says Guevin, “For anyone who is nervous about attending an in-person show, our mitigation steps include requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination at the door and universal masking at all times while in the PAC. The performers will be fully vaccinated and will have received a couple rounds of Covid testing. We are taking measures seriously to try and ensure everyone’s safety.”

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Comments Off on Food For Thought: Carbon Fees

Food For Thought: Carbon Fees

| Food For Thought | September 23, 2021

An Op-Ed from Kay Kreiss, Sitka Citizens Climate Lobby

We are in dire straits from global warming – with fires in the Pacific Northwest; Hurricane Ida hitting the Louisiana coast and then killing people in New Jersey and New York; flooding in the South and Midwest; and drought in the Southwest. All these climate-exacerbated misfortunes are already here, and most of us know someone in the Lower 48 who is affected.

In Southeast Alaska, we are affected, as well, by smaller fish, shellfish poisons and drenching rains that have resulted in landslides. But there is something we can do!

This month we have an unprecedented opportunity to get the United States to lower greenhouse gas emissions which cause the earth to warm. We need immediately to decrease the use of coal, oil and gas – the major sources of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides that constitute greenhouse gases. How? The quickest way to decrease use of fossil fuels is to make them more expensive. We can do this by having the producers of fossil fuels pay fees that begin to account for the costs of climate change, air pollution that affects our health, and the tragedies we are now experiencing due to severe weather and forest fires. These fees must increase every year. The fees collected by the government can be returned to households to spend as they desire. We will need these climate dividends to pay the increased prices for gasoline for our cars, heating oil for our homes, cement for construction, and metals in our appliances – all of which use fossil fuels.

Biden got a bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress that will help us get electric cars, but it is not enough to meet his goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Democrats are working on another infrastructure bill of $3.5 trillion, but even that will not cut emissions in half. To be successful in stabilizing our earth’s climate, we need a price on carbon in fossil fuels. The Senate Finance Committee is drafting a budget Reconciliation bill for a massive infrastructure package (a bill that can pass with just Democratic votes). That Committee is now considering a carbon fee (not part of the original Democratic package for climate legislation). We need to make sure the Reconciliation bill includes the carbon price, with accompanying rebate to U.S. households.

You can help make this happen! Email President Biden to say that you want a price on carbon at  Tell your Alaskan senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, that you want a price on carbon at Tell your Alaskan representative, Don Young, that you want a price on carbon at This is our best chance to get rapid action to lower fossil fuel emissions.

A price on carbon is not enough, but it is the best first step. Do it for yourself and for the youngest generation that has to live in this increasingly tragic world. Your personal choices to help the earth are not enough. We need our whole society to act now.

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Comments Off on Food For Thought: Indoor Cats

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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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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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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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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