With the federal government forced to make $85 billion in budget cuts, sequestration is hitting home and culture camps are on their own.
Facing a major loss in federal dollars, local fundraising is underway to save Camp Qungaayux, the annual summer Aleut culture camp in Unalaska.
“That’s why we’re forced to do this fundraiser,” said Hariett Berikoff at the event which included $10 per plate meals, a silent auction and split the pot gaming. The spaghetti feed raised about $3,000, she said.
The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska received $15,500 last year from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to agency spokeswoman Cathy Rezabeck. Additionally, the agency paid for a staff person to travel to Unalaska and Sand Point from Homer.
Statewide, $200,000 was cut for the camps, operated through national wildlife refuges, including the Togiak Refuge Salmon Camp for a loss of $8,000; Togiak Summer Outdoor Skills and River Ecology Float Camp, $8,000 cut; Becharof Bear Camp; and the Cape Peirce Marine Science and Yupik Culture Camp, with $8,000 eliminated, FWS spokeswoman Cathy Rezabeck said May 27.
Funding was eliminated for culture camps in Sand Point, St. Paul, Togiak, and other Bristol Bay communities, because of sequestration, she said.
“There were hard decisions we had to make,” Rezabeck said.
This year, saving Camp Q is a community effort, said Berikoff who was a camp founder in 1997 along with Moses Dirks and the late Emil Berikoff Sr.
“We all need to work together to make this happen,” Berikoff said.
The camp includes arts and craft activities and traditional foods including freshly-caught marine mammals, and is open to the whole community.
“We want to keep our culture alive and share it with everybody, not just the Unangan people,” Berikoff said.
Rezabeck said most camps will still operate this summer in Alaska, though on a reduced level in some cases, and two have been canceled for lack of funding.
The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge will fund Youth Conservation Corp jobs for two youths in Unalaska and two in Sand Point, she said.
Fundraising help in Unalaska is also coming from Alyssa McDonald’s Unalaska Coupon Book project, originally intended to help local young artists, scientists and athletes, through the Arts and Cultural Enrichment Organization. The book’s mission has since expanded to helping save Camp Q, she said.
The current coupon book expires July 31, and McDonald’s hopes to issue a new one, with more sponsors. Deals include two meals for the price of one at local restaurants, and similar deals at other businesses in Unalaska.
The Unalaska Dancers performed at the spaghetti feed, and more dancing volunteers are needed, regardless of age, said dancer Delores Gregory, who invites everyone to join. Practices are held Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Burma Road Chapel on Wednesdays and at the community center on Thursdays.