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Suzanna Caldwell

KOTZEBUE -- When students enter walk the Alaska Technical Center in the Northwest Arctic, they first have to go through a tall qanitchaq (an arctic entry or mud room), complete with a nearby bench for pulling off boots and high windows that look out on the waters of Kotzebue Sound.

From there, it’s off to class for students at the technical center, where residents from rural Alaska communities in grades 11 through 14 (essentially through an associate's degree) can focus their higher education...

Suzanna Caldwell

Two civil rights organizations filed a joint brief in federal court supporting a challenge to Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and the NAACP, Anchorage Branch filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in Hamby v. Parnell, a suit seeking to overturn Alaska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Alaska ACLU executive director Joshua Decker noted that Alaska was the first state to adopt a constitutional marriage ban in 1998, despite Alaskans cherishing “freedom and equality.”

“It treats people unfairly. It treats them differently from each other,” Decker said Friday. “It’s inequality baked into our constitution, and we hope the court will strike (the amendment) down.”...

Suzanna Caldwell

When a group of rural Alaska fishermen along the Kuskokwim River violated a chinook salmon fishery closure in 2012, they argued that their right to fish stemmed, in part, from deeply held spiritual and cultural beliefs . But did practicing those belief s trump conservation of the fish, which were coming back in increasingly small numbers along the river?...

Suzanna Caldwell

Former Alaskan Miranda Barbour, who claims to have killed 22 people in Alaska and elsewhere, admitted Tuesday to killing a Pennsylvania man she met online just for thrills.

The WNEP reports Barbour, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault, robbery and possession of an instrument of crime in Northumberland County Court during a scheduled status hearing Tuesday. Her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22, also pleaded guilty to the same charges as part of a plea deal. Both were facing the death penalty. WNEP reports they now face possible life in prison...

Suzanna Caldwell

Unusually warm weather could have led to the die-off of hundreds of chum salmon on the Kobuk River in Northwest Alaska, officials say.

A necropsy conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s pathology lab on a fish collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicated a normal, healthy salmon, though it had multiple types of algae stuck to its gills and skin. That indicates a high level of algae in the water, according to Fish and Game chief pathologist Tim Meyers, and that fish are dying from “low dissolved oxygen” in the water.

It appears that a stretch of warm, sunny weather in the region led to an increased algae bloom, wrote Susan Georgette, outreach specialist for the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge...

Suzanna Caldwell

Officials on Monday identified the four people who were critically injured in a sightseeing flight that crashed near Atigun Pass in northern Alaska Sunday afternoon as a Fairbanks pilot and three Canadian passengers.

A Navion L-17A aircraft crashed about 400 feet from the summit of Atigun Pass at approximately 1:45 p.m. Sunday, according to Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska office. The site is close to Mile 243.5 of the Dalton Highway and the trans-Alaska pipeline. Employees of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. reported the accident and were first on scene...

Suzanna Caldwell

KOTZEBUE -- Picking berries, drying fish, butchering seals: For lifelong residents of the Northwest Arctic, these aren’t just “traditional” activities, they are a way of life.

Knowing that, managers at “Utuqqanaat Inaat,” the long-term senior care facility at the Maniilaq Health Center, have worked hard to make sure such activities are folded into everyday life for residents.

“We try to get them to do the things they’ve always done,” said Val Kreil, administrator of Utuqqanaat Inaat. In Inupiaq, the name means a “place for elders.”

But there was a basic activity they couldn’t do: Serving traditional foods like caribou, wild-caught salmon and other wild game from the region...

Suzanna Caldwell

KOTZEBUE -- In an industry full of booms and busts, the Kotzebue commercial chum salmon fishery is exploding.

After decades of fluctuation, including a time when the fishery all but ceased to function, it’s back this year and fishermen are slaying.

So far, about 80 permit holders -- about 69 of whom fish on a consistent basis -- have brought in 4.45 million pounds of salmon. On July 28, those fishermen brought in 534,000 pounds of fish to the fishery, 10 times more than the average of 50,000-70,000 pounds of fish that usually get caught each day...

Suzanna Caldwell

Some Kotzebue residents got a noisy awakening early Friday morning. A thunderstorm drifted over the Northwest Alaska hub community at about 3:36 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, bringing with it lightning and .4 of an inch of rain.

For much of the rest of the world, thunderstorms aren't extraordinary. But Fairbanks-based forecaster Jim Brader noted that Kotzebue averages .6 thunderstorms a year, or roughly one every two years, and they hardly ever occur at night.

Kotzebue, population 3,000, is on a mile-long gravel spit that juts into Kotzebue Sound. The maritime climate usually prevents thunderstorms from rolling into town, preventing warm, moist air at lower levels from mixing with cooler air at higher elevations...

Suzanna Caldwell

Northwest Alaska is having a cabin break-in problem. But in a twist, the issue isn’t troublemaking teenagers; it’s curious bears looking to find their next treat.

“Dozens and dozens” of cabins all across the region have been ransacked by bears this summer, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Kotzebue area wildlife biologist Jim Dau.

From Selawik to Sheshalik, to Noorvik, Kiana and Ambler, residents are reporting their remote cabins have been raided by roaming brown bears. While bear break-ins in the region are not uncommon (last year there were about a dozen) Dau said he’s hearing of more -- and more widespread -- than usual...

Suzanna Caldwell