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Alaska eyes its permanent fund

National correspondent Joaqlin Estus gives us more details on the Alaska governor's push to punish financiers. And Meghan Sullivan is sharing details about the stories she's digging into.

Joaqlin Estus, our Tlingit national correspondent, is on the show today! She'll tell us more about why Alaska's governor is aiming to punish financiers opposed to Arctic drilling.

Plus freelance Koyukon Athabascan journalist Meghan Sullivan is on the newscast today. Meghan has more on how the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine is going for Alaskan Natives.

Some quotes from todays show

Joaqlin Estus:

"The Trump administration is rushing to sell oil and gas leases in the [Arctic National Wildlife] Refuge before president-elect Joe Biden takes office, and it looks like they are going to get it done just days before the inauguration on January 20th. There is opposition to the drilling from six banks including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citibank among others, who have said they will not finance development in the refuge." 

"So Dunleavy said it doesn't make sense for the state to let them benefit from dealings with the state while working against Alaska's interests. And he says it's in Alaska's interests to have a robust oil and gas industry. Ninety percent of the state government here is financed with oil revenues. And it's been like that since the 1980s. The state has $65 billion in savings from oil revenues. So the state definitely has an interest in keeping the oil revenues coming in."

"Here's the thing. Alaskans get an annual dividend and it comes out of the permanent fund. And Alaskans are very aware of the fact that if the legislature takes money out of the permanent fund to spend on state services that could mean or will mean less money for the dividends. So that makes the politicians really conscious of that. And they do want to keep the balance up."

Meghan Sullivan:

"There wasn't anyone too concerned [about getting vaccinated]. Not for this particular story. I think more of the general sentiment was around the excitement that it was actually reaching these remote areas. But I think as you saw in the Canadian story as well as you're seeing across the nation right now there are some concerns. So I bet there are some people who might be a little bit concerned about it but kind of the general sentiment is that people are more excited that it's able to reach so many of these remote villages." 

"A big part of Alaska history is the story of the 1925 diphtheria outbreak which occurred in remote Alaska kind of specifically in Nome. And so at the time there was no serum there, antitoxin serum, that could kind of save the people in the village from this outbreak. And to get the antitoxin serum there they basically had to take on this multi-day journey in the heart of winter, to get the vaccine equivalent to Nome. This was 1925 right so they didn't have a lot of transportation and they had to take this dog sled team all the way to Nome in these horrible winter conditions." 

"This was led by the famous sled dog Togo and also Balto. And so naming this operation project Togo is kind of reminiscent of Alaska's past incidences of vaccination endeavors to get it way out there in remote Alaska. So I think that might be another reason why people are a little bit less kind of concerned about this vaccine coming through remote Alaska right now is that we've had incidences of this in the past and it's kind of a repeat of history almost."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, she is a longtime journalist. Follow her on Twitter @estus_m or email her at jestus@indiancountrytoday.com

Meghan Fate Sullivan, Koyukon Athabascan, is a Stanford Rebele Fellow for Indian Country Today. She grew up in Alaska, and is currently reporting on her home state from our Anchorage Bureau.

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