Yukon's Impoverished Yup'ik: Servants of the Noble Salmon

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Salmon%20carpaccio.jpgThe Yukon keta salmon carpaccio comes on a frosty plate, thinly sliced, with fennel and red onion salad, drizzled with lemon oil and smoked sea salt. In the glass, chilled Willamette Valley Vineyards pinot gris. Sublime.

This was at Elliott's Oyster House, part of a five-course, fund-raising feast to benefit the people of Emmonak, an impoverished Yup'ik village. As Jon Rowley shows slides of his trips to western Alaska, you slowly begin to understand the cost, not in dollars but in human effort, in human misery, that makes this dinner possible.

It's been an extremely cold winter in the Yukon River Delta. Fuel skyrocketed to $8.70 a gallon. Worse yet, the 2008 commercial fishing harvest was nothing short of devastating. The result: a humanitarian crisis for several Yup’ik Eskimo villages, which depend on the salmon for subsistence.

To help support these communities in a time of great need, Elliott’s constirubed 25 percent of every Yukon Keta entrée sold last month to a "fuel fund" to help relieve the dire conditions in the villages. The salmon came from the community-owned Kwik'pak Fisheries, a cooperative formed in 2002.

The Omega-3-rich Keta, by the way, are considered the finest fish caught at the mouth of the Yukon, a 2000-mile-long river, vibrant and full of healthy Omega 3 oils.

Where, one might ask, is Alaska's governor in this crisis? Well, other than complaining to Esquire about "bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers," Sarah Palin did make a trip to western Alaska, where she was confronted by the Emmonak villager whose letter (and subsequent blog posts) brought attention to the matter. Palin contended aid was being delivered. That was two weeks ago. The affected villagers complain that it's far too little, far too late.

A footnote: you guys from the Northwest Animal Rights Network, listen up. You want to do something useful, quit picking on one restaurant out of thousands that serve foie gras and figure out a way to help people like the Yup'ik, trapped by their culture in an impossible situation. And you guys from PETA, go pull your "sea-kitten" stunt on the dock at Emmonak and see how much sympathy that gets your batshit-crazy cause.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on March 2, 2009 1:15 PM.

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