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Real rural living may be overwhelming for some Yukon Men viewers

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Is the reality of life in Tanana, Alaska, becoming too much for some Discovery Channel viewers to handle?

The driftwood season has started in Tanana—and a black bear is taken down after it starts closing in on Stan’s home.

“The black bear at the dump?” Charlie asked. “He hasn’t come back for awhile, because maybe he’s found something else to eat; killed a calf or a moose or something.”

Well, he did find something else to eat, but it wasn’t a calf or a moose: It was fish at Stan’s home place. And, with a bear coming into his family’s space, it was time for Stan to take action. And, he did.

It is probably hard for many people living in urban areas to understand the threat of a bear, and why it is necessary to take one down now and then. Living in an area with a high bear population myself, it is just the way it is sometimes. As Stan explained, “99 percent of the bears that come by, they’re really shy of people. But, every now and then, bad food year, fishing year. One year, there were all of these bear attacks, black bears, they were attacking all sorts of people all over the interior. That’s when you decide you could use a little bear meat to eat.”

Rural Life Too Much for Some?

It is interesting, reading comments Huliq readers have made about Yukon Men. People often complain that reality television is too scripted, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Yukon Men. One reader in particular, “Huskers,” had a, well, unique take on the lifestyle residents live in Tanana:

No I"M NOT A TREE HUGGER!!!! People really have no business living in such a remote area...so what do they do, basically KILL everything they can so they can survive...really that's all the show is about, nothing more...sucks for all the wildlife.

Personally, I cannot say that I agree with this comment, or, frankly, even understand it. People have been living in extreme rural areas since, well, all that existed were extreme rural areas; there is no reason that they should be off-limits now. And, hunting, well, these people are not hunting for sport. They are not going out to just kill everything they see just because they can kill it. They certainly are not taking down the entire wildlife population, as Huskers implies. How hunting is negative but, apparently, buying processed meat in a Styrofoam package at the supermarket is okay … well, honestly, this particular comment really has me kind of baffled, regarding just where the commenter is coming from. Perhaps he/she will elaborate at some point, beginning with answering the question: Are you a vegan? Because, if not, the outrage at animals being killed for food really makes no sense.

Driftwood Season Begins in Tanana

Meanwhile, thousands of dead trees surfaced and were in the process of being forced down the Tanana River by the spring thaw. Charlie and other residents of the little town have about a week to get a year’s worth of wood from this driftwood. Like everything else involved with living in Tanana, it is dangerous. Wearing a life jacket is essential, Charlie indicates, as one can easily fall into the river and drown.

“The Tanana River is beautiful, but she’ll take you without any questions,” Charlie says. His stepfather, for one, lost his life logging, after falling into the water after a boating accident. “He was so far out in the river, he didn’t make it to shore,” Charlie explained. “You’ve gotta be careful,” he added.

That one sentence seems to sum up life in Tanana, Alaska: You gotta be careful.

Stay tuned.

Yukon Men airs on the Discovery Channel on Friday nights at 10/9c.

Image: Discovery Channel

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
People in Alaska have been living off the land for centuries. Whether they are native or not, they have the right to choose the life they live. Their way of life is obviously hard and the fact they hunt to keep food of the table does not make them uncivilized. To the contrary, they live a life that's real and they seem to have more respect for life than many of the people in the lower states. I have the utmost respect for these people, their skills, their caring for each other and their hard work and spirit. I love the program! I think it's the best show on. If you don't like it, don't watch it.

Submitted by Nat (not verified) on
my hubby and I love to watch these types of show, so tonight when we found Yukon men we were curious. however, within the first 30 minutes we were disappointed. i assumed the object of the show is to reflect to how some people are willing to live near nature, live FRUGLE and...which they consistently emphasize...prepare for winter. None of these things were reflected to me. in the show one of the daughters indicated they used to catch 200 salmon a day. There are only 360 days in a year, and only a little more than 180 of this is winter. if you catch 50 fish a day for 3 weeks thats over a 1000 fish! for one family for the winter? sounds excessive. and if they can come up with a way to generate electricity with a water turbine, can't they find a way to hang their fish that limits killing the wildlife? i watched them kill a female bear, never considering that they may have condemned a cub to starvation! And absolutely no offense intended, but it did become upsetting to listen to these people complain about needing more and more and more fish, when not one of them looked as if they'd missed a meal a day in their lives! and please, please stop complaining about catching MORE salmon to feed 40 dogs when 1 medium size salmon for us would cost about 30bucks. my great grandmother had 12 children and kept a 20x20 garden in her back yard and managed to can enough for her entire family for the winter! she raised chickens (for food and eggs) and pigs. and yes, as a child, i went fishing with my uncles. certainly not bringing home even 50, but enough to last for months. at 5 years old, i had to wake up at 5 every morning and work hard along side my aunts and uncles, all before going to school! we worked until the weather did not allow us to work. because of all the hard work, we were all lean and stronger. in conclusion, the people in this show seem like they spend more time doing nothing and then complain at the last minute! I don't think they use their time efficiently or wisely. I was not impressed and will not watch again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
You must be too busy living off the supermarket you're completely oblivious to how others live. If you watched the beginning episodes (I'm assuming you haven't) they talk about many generations living there which goes back hundreds of years. They've been living in that area I'm sure longer than your ancestors have lived in theirs. Again, if you watched other episodes you will see that a family doesn't just include parents and their children it includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors. They take care of each other to make sure no one goes without food. Also, they show respect for the animals and give thanks to them for the food. I'm sure the food you pick up at the supermarket wasn't respected or cared for. Because summer time is such a short window there is no time to garden, that's just ignorant to say. I don't know what you eat but fish is their main source of food (even for Thanksgiving). Also, there are only a handful of "big" men the majority are average weight and I don't think they care to be skinny. Average it out to your town and I'm sure the majority there is more in shape. It's sad that you are so simple minded and only see things through a single vision without being open minded and consider how other people live who are not like you. The people there are not asking for help or a handout from us, this show was only a window for people to see how they live. You took their concern for food as complaining, but they were only stating the fact of the situation. It's too easy for you to run to the supermarket, what would you do if that was you and the nearest town was 2 hours away, I'm sure you would not be to happy with the situation either. I think you saw one really big man and you based your opinion on him thinking everyone else was like him. If you're going to have an opinion don't jump to conclusion on one episode and don't assume the worst in people, if you do, I think you have a personal issue that has nothing to do with the show.

Submitted by Nat (not verified) on
my hubby and I love to watch these types of show, so tonight when we found Yukon men we were curious. however, within the first 30 minutes we were disappointed. i assumed the object of the show is to reflect to how some people are willing to live near nature, live FRUGLE and...which they consistently emphasize...prepare for winter. None of these things were reflected to me. in the show one of the daughters indicated they used to catch 200 salmon a day. There are only 360 days in a year, and only a little more than 180 of this is winter. if you catch 50 fish a day for 3 weeks thats over a 1000 fish! for one family for the winter? sounds excessive. and if they can come up with a way to generate electricity with a water turbine, can't they find a way to hang their fish that limits killing the wildlife? i watched them kill a female bear, never considering that they may have condemned a cub to starvation! And absolutely no offense intended, but it did become upsetting to listen to these people complain about needing more and more and more fish, when not one of them looked as if they'd missed a meal a day in their lives! and please, please stop complaining about catching MORE salmon to feed 40 dogs when 1 medium size salmon for us would cost about 30bucks. my great grandmother had 12 children and kept a 20x20 garden in her back yard and managed to can enough for her entire family for the winter! she raised chickens (for food and eggs) and pigs. and yes, as a child, i went fishing with my uncles. certainly not bringing home even 50, but enough to last for months. at 5 years old, i had to wake up at 5 every morning and work hard along side my aunts and uncles, all before going to school! we worked until the weather did not allow us to work. because of all the hard work, we were all lean and stronger. in conclusion, the people in this show seem like they spend more time doing nothing and then complain at the last minute! I don't think they use their time efficiently or wisely. I was not impressed and will not watch again.

Submitted by Nat (not verified) on
my hubby and I love to watch these types of show, so tonight when we found Yukon men we were curious. however, within the first 30 minutes we were disappointed. i assumed the object of the show is to reflect to how some people are willing to live near nature, live FRUGLE and...which they consistently emphasize...prepare for winter. None of these things were reflected to me. in the show one of the daughters indicated they used to catch 200 salmon a day. There are only 360 days in a year, and only a little more than 180 of this is winter. if you catch 50 fish a day for 3 weeks thats over a 1000 fish! for one family for the winter? sounds excessive. and if they can come up with a way to generate electricity with a water turbine, can't they find a way to hang their fish that limits killing the wildlife? i watched them kill a female bear, never considering that they may have condemned a cub to starvation! And absolutely no offense intended, but it did become upsetting to listen to these people complain about needing more and more and more fish, when not one of them looked as if they'd missed a meal a day in their lives! and please, please stop complaining about catching MORE salmon to feed 40 dogs when 1 medium size salmon for us would cost about 30bucks. my great grandmother had 12 children and kept a 20x20 garden in her back yard and managed to can enough for her entire family for the winter! she raised chickens (for food and eggs) and pigs. and yes, as a child, i went fishing with my uncles. certainly not bringing home even 50, but enough to last for months. at 5 years old, i had to wake up at 5 every morning and work hard along side my aunts and uncles, all before going to school! we worked until the weather did not allow us to work. because of all the hard work, we were all lean and stronger. in conclusion, the people in this show seem like they spend more time doing nothing and then complain at the last minute! I don't think they use their time efficiently or wisely. I was not impressed and will not watch again.

Submitted by Karen N63 (not verified) on
If you are offended by the people in Tanana hunting, make a visit to a slaughterhouse or a place that raises poultry. Commercial breeders have no respect for animal life and in most cases, the animals have a horrible existence. I love animals more than anything. I do not hunt, but I would rather someone take an animal in the wild which has lived its life naturally and not in confinement. Subsistence residents in Alaska hunt to put food on the table and take care of their needs. They are not trophy hunters. I think you have judged them harshly. I admire these people.

Submitted by CityBoy (not verified) on
I don't normally get up this early on a Sunday, but this is on my heart. A couple days ago I was watching the episode where they were looking for George Roberts, found him dead, and buried him. Then I watched the next episode (apparently a back-to-back Yukon Man show marathon type event) where a young man is taking rancid meat to the garbage dump. I was wondering if he was going to put a layer of dirt over the rancid meat. I was fully expecting animals at the dump. The young man leaves the rancid meat out in the open and is surprised by a bear, while he himself has forgotten his gun, and of course the camera men look on and film. Also at the end of one of those episodes (or during a coming attraction commercial), someone commented on "subsistence living". So these thoughts wake me this morning... Shouldn't one ALWAYS expect animals at the dump; ALWAYS bring their gun; and ALWAYS put a layer of dirt over the garbage? And if you don't put a layer of dirt over the garbage, shouldn't one ALWAYS expect animals at the dump; and ALWAYS bring their gun? So I find this site, although I intend to post at Discovery Channel if possible (as I'd like to inform the Tanana residents), and I see "Huskers" comment. The show definitely got me interested in subsistence living and I don't agree with "Huskers". In fact, I think the garbage dump may be a great "hunting ground" and it may be beneficial to NOT put a layer of dirt over the garbage. But I stand by ALWAYS expecting animals at the dump and ALWAYS bringing your gun. Is the show looking for ratings, or was that an act of negligence? Or both? -City Boy (Okay, I'm in my 40's, but I'm no Yukon Man)

Submitted by Irene garafolo (not verified) on
And I thought america was the gratest country in the world....i know these unhealthy uneducated people dont know who m. Ghandi is but he said: the greatness of a nation reflects on how that nation treats its animals. Well yukons kill the bear, he STOLE my fish, really?? You depleat the rivers. Say hello to the net woman, she doestoo! The bear is starved, you took his habitat .

Submitted by Nancy (not verified) on
.subsistence.adfg.state.ak.us/download/download/subupd00.pdf click on the above to view third pie chart on the page. It shows that 1% of Alaska's fish & game is taken by subsistence users. 2% by sport fishing and a whopping 97% by commercial (TRAWLER'S). TRAWLING in the Gulf of Alaska is the true enemy you should be targeting, not us small villagers who are allotted limited hours of fishing in Alaska.

Submitted by Nancy (not verified) on
Southwest Alaska Tribal Organization Seeks Clemency from Governor for Kuskokwim Fishermen Rhonda McBride 5:41 p.m. AKDT, July 22, 2012 The regional tribal government in Southwest Alaska says the state has turned a group of fishermen into criminals, when they were only trying to feed their families, according to tribal leadership. The head of the Association of Village Council Presidents, Myron Naneng, says that’s why he has asked Governor Sean Parnell for clemency for about forty fishermen, who were cited last month for putting their nets in the water during an emergency closure on the Kuskokwim River. Many also had their nets confiscated by state law enforcement officers. The action was taken to protect king salmon, headed for their spawning grounds, in some of the lowest numbers on record. The closure came during a time when racks at fish camps, up and down the Kuskokwim, would normally be full of king salmon, the staple of the diet for the region. “People were becoming desperate, thinking they would not be having fish for the winter,” said Naneng. “In our villages, it isn’t easy to be able to go to the store to buy food like it is in urban centers,” said Naneng. “Most people in the villages live off the land, from the rivers.” On Friday at a news conference to address the statewide king salmon crisis, the Governor said it’s premature for AVCP to ask for clemency for the fishermen. “As far as I know, nobody’s been convicted,” said the governor. “At this point, it’s prosecutorial discretion in terms of what happens with those charges.” AVCP has also asked the Governor to declare a state fisheries disaster, which he hasn’t done yet. Instead, the Governor has written the acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce, to ask for a federal disaster declaration. Parnell says a federal declaration is the best way to pursue disaster relief. “The standard is such that it’s easier, in my estimation at this point, to get a disaster qualified under federal law than under state law,” said Parnell, who cited legislative history as part of the barrier. “That’s due to a concern of abusing the system, and calling a little bit of hardship a significant hardship, so we’ve tended to rely on the federal government in these kinds of situations.” Parnell also said much of the data necessary to declare a state disaster is still being collected, and some of it won’t be available until the season is over, especially now that king numbers are at record lows on the Kenai River, where the run is only about half over. AVCP wants immediate action -- to prevent fishermen cited for illegal fishing -- from going to trial. In a letter to the governor, AVCP argued that many of those cited for illegal fishing are Yup’ik elders, who do not speak English and were not aware of the emergency closure, which Naneng says was called on short notice. The letter also talks about the panic people felt over the closure: “… some Fish and Game officials told village fishers to simply ‘go find something else to eat.’ With the high cost of fuel, rising costs of commodities, high unemployment, and lowest per capita income, this statement not only reflected a poor grasp of their situation and ways of life, but exacerbated an already very tense situation.” The letter also explains the Yup’ik concept of forgiveness. “’Pellugceciyaraq’ is the Yup’ik word for forgiveness. It literally means ‘letting something be past.’” The letter closes by asking the governor to consider the extenuating circumstances, so that villages can go back to providing for themselves instead of preparing for the legal defense of those cited. Naneng says the “food security” of indigenous peoples is a human right protected by the United Nations – and if the Native fishermen face trial, it could turn into an international issue. Naneng says he will turn to Native organizations across the state to help cover legal costs. In the meantime, Governor Parnell says it would be wrong for him to bypass the legal process. “I have never been involved in manipulating or controlling prosecutorial discretion,” said Parnell. “I wouldn’t do that, so that is left up to the Department of Law and will continue to be their purview.” On Friday, Parnell said state fishery managers have tried to be as flexible as possible, to allow kings to escape while at the same time giving fishermen some opportunity. On the Kuskokwim, net sizes were reduced so fishermen could target other species of salmon, such as chums and sockeyes. From a legal standpoint, another consideration is the precedent that might be set if clemency were granted. The majority of fishermen on the Kuskokwim did not violate Fish and Game’s emergency shutdown of the subsistence fishery. Copyright © 2012, KTUU-TV

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