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Alaska editorials

September 26, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Sept. 21, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Honoring James Dalton: New sign will bring namesake of Dalton Highway out of obscurity

Many Alaskans have driven the Dalton Highway or could easily find it on a map. But how many are familiar with the highway’s namesake, James Dalton?

Mr. Dalton was a petroleum and mining engineer whose influential research on the North Slope led to the development of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. He believed oil development would make Alaska a better place and spent six years researching the Slope for the Navy through 1954. Mr. Dalton eventually compiled his research and made a presentation to then-Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton. After Alaska gained statehood, his work and presentation led the federal government to begin commercial exploration of oil on the North Slope.

Mr. Dalton continued working in oil and gas development from Fairbanks. As late as 1974, he was working as a consultant for the Navy and its business partner, the Husky Oil Co.

Those who were close to him said Mr. Dalton was a modest man. In fact, he refused to bid on the oil leases he had researched.

“If I made offers to lease ground ... people might think that all I had in mind in writing the reports was to make a pile of money for myself. We can’t have that. All I want to do is to help Alaska develop so that we Alaskans can stand on our own feet.”

“Jim was one of the finest engineering talents in the history of Alaska,” Dr. William Wood told the News-Miner after Mr. Dalton’s death in 1977. Mr. Wood was a former president of the University of Alaska. “He was a quiet, very dedicated and hard working person who has done notable work through most his adult life in Alaska.”

His contributions were great, but he remained obscure to many Alaskans, even after a major highway was named after him in 1981.

More than five years ago, Mr. Dalton’s widow, Kathleen “Mike” Dalton, who worked multiple stints as a Daily News-Miner reporter, began campaigning to have signage installed on the Dalton Highway to tell the story of her husband’s important work. Two years ago, Ms. Dalton created 14 signs that told her late husband’s story. With the help of family and friends she nailed these signs to trees and other features along the Dalton Highway. Recently, Patty Peirsol of the Alaska Pioneers teamed up with the Tanana Yukon Historical Society to create a sign commemorating James Dalton’s contributions.

A sign memorializing James Dalton has been installed at the turnout at Mile 1.1 Dalton Highway near Livengood.

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Sept. 23, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Fighting suicide in Alaska happens one conversation at a time

Some problems aren’t measurable in numbers.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of numbers that tell us how serious a problem suicide is in Alaska: At more than 22 suicides per 100,000 residents, Alaska’s suicide rate is almost twice the U.S. average and is regularly at or near the highest of any state in the nation. More than 150 Alaskans per year, on average, end their own lives. And young Alaska Native men specifically are at risk, with a suicide rate more than four times the national average.

But there’s no way to quantify the loss of a sibling, of a best friend. There’s no way to adequately measure the contributions Alaskans lost to suicide would have made in their communities — the families they would have raised, the children they would have inspired, the work they would have done. All we know is what a suicide feels like when it happens close to us: devastating and incomprehensible.

In the wake of a suicide, we are always left wondering what more we could have done. And although there’s little sense abasing ourselves over actions we could have taken in the past but didn’t, that sentiment can be helpful if turned forward. We can’t save those who are already gone, but we should do everything we can to help those who are here and in need of help — and to seek that help ourselves when we need it.

Some of the Alaskans bravely standing up to speak out on a subject that is often taboo are also among the youngest. A 4-H group from the Interior Alaska village of Tanana has for years tackled difficult subjects, with young people in the community speaking out about how they have been affected by suicide, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse. Along with adult leader Cynthia Erickson, they have spread their message in high-profile venues such as the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention, as well as via a river journey earlier this year in which participants visited communities along the river system and shared personal stories and gave support to residents of other villages.

There are other solutions that can help combat suicide on an institutional level: Alaska has a well-acknowledged mental health services deficit, and resources to more quickly help those who are struggling could make a world of difference in some cases. And informational campaigns to spread awareness of resources such as the Alaska Careline, (877) 266-4357, can connect people with someone they can feel safe talking to about their issues.

But we each also have a responsibility on an individual level, to be those people to whom our friends and family members can feel safe talking and in whom they can confide. We all struggle at times, and there is no reason we must struggle alone.

Suicide is a thief that robs Alaska of some of its brightest lights and its tallest trees. To fight it, we must stand together, giving help to others when they need it and reaching out when we do. To the extent that we can win this fight, we will win it through love and connection with one another.

If you or someone you know needs help, the Alaska Careline can be reached at (877) 266-4357. The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255. And you can connect to a trained crisis counselor at any time, 24/7, by texting 741-741.

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Sept. 24, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Another step

There’s no quick and easy answer, but that’s not stopping state and federal officials from addressing the nation’s wellness.

Detracting from that well-being is the massive amount of addiction in Alaska, as well as other parts of the nation.

Addiction comes in many forms. One of the most prevalent at present is opioid addiction.

It would be wonderful to be able at the snap of the finger to implement a solution to the problem and check the opioid crisis off the to-do list.

Instead it’s a matter that will take time and untold effort by Alaskans — and other Americans, too — from the addict in small-town U.S.A. to the nation’s chief executive.

This past week the U.S. Senate showed its commitment to combating the opioid crisis by passing the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. It’s a bipartisan bill to which more than 70 U.S. senators contributed provisions.

More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, the highest number ever. The deaths included Americans at all socio-economic levels; people from good homes and bad ones; people with no home and people with multiple homes. People who were loved by many and those who barely had a loved one.

The bill is designed to tackle all aspects of the opioid problem, from stopping synthetic drugs from entering the country — primarily from China — through the U.S. Postal Service to assisting states with prevention, treatment and recovery.

The House will consider the bill. It’s the type of bill that the federal administration will endorse.

It’s one step in a long walk toward eradicating opioid addiction and ensuring the nation’s well-being from the inside out.

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