In a word: Revival — Language class speaks to effort to revitalize Dena’ina

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jolene Sutherland, left, laughs with Dena’ina elder Helen Dick, of Lime Village, during a session of a Dena’ina language class offered this semester at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. Dick, one of the few Dena’ina language speakers around who learned the language as a child, visited the class to help with pronunciations and support the effort to not only preserve the language that was in danger of dying out, but to help it thrive.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jolene Sutherland, left, laughs with Dena’ina elder Helen Dick, of Lime Village, during a session of a Dena’ina language class offered this semester at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. Dick, one of the few Dena’ina language speakers around who learned the language as a child, visited the class to help with pronunciations and support the effort to not only preserve the language that was in danger of dying out, but to help it thrive.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Shizhi Besi qilan. Shugu shqiya qilanda Kahtnu. Shugu yeshdu da.

When translated, the students in a Dena’ina language class at Kenai Peninsula College weren’t saying much. Just practicing simple greetings in the Cook Inlet dialect of Dena’ina, the language spoken by the Athabascan Natives indigenous to the Kenai Peninsula region.

Literally: My name Besi it is. Thus it is my village Kenai it is. Thus it is where do you sit?

More familiarly in English: My name is Besi (Dena’ina for “owl.”) I live in Kenai. Where do you live?

But for a language that, not long ago, was in very real danger of dying out, speaking at all communicates much more than just, “Hi, where’re you from?”

Contorting the mouth to make sounds that don’t exist in English says, “I value this heritage.”

Coaxing the words from memory, rather than peeking at written notes, demonstrates integration with Dena’ina culture and traditions.

The mere fact that 15 students — many of whom are young adults — are taking the semesterlong language class at KPC communicates that the effort to not only rescue, but revitalize the language is gaining momentum.

“This is the language of this community,” said class instructor Sondra Shaginoff-Stuart. “It’s the validation of who you are. I think what’s important is a lot of our families heal from (the disconnection of) not being able to speak their language. I think so much has been lost, and the thought of having identity to a place where there was a language there — your family’s language — and to bring that to the surface, I think is really important to bring about healing for a community. For individuals that are of the language, I think it’s a sign of identity, that they can speak their language that couldn’t be spoken before. And just bringing that language to the forefront, it’s an important language for our community, for everybody.”

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Alcohol a tricky issue for area youth — Teen drinking subject of town hall discussion

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The news of an incident is shocking — a teen assaulted at an underage drinking party. The assaults may range from embarrassing, such as a victim having their head or eyebrows shaved, to the devastating, such as with cases of sexual assaults. At least in the lesser events, adults might chalk it up to teens being teens. Some might read resulting headlines with a disapproving tsk-tsk and go on about their business, not to think of the issue again.

One local entity wants to do more.

“We have reasons to be alarmed, but there are things we can do in this community, as a community, to make positive changes,” said Stan Steadman, a member of People Promoting Wellness though Community Action.

The group held a town hall meeting Friday to discuss underage drinking, facilitated by the Roundtable Center for Mediation and Community Dialogue. The goal was to create a community dialogue to share information about how underage drinking affects local youth and the community as a whole, and to gather community input on what can be done to address this issue.

Steadman shared statistics compiled by the state’s Division of Behavioral Health. Kids who drank prior to age 13 had a 47 percent chance of becoming addicted to alcohol at some point in their lives.

While these numbers were shocking to those in attendance, Steve Atwater, superintendent for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, shared even more grim statistics that focused specifically on local numbers.

“I see a lot of data about our kids, and our kids are drinking more than the rest of Alaska, and that’s concerning. There are few incidents of alcohol in schools or kids drunk at school, but it is prevalent on weekends,” he said.

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A vote for satire — Triumvirate’s election-year “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” set to spoof

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It’s down-to-the-wire time as Nov. 4 approaches. Campaign signs dominate the landscape. Election rhetoric is omnipresent. Speeches are being perfected. Images are being tweaked. Digs and jabs at opponents are being sharpened. Song-and-dance routines are being polished. All the last-minute stops are being pulled out to catch attention.

That’s not only the case for candidates. The performers of Triumvirate Theatre’s “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” political satire show are rehearsing their lines for Friday’s opening night as frantically as a candidate in the homestretch of the election.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

It’s hard to say which is funnier at this point — the sketches as written, lampooning some of the biggest quirks, quips and personalities of this year’s election season — or the sidebar comments made while preparing them.

“Am I supposed to be screaming because I’m getting attacked by a bear, or because someone wants me to go on Sound Off?” said Chris Pepper, seeking clarification during a sketch where he plays Thom Walker, the one-time Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate, trying to survive in the literal wilds of Alaska as well as the political wilds as a third-party candidate.

“Wait, are you going to talk like you’re on helium the whole time?” director Joe Rizzo asked Dan Pascucci, playing, at that moment, an agitated Matt Wilson, KSRM’s general manager, berating news director Catie Quinn for not being able to drop her Australian accent in pronouncing the radio station’s call letters. A “My Fair Lady,” “Wouldn’t it be loverly” riff ensues.

“Yes,” Pascucci replied. “I’ll probably pass out, but it will be hilarious.”

Triumvirate has been doing “Lame Ducks” every other year since 2006, creating each show from scratch to parody whatever is making news, raising eyebrows and rolling eyeballs that election year. The actors onstage poke fun at people on the local, statewide and national stage, and the donations of humor are doled out evenly between the parties.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

“Humor is the highest value, not the politics,” Rizzo said.

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New vote count approves animal control

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

After 1,800 absentee ballots were tallied, Kenai Peninsula voters spoke in favor of animal control by a 3,388 to 3,383 count. Proposition A would have been defeated if not for the absentee and early ballots. 
Since it was an advisory vote, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is given the voters’ go-ahead to launch a boroughwide animal control department to respond in areas outside of cities.
The second question on funding the new program, however, did not meet with voter approval, by a big margin — 4,306 no to 2,451 yes. That question proposed to pay through an additional service area tax that amounted to about $3 a year per property owner.
The new borough ballot count put a further spread between incumbent Mayor Mike Navarre, who won re-election at the head of the Kenai Peninsula Borough with 5,895 to Tom Bearup’s 3,894 and Carroll Martin’s 1,000 votes. Navarre took 54 percent of the vote to Tom Bearup’s 35.9 and Carrol Martin’s 9.2 percent. That is up from the preliminary count of Navarre’s 4,794 votes to Bearup’s 3,270 and Martin’s 846 votes.

Status quo from voters

Voters most notably went for the status quo in the Oct. 7 elections. Mayor Mike Navarre agreed that voters on the borough level were satisfied with the current administration, or he would not have won re-election. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Good cameras come in portable packages

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Canon’s new G7X and other 1-inch sensor cameras are not the only models packing big camera image quality into a highly portable package. With a bit of thought, you can fit Micro Four-Thirds image quality into a jacket pocket.

As readers may recall from last week’s article, it’s the depth of the projecting lens that primarily reduces a camera’s portability, not the width and height of an otherwise thin object. Thin depth is why large screen smartphones remain easily portable.

Interchangeable-lens cameras give you a different option. You can detach the lens, which is often fairly thin, and carry the camera and lens detached. When that’s done, many rangefinder-styled M 4/3 cameras become quite portable while providing image quality and versatility that’s a large step up from 1-inch sensor cameras. Even better, the Olympus interchangeable-lens models mentioned this week, including their standard kit zoom lens, are less expensive than new Canon and Sony fixed-lens models using smaller 1-inch sensors.

Illustration 1. From left, Canon G7X, Olympus E-PL7, Olympus E-PL5 and  Panasonic GM5.

Illustration 1. From left, Canon G7X, Olympus E-PL7, Olympus E-PL5 and Panasonic GM5.

Today’s Illustration 1 shows several potentially suitable compact camera bodies. On the left is Canon’s G7X, a 1-inch sensor camera shown here with its fixed lens retracted into the camera body. Next is Olympus’ new E-PL7, a sturdy, fully featured, interchangeable-lens M 4/3 camera body. Olympus’ E-PL5 is third from the right and, at the moment, is priced competitively for a large-sensor, M 4/3 body. It’s about $200 less than the newer E-PL7 but may soon be discontinued. On the right is Panasonic’s new GM5, one of the smallest M 4/3 cameras and the most camera in this comparison. Of these, only the Panasonic GM5 includes an eye-level electronic viewfinder, a nice feature that may justify much of the GM5’s higher price.

I recently tested the portability of an Olympus E-P3, a significantly larger, heavier M 4/3 camera, in a variety of cool-weather jackets. With a very small optional Olympus 14- to 42-mm EZ electric zoom lens detached and separately carried in my jacket’s other pocket, that larger E-P3 was scarcely noticeable, although it would be too bulky when carried with any lens attached. The smaller, lighter M 4/3 Pen Lite and GM series cameras shown in Illustration 1 would be less burdensome than the E-P3.

Reattaching the zoom lens to the camera takes about 20 seconds. The standard Olympus and Panasonic 14- to 42-mm kit zooms sold with many models in the U.S. are larger but still reasonably portable.

There are a few obvious cautions. Any separated camera and lens must both be fully capped, using all body and lens caps so that there are no exposed camera body openings or glass elements. It’s also wise to find small, thin cases that closely fit the camera and lens to minimize any bumps and cosmetic damage while being carried. I also put a clear plastic screen protector on the rear LCD to reduce permanent scratching.

The best portability and image quality won’t be found with standard kit zoom lenses. Instead, so-called “pancake” lenses here provide both more compact storage and better images. Olympus’ new 14- to 42-mm EZ electrically zoomed lens, sold separately, is both the smallest and the sharpest pancake zoom lens I’ve tested so far. Used with care, it’s capable of very good images. This lens relies on the in-body image-stabilization built into Olympus M 4/3 cameras, so it’s not stabilized when used with otherwise excellent Panasonic M 4/3 camera bodies.

Panasonic’s 12- to 32-mm zoom is almost as thin as the Olympus lens, but doesn’t include any manual focus ability. In my limited tests, Panasonic’s pancake zoom lens seemed slightly very less sharp but still quite good for such a small lens. It includes built-in optical image stabilization and is sold separately or included with the GM1 and GM5 cameras. Both the Olympus and Panasonic pancake zoom lenses are very compact, less than 1 inch thick and about 2 inches in diameter. Two excellent Panasonic single-magnification pancake prime lenses, their 1-4mm f/2.5 wide-angle and 20-mm f/1.7 standard lenses, are very sharp and similarly compact.

Illustration-2. Domke f-5xb compact-system bag.

Illustration-2. Domke f-5xb compact-system bag.

If you’re willing to pack a bit more weight or able to stow a compact camera kit in your car, then several other M 4/3 options become attractive and practical, particularly when you find just the right camera system bag that’s neither too large nor too restricted. Today’s Illustration 2 shows the size of a small Domke F-5XB camera bag compared to a standard hardbound book. After several false starts with other brands, I purchased Domke’s “Ruggedwear” version that’s made of the same heavy oiled canvas used for Carhartt work clothing. I now finally understand why pro photographers have favored Domke bags for the past three decades. They’re fast and convenient in use and just feel right.

Illustration 3 shows the complete M 4/3 compact camera system that fit inside that small F-5XB Domke bag. This is a complete, high-quality yet affordable go-anywhere system weighing a mere 5 pounds, half the weight, or less, of a comparable APS-C digital SLR camera system. My go-anywhere system is built around an Olympus OM-D E-M5 weather-sealed body that I bought used from http://www.lensrentals.com, and a similarly weather-sealed Olympus 12- to 50-mm kit zoom lens with usable video and macro capabilities.

Illustration 3. Olympus OM-D EM5 kit that fits inside a Domke bag.

Illustration 3. Olympus OM-D EM5 kit that fits inside a Domke bag.

Supplementing that 12- to 50-mm Olympus zoom are an Olympus 40- to 150-mm consumer-grade telephoto zoom lens and three sharper Sigma prime lenses for M 4/3 cameras. The Sigma 19-mm wide-angle, 30-mm standard and 60-mm “short telephoto Art” series optics each have a relatively bright f/2.8 maximum lens aperture and cost between $170 and $210 new. They’re the best deal on the market for sharp, well-constructed optics. Sigma’s 60-mm DN “Art” series lens is particularly sharp, with image quality of the 30-mm model trailing only slightly. The Sigma 19-mm wide-angle is decently sharp in the center of the image. If you’re feeling affluent, then Panasonic’s 14-mm f/2.5 and 20-mm f/1.7 pancake lenses would be noticeably sharper than the 19-mm Sigma, yet still fit in the same space.

Rounding out that compact traveling system are spare batteries and memory cards, good quality Pentax soft lens pouches for each lens, inexpensive, screw-in vented metal lens shades from Amazon, an Olympus 15-mm “body-cap” lens for fun effects, and Olympus’ small clip-on flash unit included with the OM-D E-M5 camera body. That’s a complete, and generally affordable, camera system capable of very high-quality images yet weighing only 5 pounds and fitting into a camera bag scarcely larger than a hardbound book.

The ultimate determinant of good photos is, of course, not your gear but your “shot discipline,” where personal skill and knowledge are central. That’s the subject of next week’s article.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.

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View From Out West: Life lived large — Troyer leaves lasting legacy on terrain, traveling partners

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

What I recall most were his energetic, rollicking stories and his booming, hearty laugh. I also recall his alpine hat, often canted slightly backward, his love of fruit pie and a good after-dinner nap, and, primarily, the hunting trips he took with my father.

Almost as far back as I can remember, Will Troyer, who died Sept. 21, less than two weeks shy of his 89th birthday, was part of my father’s life. For more than four decades Dad and Will were devoted friends.

Although they hadn’t known each other back when they were boys, both had been Hoosiers, raised in the same part of the state, and they reminisced fondly about growing up in Indiana. In their early days together in Alaska — between hiking, hunting and fishing together — they strategized in tandem for the preservation of Alaska wilderness through the Kenai Conservation Society. They also united our families in a bond of friendship that has stretched across the years.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Our family met Will’s (wife, LuRue, and three children, Janice, Eric and Teresa) through the Kenai Methodist Church in about 1963, when the Troyers moved from Kodiak so Will could become the manager of the Kenai National Moose Range. A self-proclaimed “Amish/Mennonite farm boy,” Will spent 30 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service before retiring in 1981. Unlike many refuge managers today, Will continued to work in the field, flying aerial moose surveys and performing numerous other duties outside of the office.

He is largely responsible for the names of perhaps 200 lowland lakes on today’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and he personally hand-cut many of the original portages on the refuge’s extensive canoe system. For the Park Service, he traveled widely across the state. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he assisted in damage assessment on Cook Inlet beaches, and in recent years he published three memoirs about his life.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Will had the resonating kind of voice that even my hard-of-hearing father could easily discern. Dad often found it unnecessary to turn up the volume on the telephone when Will would call about another outing. He didn’t need his hearing aids when Will was regaling us with stories around the dinner table.

With fond hearts for the out-of-doors, Dad and Will planned adventures together, continuing even after the Troyers moved away from the Kenai Peninsula. Their outings increased in the 1980s when Will and LuRue moved back, establishing their retirement home off Bean Creek Road in Cooper Landing.

For years, even when Dad was in his 60s and Will was in his 70s, they tromped down woodsy trails along Swanson River Road to stalk tasty grouse and took annual trips together to the rolling wheat fields of North Dakota to flush pheasants from the grain.

They also made frequent pilgrimages to Kodiak Island to bust through alders after nimble deer, and they climbed with their English setters into the upper drainages of Shaft Creek, East Creek and Devil’s Creek to blast at ptarmigan bolting from scattered copses of willow.

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Built to blast — Gunsmithing workshop aims for information

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

“It’s kind of like the idea of a Tupperware party,” said Scott Hamann. Except it was all men gathered Saturday morning, rather than the more-typical women Tupperware crowd. And instead of taking home plastic food-storage containers, attendees left with their own semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

Having a firearm to take home wasn’t even the primary purpose of the day. The event was more for educational purposes, to learn how to build the gun, how it works and how to take care of it.

“Our country was founded on the principles laid down in the Bill of Rights, but what good is the right to bear a firearm if you don’t know how to use one?” said Hamann, coordinator for an AR-15 building class at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai.

The idea for the class grew from a humble beginning, according to Hamann. A longtime gun enthusiast, a little more than a year ago he decided that, rather than buying another gun, he would build his own AR-15. Due to the rifle’s popularity in this country, there are no shortage of build tutorials in books, magazines and on the Internet.

Hamann enjoyed the experience, and as he told a few of his friends about the endeavor, several mentioned that if he was interested in doing it again, they’d like to join him.

“Before you knew it, we had a whole group of people who wanted to build one, so we all got together and did it and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

They planned another build for the Fourth of July, Hamann said, since celebrating the freedom to own a firearm seemed like an important concept to remember on the Independence Day holiday. But even after that, still more people wanted to learn how to build their own rifles.

However, with the AR-15 often being at the center of controversy in the media and among anti-gun activists, Hamann said that he wanted to find a way to tie the build class into support for Second Amendment freedoms.

“The field representative from the NRA contacted me to see if there was a way we could raise funds, and this seemed like something we could do,” he said.

Hamann and a few other firearm enthusiasts formed the Alaska Defenders of Freedom, a group established to raise funds for political purposes.

“One hundred percent of all money — above the costs of the firearms and tool kits — from these classes goes to the NRA-ILA,” Hamann said, referring to the Institute for Legislative Action, which is the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Hamann’s group worked with Valley Armory in Palmer and the Soldotna-based Black Dog Firearms in order to gather all the necessary parts to build an AR-15, putting them into individually packaged kits, and to comply with gun regulations.

Before the building began Saturday, Mike Misner, an employee of Black Dog Firearms, ran background checks on all participants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and completed all necessary paperwork to transfer to the participants the receivers of the rifles, which house the operating parts of the gun and are, by law, considered the actual firearm and thus are strictly controlled.

“You gotta make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted with this kind of thing,” Misner said.

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