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October 25, 2021

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Actor’s Disappointing Role: Pebble Shill

By Shannyn Moore

As much time as we spend watching movies, it’s easy to believe that actors take jobs because they identify with some part of a film. The wool was ripped from my eyes this week. I’ve watched actor Wes Studi in films for years — “Geronimo,” “Dances with Wolves” and “Avatar,” to name a few. He’s beautiful — a classic, stoic American Indian; a noble face absent of fear and seemingly full of ancient knowledge.

He’s only acting, and I shouldn’t be disappointed. I got my movie ticket’s worth. But that’s why we buy tickets in the first place: We want to believe even though we know, intellectually, it’s all pretend.

Mr. Studi has a new role. He’s been hired by the Pebble Partnership to tour villages in the Bristol Bay region and pose as one of their own to sell them enough toxicity to ruin their way of life. The Lake and Peninsula Borough began voting by mail on the Save Our Salmon ballot initiative, which has survived legal challenges from proponents of the Pebble mine. The initiative is simple. It states that any resource extraction development using more than 640 acres of land that would adversely affect anadromous waters (waters already known to be salmon habitat) would require a permit from the Lake and Peninsula Borough before the state and federal permits could go through.

If a project isn’t going to harm salmon, the Pebble Partnership should have nothing to fear.

I have been called and emailed this week by folks living in the Bristol Bay region. They have sent me the pre-vote fliers coming into their mailboxes from the Pebble Partnership. I guess if the courts and truth aren’t on your side, your last recourse to win the game is to lie — and lie they did. They have tried to scare voters by telling them opponents of the mine are taking away their children’s future, that they won’t have money for schools, that they will lose their subsistence hunting and fishing rights, that they won’t be able to build roads or houses, schools or hospitals.

It’s a classic scorched-earth campaign tactic: Heap lie upon lie and never let up.

“They don’t even have a plan yet” has been one of their greatest lies. More than 2,000 pages of plans were submitted to the state as part of Pebble’s 2006 water withdrawal applications alone. The Upper Talarik Creek and Koktuli River could see 100 percent of their water used up by Pebble. All told, Northern Dynasty Minerals has applied for the rights to almost 35 billion gallons of ground and surface water per year. That amount is four times the annual usage of the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility. When Northern Dynasty put its shares of the project up for sale earlier this year, it released its plan for the Pebble mine. Oops. You can imagine that this put it in an awkward situation with its partner, Anglo-American, which loudly claimed that no such plan existed.

An open pit mine and tailing ponds held back by earthen dams hundreds of feet high would exist in an area where earthquakes rattle from the Lake Clark, Castle Mountain and Denali fault lines. It’s not just an abstract number on the Richter scale. Local residents feel it. And you don’t have to go back to the 9.2 Good Friday earthquake of 1964. There was a 7.9 in 2002. One unforeseen accident could mean a poisoned fishery, the eradication of salmon and the loss of thousands of already-existing renewable jobs.

Why shouldn’t residents of the borough have a voice? It’s their destiny at stake. If a mine of this size were going in next to your house and threatening your livelihood, wouldn’t you want a say? If project managers told you they planned to blow off 50,000 one-ton detonations a year in your backyard, how many moose do you think would stick around for hunting season?

The willingness to paint anyone opposed to Pebble mine as “Flat Earthers” or anti-development has come easy. I would remind those people that the late Sen. Ted Stevens was never accused of being anti-development but was firmly opposed to the Pebble mine. He said he would do all he could to stall and stop it.

The worst pro-Pebble propagandists have accused opponents of being pro-incest and pro-domestic violence. Yes, really, they’ve gone that far, insinuating that Pebble will save rural Alaskans from themselves — without mining jobs, they’ll beat their partners and molest their children. Got racism?

Earlier this week, Father Michael Oleksa’s private emails were hijacked and published in an effort to drum up a controversy. Father Oleksa has always been against the Pebble mine. Perhaps he takes seriously the obligation to be a good steward of the Earth. Preserving and protecting the Bristol Bay fishery lines up with that old parable: Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. If Pebble mine is developed, there might not be any fish left to feed anyone.

That Father Oleksa’s position lined up with billionaire Bob Gillam’s and that he privately emailed his colleagues about the possibility of Gillam’s help in financing a new village church is certainly not controversial. Breaking news: Churches spend a vast amount of time seeking money so they can carry out their mission.

The people of Bristol Bay have a choice. They can believe the poison handed to them from a Hollywood Indian, a co-opted borough mayor in Glen Alsworth and the disgraced Matthew Nikolai, or trust themselves to defend their heritage, their jobs and their way of life.

~Lies, and more lies from the Pebble Partnership
Originally posted in the ADN, Sept 18.

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29 Responses to “Actor’s Disappointing Role: Pebble Shill”
  1. Wilhelm says:

    Pebble Partnership should just start packing and get out! Environmental damage will certainly occur with a mine that massive. It is all summed up in one word, GREED.

  2. Moose Pucky says:

    Every time you see no parking sign with the slash through a big P, think NO PEBBLE. 🙂

  3. Moose Pucky says:

    Boos and hisses to these tactics. Preview of things to come if Pebble gets approved. Stop it now.

  4. Simple Mind says:

    Okay, let’s just say that Bob Gillam is contributing the money to fund groups opposing Pebble so that he and his friends can continue to fish in the area. So what? ………….. The other side is Anglo American, one of the largest multinational mining corporations on the planet that in the first six months of 2011 reported operating profits over $5.0 BILLION. Forget Pebble Partnership. The other half of it, Northern Dynasty, is actively selling out. There is nothing left of the partnership except a cutesy name and some talking heads. So, a local investment guy who likes to fish is paying for one side’s ads and a multinational corporation whose CEO makes over $2,000,000 a year in BASE compensation is paying for the other. How about instead of getting off into tangents on whether Bob Gillam’s heart is pure, we look at some facts – like controversies Anglo American has been continually involved in. Water disputes in Peru? Pollution of rivers in Ireland? How about forcing 10,000-20,000 South Africans off their land to make way for expansion of a platinum mine? Then there was that report of elevated lead levels in the blood of those children. How about those payments to warlords in the Congo? I mean, just what assurances do we have that Anglo American will maintain a dammed reservoir of toxic sludge above Bristol Bay without leaks FOREVER. I suggest we start by asking that all of Anglo American’s Directors, any executives making more than $1,000,000 per year and similar directors and employees of any shareholder holding more than 5% of Anglo American shares AND their families become personally liable for any environmental damage caused by the mine. I mean, that’s what they are asking of the fishers of Bristol Bay, right? Oh, throw in John Shively, too. Oh, and maybe Paul Jenkins.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    I guess there’s a reason Wes Studi has played so many villains.

    • I’m stunned about Wes Studi…….! he’s a Shylock…or a judas…an asshole who who sells himself for money…. I’m so sorry…that is a traitorous thing to do…to use a native to influence other natives to ignore the damage being done to their land and water…..

  6. Maria says:

    Perhaps he can be converted to the cause once he starts meeting with the locals? He’s always struck me as decent person.

  7. Dia says:

    “The worst pro-Pebble propagandists have accused opponents of being pro-incest and pro-domestic violence.”

    Sounds familiar, as in the same tactics the Palins use to intimidate their enemies while distracting from the real issues.

  8. lacy lady says:

    John@7 You hit the nail on the head

  9. WhichTruth says:

    On a project the size of Pebble with the technology currently used, it is not whether or not there will be a toxic leak, but when and how big.

  10. EatWildFish says:

    The Pebble folks certainly didn’t Defend Our Rights to vote for the SOS ballot initiative, instead they tried to stop Lake & Pen voters with lawsuits.

    Don’t ever forget that Gov Parnell sided with Pebble Mine in trying to stop people from voting – and he did it behind the backs of the people in the region. That is a fact that cannot be denied.

  11. John says:

    I’m always surprised at how easily we conclude that someone who is a great actor or singer football player is, therefore, qualified to give us advice on the environment or the economy. I wish we could train our children (and ourselves) not to assume that someone talented in one field should be a role model in all.

    • Yes, John, I agree with you, for the most part. However, every now and then it is nice to see someone who uses their celebrity to do something good for other people or the environment. And I think that is what is sad in this case. It’s a matter of personal integrity – an acting job is an acting job, but at some point, an actor has a responsibility to accept roles that line up with their personal values. I’m more likely to go to a movie to see actors who have shown they are more concerned with their own integrity rather than making another buck.

  12. Alaska Pi says:

    Oh. This is so bad.
    The pressure on people in the Lake and Peninsula Borough is intense- on all sides.
    It is a borough almost twice the size of Maryland, and slightly under the size of West Virginia with a current population around 1600 total , down around 10% from 2000.
    While the figures for persons living in poverty , per capita income, and median household income would have to be looked at very carefully and adjusted for
    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/02/02164.html
    how many folks live the hybrid subsistence-cash lifestyle common in rural Alaska, it is not an area which has prospered for a long time. People have lost ground economically even with the world famous sockeye fishery in the area.
    Amongst other things, too many fishing permits have been sold to people away from the area to try to make ends meet, which means too much fish money leaves the area.
    The PP is trying to capitalize on the very real fears and concerns of folks in the L& P Borough at the same time outside folks are not paying near enough attention to the problems in L and P.

    John Shively needs to be watched carefully. As much or more than anyone in this situation.

    “Shively claims that environmental groups opposing mining in Bristol Bay don’t want to see economic development in the area. According to the Alaska Journal of Commerce, Shively said, “What are they doing to help people that need jobs? It’s easy to stop something, but how do you grow something?”

    Luki Akelkok, chairman of Nunamta Aulukestai, says Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. is expanding job opportunities by helping local community members buy back fishing permits that were sold in order to pay off debts in the 1980s, when salmon prices were down. He says many businesses could be developed in the fishing industry, but in the meantime “during low commercial fishing and tourist seasons, and in blight, people could survive on long-term subsistence [fishing and hunting].” ”

    http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/08/with-billions-at-stake-in-bristol-bay-mining-company-spends-big/

    Bob Gillam is not a sympathetic figure on many counts but , sad to say, we would not be hearing much from our neighbors in L& P without his advocacy against Pebble.
    The overwhelming majority of people in the borough do not want Pebble to happen but they also want and deserve proper consideration by the State and the rest of their neighbors when it comes to the efforts they are making to stay viable and create sustainable communities.

    Shively is just right enough about the no-development-meme of his to tap into deep seated anger with the state ignoring rural problems and environmental regulation in general at a very emotional level.
    The State of Alaska has a sad history of looking at dollar totals of the fishing industry and ignoring how many leave the area and the state.

    This initiative will end up in court if it passes. It will cost L& P to defend it if it passes.
    None of this is easy or simple.

    • Shannyn Moore says:

      Part of the reason so many permits are now owned by people from WA is because post-Exxon Valdez Oil Spill the fish prices crashed and people had to sell or move. I know many fishermen who moved after the spill and kept fishing in the summers here. Sad how much we gave up over that damn spill, the last thing we need is another one.

      • Alaska Pi says:

        Amen, we don’t need any more spills nor do we need Pebble.

        However, we do need to work harder to make rural Alaska , where all of our resources come from, share in the bounty which flows from it. We need to work harder to make sure rural Alaska really has parity at the table.
        It borders on criminal that this rich state just shrugs when one more school closes in the bush, one more family abandons their ancestral home against their desire to stay, while bucks flow out of those areas which support so many others.

        We need to force a meaningful dialogue about what the constitution says about resource development which benefits all Alaskans as it relates to renewable resources like fish and the flash in the pan big stakes extraction industry.
        That which benefits all Alaskans is not a few bucks in the state treasury and a 10 year boom.
        Fish can be forever if we work hard at it.
        And that benefits all Alaskans.

  13. Kevin Shinn says:

    I’m sure the last earthquake was the last one ever. That’s why they call it “the last,” isn’t it?

  14. Cori says:

    I live in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina but am very concerned about the Pebble Mine issue. Keep blanketing people with the truth. They must vote to keep their pristine Bay and way of life for so many. Further up the Appalachian trail the coal mines have and are taking the tops from beautiful mountains and destroying the earth and a way of life. We have prevented that here and will continue to do so. These people are in every state and must be stopped, even if it is one at a time. You don’t have to be an Indian to know what is good for the land and water.
    I agree with benlomond2, they must be met flyer by flyer. I know I don’t live in Alaska, but I care as much about it’s natural resources as I do about those around me. Thank you for the article Shannyn

    • Jeanette says:

      I live in Anchorage. Up until two years ago, I worked in the fishing industry, specifically the biology side of the business. I grew up in Virginia / West Virginia. My mother’s family comes from and still lives in mining country. I too have personally seen the devastation left behind from open pit mining. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is frustrating to know that a body of knowledge, formal studies and informal experience, lies out there for all Alaskans to see, but we just don’t seem to want to take the time to look. Our PFDs are about to come out, and we are excited. We have our hand out from the oil industry, and we are content and satisfied. Our in the part of the world that Pebble Mine wants to rake out, and poison, the people can still make a living from the fishing. They won’t get rich, but if oil and gas were to poop out, and they eventually will, they can claim a fall back. Their used to be wild stock in the east. Now its all rookery raised, and every time the budget gets crunched, the fish dry up. That is what you get when your natural resources are sacrificed to development and resource mining. We city folk in Alaska love to grab our ATVs and guns and head out to the big, back country, bag our limit, and brag about how resourceful and how proud of our independence we are, yet a company comes in and threatens a fundamental natural resource, and we are struck mute. The evidence is out there all over the world. Look at the state of subsistence living on the east coast, in western europe, and you will begin to get it. Just ask an American stationed overseas, who likes to hunt, and knows the skinny on how much “wild” game is left in “developed” Europe.

  15. benlomond2 says:

    y’all need to match this flyer , and every flyer they put out… with an opposing flyer.. otherwise people will vote FOR the mine…

  16. Goose says:

    The actor, Mr. Studi, is his middle name Henry!?

  17. thatcrowwoman says:

    Beware lying liars and the liars they lie for, also, too.

    Save Our Salmon.

    Fly Eagle Fly by The Marshall Tucker Band (from A New Life)

    “I believe before the world ever got that bad
    I’d be on my knees crying…
    Fly, eagle, fly…
    I hope we both live long enough to see the setting sun.”

    all my relations.
    thatcrowwoman

    • fromthediagonal says:

      Yes Ma’m… here is another one to teach us:
      “Fly Like An Eagle” from the Steve Miller Band.

      I sang that one to my grandchildren from the first time they could sit in a swing.
      Before they could talk, they would stretch their arms wide to request it.
      They still call it the Spirit Song…

    • Indeed- all our relations….!

  18. GoI3ig says:

    When you read their flyer, it almost implies that they are going to ruin the area. They admit that Bob Gillam wants to protect his fishing area. So what’s wrong with that?

    I love the cliche’ use of “defend your rights.” I say to hell with that, and defend your fish. Vote YES!

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