U.S. Rep-elect Mary Peltola (D-AK) is being sworn in at the Capitol Tuesday.
Peltola beat Sarah Palin and Nick Begich in a special election for Alaska’s sole House seat.
She becomes the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress. Before heading to Washington D.C. this past weekend, Peltola returned to her hometown of Bethel, Alaska.
KYUK’s Nina Kravinsky is in Bethel.
Peltola supporters gathered at the library for a feast. Dishes, potluck style, filled a long table. In front of it, the Bethel Russian Orthodox choir sang.
Peltola wiped away tears as the choir switched into a Yup’ik rendition of “God Grant You Many Years.”
Bethany Kaiser is a paralegal from Bethel. She cried, too, when she heard the election results.
“I think she really can relate to not just Bethel but rural Alaska in general. I think she can really relate to coming from a small town and knowing the challenges that we all face out here.”
Challenges that include resources and infrastructure.
Bertha Nagasiak hopes Peltola being in Congress will bring better family and homeless services to Bethel. She’s hoping for more community spaces for families and support for people recovering from alcohol addiction.
“And I pray that she follows through on what she says and how she’s going to help the people of our community.”
Others said they wanted her to address the low salmon runs in the region. That issue was a big part of Peltola’s campaign – she describes herself as “pro-fish” and wants to place stricter bycatch limits on trawling.
Peltola told KYUK before the community event that she’s still working on the specifics, but she hopes to craft legislation that will benefit the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.
“My perspective, my worldview is from this region. So I think it will be interwoven into every single thing that I do.”
Peltola now heads to D.C. where she’ll be sworn in to serve the last four months of late Congressman Don Young’s term.
She’s running again in November to serve the next full, two-year term.
Advocates for keeping the Badger-Two Medicine in northwest Montana free from oil and gas development say the legal fight over the land is far from over.
This comes after a federal judge last week reinstated a decades-old lease on the land that’s sacred to the Blackfeet Nation.
Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton has more.
Washington D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the U.S. Interior Department to reinstate Solenex’s lease in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, which was first issued in the 1980s.
The federal government canceled the lease six years ago saying it was issued illegally. Leon in his ruling said the government didn’t have the authority to cancel it.
The lease is on undeveloped land considered the cultural homeland of the Blackfeet Nation. Blackfeet Historical Preservation Officer John Murray is one of the intervenors in the case.
“The fight is far from over. The Badger-Two Medicine will remain the way it is today.”
The Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance also said in a statement it would fight the ruling, although the alliance and other groups have not yet said when they may appeal.
The Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is representing lease holder Solenex, says it will be ready to defend the ruling if appealed.
The Interior Department declined to comment on the case.
The Solenex lease was one of over 40 oil and gas leases that were issued in the Badger-Two Medicine and is the last remaining lease on that land. Others were either voluntarily relinquished, canceled by the Interior Department. or retired through private settlements.
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