People

  • Violet Willson

    Violet Willson, an Aleut who lived in Naknek, Alaska, spent 51 years in the commercial fishing industry in Bristol Bay. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren work in the commercial fishing industry – on set net and drift boats, even in a family-owned and operated cannery. In the winter of 1955, as delegates were gathering in Fairbanks to craft the constitution for Alaska, Violet was working as a winter watchman for Columbia Ward Fisheries at the Bumblebee Cannery in Naknek. After marrying Guy Groat, Jr., she lived near the Branch River. The family moved later to South Naknek, and eventually over to Naknek. She raised her family on fishing, earning a living as a commercial fisherman, ultimately working for Ocean Beauty for the last twenty years of her career, and bringing in additional fish to feed her family through a subsistence lifestyle.

    Violet passed away in 2015. 

  • Rick Delkitte

    Rick Delkitte is a resident and former tribal president of the Village of Nondalton, a community of Dena’ina Athabascan Indians approximately ten miles away from the planned Pebble Mine site. Growing up in Nondalton, he was taught how to live off the land by his uncles according to Dena’ina tradition. Trapping, hunting, fishing, gathering plants and other skills are shared by the family as a whole. The materials gathered and hunted provide food, clothing, and cash (through sales of furs, for example) necessary for life in a remote community off the road system. He notes the importance of fresh water to the ecosystem and the productivity of the salmon, but expresses grave concerns over the impact of the Pebble Mine’s development given the history of how such mines have impacted watersheds. Rick also expresses concerns about the potential impacts as a result of the extreme seismic activity of the region. “We are tied to this region by our lifestyle,” he observes, “we’ve been stewards of this land, taking care of this place, and now I don’t know anymore.”

  • Charlotte Balluta

    Charlotte Balluta is a Dena’ina Athabascan who lives in Nondalton, Alaska, approximately ten miles from the planned Pebble Mine site. Growing up in Nondalton, she “would never trade this place for anything” because of the way of life she has enjoyed there. You have always been able to just go out and drink the water straight out of the lake in front of the village, she notes. And while she has seen changes to the community over her life, like the introduction of aircraft and a lodge, the change represented by the Pebble Mine concerns her the most. As a planned open pit mine with a tailings pond, she believes that it represents an unacceptable threat to the water quality of the region and the salmon that she and her community rely on.

  • Mark Dehmlow

    Mark Dehmlow is a commercial hunting guide who lives in Iliamna, Alaska. He guides for moose and brown bear, and also used to guide for caribou before the Mulchatna Caribou Herd dispersed to other parts of the region. He also manages the Crowley fueling facility at the Iliamna airport. A lifelong Republican, he is opposed to development of the mine because of the sensitive ecosystem of the region.

  • Alvin Aspelunde

    Alvin Aspelunde was born in 1930 in Libbyville, the location of a former cannery. Raised in the cannery lifestyle because his father was a cannery watchman, he grew up reading Buck Rogers comic books and recalls when the first planes flew into the area and a time when mail was delivered by dog team. He was a watchman at the Peter Pan cannery in Naknek, which started in 1903, for 23 years. He worked in the commercial fishing industry during the period when it transitioned from sailboats to motorized fishing boats.

  • Pete Caruso

    Pete Caruso is a resident of Naknek, Alaska, who moved to Alaska from Philadelphia in 1978 when he was in the Air Force. While he has been trapping for over 20 years and it is a primary activity for him in the summer, the bulk of his income comes from the commercial fishing industry. He has two set net sites, owns a commercial drift permit (which he leases out), owns a shore-based tender company, and he leases forklifts to others. And while he is neither for nor against development of the Pebble Mine, he does not believe that the Naknek area would benefit from its development, that it is unrealistic to think that locals would benefit from any employment resulting from the mine.

  • Kevin Davis

    Kevin Davis is a chef and restaurateur in Seattle. Owner of the Blueacre and Steelhead Diner restaurants, he stresses sustainability of seafoods used in his restaurant, noting, as a chef, he is the “number one predator of the seafood world.” The way to overcome that is to offset what is being taken from the oceans, becoming involved in the Marine Stewardship Council, Long Live the Kings, and other groups. He also decided to only use seafood from the Pacific Northwest, which allowed him to know best how the fisheries were being managed. Also a catch-and-release Steelhead fly fisherman, when he learned about the potential development of the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, he decided to become involved in the issue, partnering with Trout Unlimited on several occasions.

  • Rhonda Wayner

    Rhonda Wayner of Naknek is one of Violet Willson’s grandchildren. A part-time accountant for non-profit organizations, her commercial fishing roots keep her invested in the family business of commercial fishing. Rhonda started fishing on the west side of the Bay, the Kvichak side, when she was seven years old, and fished there until she was fifteen. She, along with her husband Paul and son, work two set net sites in the summer, delivering her product both to Ocean Beauty Seafoods and the Naknek Family Fisheries, in which she is a part owner.

  • Everett Thompson

    Everett Thompson of Naknek is another of the Violet Willson grandchildren, owning a commercial drift permit and the F/V Chulyen (an Athabascan word for “raven”). Everett has been fishing since he was 7 years old, when he spent his first season on a drift boat. He had a set net permit in his name by the time he was 11, was running his own set net operation as a teenager, and owned his own drift net permit by the time he was 21. Originally neutral about the Pebble Mine development, his research of open pit metals mines led him to oppose its development. Now, he can be recognized by the anti-Pebble flag flying from the mast of his boat, often passing off information and materials to other commercial drift boat skippers along the way.

  • Izetta Chambers

    Izetta Chambers is the mastermind behind the Naknek Family Fisheries. A law school graduate and associate professor for the University of Alaska in Dillingham, Izetta founded Naknek Family Fisheries in 2006 and began processing a year later. She and her husband Chet work side by side processing and preparing orders. Exposure to her grandmother’s work as a fisherman and at the cannery got her interested in the work and exposed her to the idea that there could be a market for an independent processor. Her vision for the family fishery is to provide an alternative marketing method for area fisherman, so that they are not all beholden to the large processors. She noticed growing up that fisherman always treated the fish for their family better than what was heading to the commercial processors, and wanted to preserve that sense of quality.

  • Ben Blakely

    Ben Blakely is the skipper of the F/V N20, a Naknek-based drift boat that participates in the Bristol Bay commercial sockeye salmon fishery. The N20 is a Canadian-built shore boat that operates with two drift permits, which allows for 200 fathoms of gillnet during a sockeye opener. He is one of three brothers – all boat skippers – from Seattle who spend their summers in the Bristol Bay commercial sockeye salmon fishery. He first became involved in the commercial fishing industry when he was seventeen, exposed to the industry by his father who works at a cannery.

  • Daniel Blakely

    Daniel Blakely is the skipper of the F/V Curragh, a drift boat that engages in the sockeye salmon commercial fishery out of Naknek, Alaska. Daniel is one of three brothers, all from Seattle, who spend their summers in Alaska pursuing the family business of commercial fishing.

  • Rick Halford

    Rick Halford is a life-long Republican who has held leadership positions in both the Alaska State House and Senate over a nearly 25-year political career. With a home in Dillingham and a long career as a pilot, he has logged over 10,000 hours in the air as a hunting guide and commercial pilot, much of it in the Bristol Bay region. Staunchly opposed to the development of the Pebble Mine because of the unacceptable risks it imposes on the sockeye salmon fishery of Bristol Bay, he know volunteers his time to take people in the air to show them the region and to speak out against the project.

  • Alex Halford

    Alex Halford, son of Rick Halford, is a teenager living on his family homestead in the wilderness near Dillingham, Alaska. He is steadfastly curious about the natural world around him, acting as a guide and instructor to those who visit. But he also enjoys playing with his dog, hockey, riding an ATV, and doing other things that usual kids enjoy. He simply has one of the largest backyards you could imagine.

  • Dee Barker

    Dee Barker is the owner of a set boat and set net permit, operating out of Dillingham, Alaska. Dee has been catching mostly sockeye salmon for Peter Pan, which has provided a consistent market for set net fishermen on the Nushagak River. Fishing since 1985, he considers it a “real blessing” to participate in the Bristol Bay sockeye commercial fishery, because it has been consistent and productive. When he started, his investment (a truck, trailer, boat, and other equipment) was $70,000 – he paid that off within four years and has never had a “bust” year.

  • Ben Graham

    Ben Graham, from Montana, works seasonally in Bristol Bay as a set net crewman out of Dillingham.

  • Tim Hendricks

    Tim Hendricks, of Telluride, Colorado, has been a pilot since 2000 and started flying in Alaska in 2009 as a pilot for Sasquatch Alaska Adventures. Sasquatch is one of many commercial operators providing air and guiding services for backcountry travel and bear viewing in the Bristol Bay region, mostly in Katmai National Park & Preserve and Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. His work as a guide for National Outdoor Leadership Schools connected him with Lighthawk, a nationwide organization of volunteer pilots who lend their skills and aircraft to provide aerial support for conservation projects.

  • Jack Hobson

    Jack Hobson is a Dena’ina Athabascan, Raven Clan, who lives in Nondalton, Alaska, approximately ten miles from the proposed Pebble Mine site. A lifelong resident of the village, with the exception of four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Jack hunts, catches and gathers the vast majority of his food, from salmon in the summer, moose and bear in the fall, to fish, caribou or ptarmigan in the winter, among many other foods. The traditional knowledge of his people is still an integral part of his existence, reflected in everything from how he hunts to how he treats an animal after a hunt. When he has a successful hunt, he shares his success with his family and others in his community.

  • Apayo Moore

    Apayo Moore Apayo Moore of Dillingham is an artist who dedicates her craft, in often whimsical ways, to celebrating the Bristol Bay region, its watershed and its incredible salmon populations. Growing up in a fishing family, she would spend her summers commercial fishing for sockeye salmon, but she had a soft spot for the salmon – she would always throw one sockeye back into the water each season because she just “had to save one.” While in college, she started reading about and learning about the impacts of hard rock mining on salmon habitat. Thinking of how the salmon habitat could be destroyed and how it would impact the lifestyle she grew up with, she started to dedicate her creative efforts to Bristol Bay salmon, coming up with her “Salmon Love” series.

  • Vic Fischer

    Vic Fischer is one of two surviving members of the Alaska Constitutional Convention delegation. As a member of the Style and Drafting Committee, he was one of the people who crafted the final language of the Alaska Constitution, including its Natural Resources article, Article VIII. He is also one of the individual plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the State of Alaska regarding the exploration of the Pebble deposits. He became involved in the case because he felt the state was not living up to its constitutional obligations to consider the best interest of Alaskans and to have a public process regarding the exploration.