Fred Elvsaas was interviewed on September 24, 2014 by Jan Yaeger at his home in Seldovia, Alaska. In this interview, Fred talks about commercial setnet fishing, the equipment used, and maintaining his gear. He also talks about establishment of the Seldovia Native Association, their land selections, and business deals.
Digital Asset Information
Date of Interview: Sep 24, 2014
Narrator(s): Fred Elvsaas
Interviewer(s): Jan Yaeger
Transcriber: Sue Beck
People Present: Michael Opheim
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Commercial setnet fishing
Changes in the fishery
Changes in the nets and ropes used
Changes in the fish processing, fish quality, and marketing
Changes in the boats and outboards used
Changes in competiton and management of the fishery
Net and gear preparation, and successful fishing
Impact of seals and beluga whales on the nets and fishing
Fishtraps as a key issue in the vote for statehood
Effect of fishtraps on the fishery and fishermen
Fishing for a cannery in Anchorage
Boom and bust of the local economy
Salmon, halibut and crab fisheries in Seldovia
Tanner crab fishing
Beginning of the Seldovia Native Association and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Local land selections
Establishing timber sales on their land
Allowing local wood cutting in the timber sale area
Fighting the State of Alaska over land selections, and helping establish Kachemak Bay State Park
Other income lands
Help from Governor Walter Hickel with state land conflict
Success of land exchange for moose habitat
Proving Native status in Seldovia
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JAN YAEGER: So it is Wednesday, September 24th, and this is Jan Yaeger speaking with Fred Elvsaas in his home. It is about 10:15 in the morning, and this is a project -- or this is a recording -- for the Seldovia Village Tribe "In Our Own Words Project."
And, Fred, I know we’ve talked with you a couple times before and gotten some great information. One thing that we don’t have a lot of is your history with fishing.
And we were wondering if you could talk with us a little bit about what it was like to be a commercial fisher here. And what your year would look like, not only the fishing season itself, but throughout the year.
FRED ELVSAAS: My commercial fishing? JAN YAEGER: Mm-hm.
FRED ELVSAAS: Well, I started fishing -- the first time I went fishing, commercial fishing, I was nine years old. And I went on a seine boat, plunging.
And I made fifteen dollars and that was more money than you knew what to do with. And, but -- and I -- I did some seining and so forth.
And then when I got married in 1953, I -- or ’51, I guess it was -- I went up the Inlet (Cook Inlet) setnetting. And I setnetted for many years.
And -- and it was a different type of fishing in those days in that we had linen nets. We didn’t have nylon. We didn’t have polypropylene ropes or nothing like that.
So each year you had to re-hang all the nets. And you had to treat your nets. We washed the nets with bluestone, which is a copper concentrate, to kill the bugs and so forth that were in the nets and -- because the nets would wear out real fast, especially in Cook Inlet, with the mud flats.
If you left the nets in the mud flats in the hot sun, when the tide came in and the nets -- the cork line would float up and the nets would stay in the mud and they tore up pretty easy. So you had to be real careful with your nets.
But in turn there was lots of fish. You know, we had lots of fish, but less money. Very little money.
If I remember right, we started fishing for red salmon at thirty cents a fish, which we thought was pretty good money in those days. But -- but compared to today’s prices it’s, you know, not very much.
But the first year I fished up there we had a very good season. A lotta red salmon, a lotta silver salmon, and very good king salmon fishing. I had over two thousand kings.
And I made enough money that first year to buy a house and pay cash for it and property. And I paid my oil bill for the winter and my grocery bill for the winter and I had money left over, which was really unusual in those days.
And I didn’t know an awful lot about fishing, setnetting, but I stayed with it. Of course, being young and so forth it was easy. And we also fished five and a half days a week. We didn’t have the closures like we have today.
And it was a matter of whoever could stand the time frame and stay up and keep fishing. And most of the fishermen that fished in my area would fish on Mondays and Tuesdays, and by Wednesdays they’d be down to one net.
We -- we were allowed to fish three -- three nets, but most people would pull out two nets just to keep them in reserve for more fish. But fish were still in the water and still coming, but there was much less.
If you could only get a hundred fish a day, it was hardly worth it, so that they’d rather pull the nets out. They --
Fisheries developed slowly, because during those days in the Territory it was federal regulations and law was made back in Washington, D.C. And there was no on-site operations like there is today with the Fish and Game.
The fishery changed drastically when we had statehood. Statehood -- they stopped the fish traps. There was -- the fish traps were the major competitors for us.
And they took -- took the fish traps out and the price of salmon started going up, which was really good for us. But it was -- in turn it was more competitive amongst the fish buyers and the plants.
And it brought a lot of new effort into the Cook Inlet and the rest of Alaska, in that there was a lot of people that were fish-trap fishermen now fishing gill nets and seining.
And it -- it got to where they had to close the fisheries drastically. We got -- nowadays we’re down to fishing two twelve- hour periods, and sometimes we don’t even get that. If the fish aren’t gettin’ in the river, they shut it down.
And it’s on-site management, which probably is a lot better, but it’s really difficult to maintain a steady fishery income.
And because no matter whether you fish or not, you still have the high expense. The cost of the gear and operations and so forth.
As time went by, they developed the nylon fishing nets. I recall the first nylon net I bought. I -- I was so happy because I could only afford one, but I bought it. But I knew I had a net I didn’t have to worry about.
But it didn’t take me long to find out that they didn’t know how to tie the knots good, so the nylon net slipped. And the fish would hit the net and if he kept pushing, he’d work his way through the net and stretch the meshes outta sight.
And by the end of the season I had a terrible lookin’ net. It didn’t have any tears or any rot or nothin’ like that, but it had a lotta holes where the fish went right through the net.
And so it took a few years before they got good knots in the nets, and then they were much easier to fish.
And also the old linen gear only lasted, if you were lucky, two years. But with the nylon nets, I’ve got some nets that are probably twenty years old, and they’re still usable. But ‘course I prefer to buy new nets when I can afford it.
The ropes were much different in that we had cotton ropes for the cork lines and manila rope for the other ropes and anchor lines and so forth. And they didn’t last long. Each year you had to buy new rope.
Now I’ve got rope that’s nylon and polypropylene, and it lasts forever as long as you take care of it.
So the fishery has evolved a lot through the years, and in turn everything else has changed. The markets have changed.
We used to fish all summer and when the fish canneries -- they canned all the fish. If they got too many fish, they’d stop buyin’. They’d let us know. We had what was called a limit and they’d say, well, today we can only take five hundred fish.
Well, sometimes you’d have maybe a thousand fish and they wouldn’t take ‘em, so you had to dump ‘em. But there wasn’t anything else you could do. And there was plenty of fish.
But today’s market is primarily frozen fish, and so they process and the -- and the thing now is to get fresh fish.
We used to put the fish on a barge and they laid in the sun and we covered them with burlap, but that didn’t do much to keep them. And if the fish buyers, the tenders, didn’t take the fish right away, they’d lay there and get soft. But it didn’t matter that much because the fish was canned.
But if you had to sell them fresh frozen or process them for freezer operations, it wouldn’t have been worth saving.
Nowadays, of course, as you catch the fish, you ice them, and the fish plants keep them cold and so forth and you deliver right away. Deliver the same day. And sometimes when we fish for --
The old days, some of the fish would be three days old before they got to the canneries. And especially when the fish run was on, there was tremendous amount of fish and they just couldn’t keep up.
But -- so quality is much better today. And the fishermen are much better at taking care of the fish. They ice them. They bleed ‘em and so forth.
And so it’s a quality product, and a lotta that you can see in the marketing, like the Copper River kings in the spring. The first kings caught, they fly them right away to Seattle and so forth to the market because they’re highly valued.
And we -- we also fished with wooden boats and we didn’t have very good outboards. We had outboards.
Most of the set-netters used a nine-horse Johnson in those days and they -- they were okay, but they weren’t really that dependable. There was lots of times they just wouldn’t start. They -- they just were a hard-operating outboard.
Where today, with the new motors, you just push a button and away you go.
And so it was a tougher way to fish. Especially when the weather was rough. There’s nothing worse than being out in a leaky wooden boat with an outboard that won’t run.
And -- and I’ve had my share of experiences with that. And I can recall I wasn’t but, oh, maybe a thousand feet off the beach and the waves were breaking and -- and my boat was leaking and I couldn’t get my outboard running.
But I didn’t dare pull my anchor. I was anchored to keep my boat from washin’ up on the rocks.
And nowadays you don’t have that problem. We have the aluminum boats and good motors and much, much safer.
I’ve got a few friends that never quite made it through the -- they washed overboard or whatever happened to them and they were lost.
But overall the fishery is better in that the quality’s better and so forth. The fish are worth more money nowadays. But in turn, there’s much less fish and more competition for the fish and less time to catch the fish.
The present day’s fishing is mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Mondays and Thursdays. And if you have a run of fish that comes through on the evening of the first day, then you have to wait several days to -- the whole run could be by before you even get a chance to fish again.
So that -- that makes it very difficult. But in turn the competition, there’s so many more boats and so many more nets. If everybody was able to fish at once they’d just wipe out the runs entirely.
So -- so I would say, overall, Fish and Game does a good job managing the fishery. You don’t think so when -- when you have to pull your nets up and there’s still fish running, but after the season’s over and you have a chance to think about it, it’s a -- it’s a good fishery nowadays.
So I don’t know much about the seining operations, but I know through the years the boats have really drastically improved. Much, much better boats, much better gear, and more efficiency.
But for the set-net fishery, that’s about it. So what else can I tell you?
JAN YAEGER: What was -- what were kinda your tasks throughout the year for getting ready for fishing and in terms of hanging nets and repairing gear and so on?
FRED ELVSAAS: Well, I -- I hung my nets during the wintertime, mostly. When I first started fishing, it was a tradition -- everybody hung their nets for king salmon with the large mesh nets. We fished eight and a quarter inch mesh, because we only wanted the big kings.
And then in June, month after the king run was over, you had to strip all the corks and lead lines off the nets and re-hang the red nets on the same lines.
And by the second year I was fishing, I figured I was wastin’ my time. I could do other things. So I just bought more cork lines, more lead lines, and I hung the nets, and I didn’t strip ‘em till the nets wore out.
The lines were cotton. The first floats we had were wooden floats. They were made outta cedar. Very, very heavy and by the end of the season they soaked up a lotta water.
So you -- you had to be a pretty strong person to pack the cork line and lead line on a net. We’d pack them up and down the beach.
And every time we brought the nets in we had to take ‘em up, and I had a tank we put them in with the bluestone and water to wash them and rinse them and dry them and mend them. And it was a -- it was a constant process.
And I -- I decided that it was better to have more -- more floats, more lead lines. And I know my neighbors, they thought I was foolish buyin’ all that extra gear but -- but it saved a lot of time.
And at that time, I -- we started fishing, everybody lived in tents. And I was raising my family and the kids and all -- tents on a rainy day are not very much fun.
So I started buildin’ a house, and I just -- from that time on, I‘ve continued on and on and there’s a picture of my fish camp there. And you can see, there’s forty, fifty years of building there. And none of it was built in one day.
And I -- I built the houses while I was fishing. And it -- it was quite a process. And now, of course, some of it’s getting pretty old and needing repairs. But that’s the way it goes.
And it’s a wonderful place. And this summer I managed to make a trip over and I only spent a week. My grandson does the fishing now and I -- I do the talking.
And -- but -- and his job is repairing everything. But he --
The floats is kind of -- kind of an interesting thing. The gill net floats were first cedar floats and they were waxed originally, but the wax wore off and they absorbed water.
But then somebody came up with the new invention of aluminum floats. The aluminum floats were not very well built, and they -- they tended to bust and leak. And they were worse than no floats when -- when they had water in them.
Then they came up with a plastic float. And it was a plastic float with a hole through it, and they -- they were much, much better and much lighter. But they’d also start cracking.
They would last a couple years and then they’d crack and leak. And so it was a constant headache with them.
Nowadays, we have foam floats and the foam is coated so it’s not porous, and much lighter, much better, and we don’t have to maintain them so -- so much as we did the original floats. And an awful lot lighter than the old cedar floats.
When I changed gear and changed -- got rid of all my wooden floats, I had three barrels -- drums full of floats. And my kids loved them for firewood.
Now they’re kind of like collector’s item, but they burned them all just for firewood and they love that cedar.
And the same as with the lead lines. The lead lines were cotton rope where they poured lead on the -- on the line, and they would last a few years, but eventually the cotton would wear and the lines would start breaking.
And now we have nylon lead lines with the lead inside the rope and they last forever. They just -- they’re great. Much easier to maintain and so forth.
But I lost a lotta lead lines through the years, just because where we fish the tide is so strong the lines would break and whatnot.
I learned the hard way how to fish in strong tides. And I know when I first started fishing, the people that fished in my area, they wouldn’t put their nets out when the tide was running strong.
And I -- I felt that a lotta fish were goin’ by, so I -- I’d put nets out anyway and they’d break, they’d tear and so forth. But I still caught fish. And I think -- I think that was the main thing.
Now with the new gear, with the nylon nets and the poly ropes and so forth, you can fish through any of the strong tides. It doesn’t matter.
Now we -- we kinda like the new ways. And we developed a system of tying the lead lines down and puttin’ weights on the lead lines to keep the -- to get the net deeper in the water.
Fish were going by underneath the nets at first, and it didn’t take long to figure out that we weren’t catching as many fish as we thought we would -- should.
And the first years, when we had a lot of fish, it really didn’t matter. We were catching as many as we could handle. But nowadays you really have to work for every fish and it makes a big difference.
And the person that takes care of the nets and sets the nets and so forth will catch fish. There’s a lotta people I know through the years that would set their nets and they’d go home and they’d go have a -- go hiking or picnicking or whatever, and the seals were eatin’ the fish outta the nets and the nets would go dry with fish in them, and the seagulls would eat on them.
And they just didn’t seem to care. And I -- I never thought that was a good way to fish. It was poor quality fish delivered and a lotta fish lost to the seals.
And we had, back in the early '50s, hundreds if not thousands of seals. And they were -- soon as you set a net, they were right there lookin’ for a free meal. And nowadays the seals are down. The numbers are down, and we still have the problem with the seals, but not so many.
There’s -- I would guess we probably have four or five seals a day come by checkin’ the nets, where before we had hundreds. And I sure don’t miss them. I --
We also had a tremendous amount of belugas, especially during the king salmon season. But belugas never bothered the nets.
They would swim between the nets and around the nets. But they never -- never bothered the nets. They wouldn’t take fish outta the nets. And in turn, I always felt that when the belugas showed up it was good fishing, because the fish would move in on the beach more and the belugas would be chasin’ ‘em on the outside. Oh, a half-mile or so offshore.
And that brought the kings in closer to the beach. And I always thought it was much better.
So we didn’t bother the belugas, but we shot at the seals and killed as many as we could. But it was a constant problem.
I had a running battle with one particular seal for about five or six years, and finally I got him.
And when we skinned him out, he was just festered with .22 bullets and shotgun slugs and all kinds of shots from his chest up. His head was all festered and so forth and we eventually threw -- threw him away.
I showed my neighbors what it looked like and the hide was terrible, so we threw it all away. But he -- he was one tough seal to get.
I would shoot at him and he’d still get away. And -- but I finally -- finally got him. And I’m sure there was others like that, but that one in particular, I -- I’ll never forget him.
And he was a big, big seal. And we had a few sea lions at times. The problem with sea lions was they would get in and tear the net. They’d get in the net and roll around or whatever.
And they never really got stuck, but they could tear tremendous big holes in the net. Where seals, they just wanted to grab the fish out and --
But it’s a running battle. And if you’re gonna be a commercial fisherman, you have to be with those nets all the time. Otherwise somebody else will get the fish and so --
Now, with less fish, less seals, more effort, but a much better quality of fish. I think fish -- fish are good when they’re fresh, but they’re not worth very much when you just let ‘em lay in the sun.
And I -- I just don’t like to see that happen. I know some people catch fish and they -- they just don’t know what to do with the fish when they catch ‘em.
But it’s important to take care of your fish as good as possible.
JAN YAEGER: You had talked about fish traps a little bit. Were there fish traps right around Seldovia, pre-statehood?
FRED ELVSAAS: We -- we had a fish trap right outside Seldovia on -- on the far end of Hoen’s Spit. In the summertime, my family would move from town over to Hoen’s Spit ‘cause we had large gardens there, and we had a cow and a bull.
And the fish trap was right outside. And Fred Hoen, who Hoen’s Spit is named for, he lived on the spit and he was also the watchman on the trap -- fish trap.
And it was a pile trap. They drove the piling. And they drove offshore. And we got king salmon from the trap. Because in those days the fish canneries didn’t have machinery geared up for canning king salmon. They were primarily for smaller fish: the reds, silvers, humpies, and dog salmon.
But my -- my dad had a fish trap for thirty years up where the oil docks are now in -- off of Kenai.
And they were pile traps, too, and he was also a pile driver operator, and he drove the piling and then fished the trap and then pulled the piling in the fall.
But the trap -- Seldovia was very efficient. There was a trap on MacDonald Spit at Nubble Point. There was a trap over on the Homer side in Kachemak on -- just past Bluff Point.
I can’t remember the name of the creek there, but it’s just -- just past Bluff Point. And there was one down on Flat Island, inside of Flat Island.
And that was -- one, two -- that was only four traps in the Kachemak area. But they were very efficient.
As a matter of fact, when the fish traps were catching, good fishing, the canneries wouldn’t buy from the fisherman. That -- that was another major problem with -- The fish traps were so efficient, they’d catch fish all the time.
And then when the fish trap is closed, like for Saturday and Sunday, the fish would lay against the lead, the long lead of piling that came off the beach, and they’d -- it was a fair buildup of fish.
So whenever they opened the trap, the fish would swim along the lead, out, trying to get around the trap, but they would funnel into a holding pen made out of web, which was called a pot.
And the pot of the trap would hold the fish. And then adjacent to that was a tunnel that went into what was called a spiller.
The fish went into the spiller and from there the fish tenders, boats, would come, and they’d tie up to the trap and take this large net system they had and dip down and scoop the fish out of the spiller onto the boat.
The spiller was a little smaller than the pot, because the pot could hold thousands and thousands of fish.
And I recall one day, my dad’s trap, they brailed twenty-six thousand fish in one tide. And that was just unheard of for any gill net fishermen to catch but -- but they figured that was a pretty good day.
But that -- the traps were very efficient, and they were built out -- they had a series of pilings built so that if the fish tried swimming along the lead, if they didn’t go into the pot they might try to swim around the trap and they would go into the heart of the trap, which was a series of piling and web and wire.
And they would -- they would -- the heart was designed just like a heart, both sides of the trap. And it would turn the fish back toward the lead. And the fish would eventually wind up in the pot.
But I recall standing up on top of the trap watching the fish, and you could see the fish. As they come along the lead, you can see them in the water. And they’ll get to the tunnel that goes into the pot and they hesitate.
But eventually more fish show up and pretty soon they all go through.
And I never seen any fish ever turn around and go back the way they came in. They just seem to -- tryin’ to get around the trap or get away from the wire, and in turn it led them right into the pot and they were caught.
So it was very efficient. They -- they were so efficient they put a lot of fishermen out of work.
But in turn, they were also owned by the big companies. The large fish companies owned the traps. There was only -- I only know of two traps that were owned by individuals, and -- and they were limited to what they could deliver depending on what the company traps owned.
And so I think statehood was a good thing in that they got rid of the fish traps. And it was a very popular vote at the time to get rid of that competition.
If traps were owned by individuals, it probably would’ve been a different situation. But since they were company owned by the large fish packers they -- the vote was to vote out the fish traps.
I know today you hear a lotta talk, especially amongst the politicians, about having home rule and makin’ our own decisions and so forth and so forth.
That’s somewhat true, but the fish trap issue was the real reason we voted for statehood.
JAN YAEGER: And I’ve heard before that those issues were tied together. Was it understood, or I guess I should say, was it a separate vote?
People voted for statehood and then there was a second vote, once statehood had been achieved, to vote out the fish traps? Or were they tied together in the same vote?
FRED ELVSAAS: It was all in one vote. Yeah. If we have statehood, we’ll get rid of the traps. And, yeah, when the vote was taken that was the end of fish traps.
But even my dad voted for statehood, even though he was a trap fisherman all his life. He had thirty years of fishing fish traps that he -- he knew something had to be done.
But it was -- it was just so efficient, and if you look at -- just on Salamatof Beach, which is the beach from Kenai River north up to East Foreland, there was ten fish traps.
They’re a mile apart, and they were so efficient, you know, when those fish -- the Kenai River red salmon hit that beach -- and then on Kalifornsky Beach, between the Kenai River and the Kasilof River, there was ten more traps.
You know, those traps there could catch more fish than all the commercial fishermen put together would ever, ever catch. And once -- once they start loadin’ up with fish, the commercial fish -- the buyers, the canneries would not buy from the fishermen.
As a matter of fact, several of the fishermen in that area used to go in and work in the cannery when the fish run hit, because they couldn’t fish. Soon as -- soon as the traps start gettin’ less fish, the run was over, the fishermen could go back on the beach and fish again.
But everything was run by the big canned salmon industry. And that -- that's -- that’s a great thing to see that monopoly busted. We were very happy with that.
Now I fished for a cannery out of Anchorage, and they didn’t have fish traps so they bought from setnet fishermen all along the beaches. But they were also limited by how many fishermen they could handle.
When -- when you have an abundance of fish, it’s -- it’s difficult to find somebody willing to buy your fish all summer. But I managed to fish for the cannery in Anchorage and it worked very well.
JAN YAEGER: So did you have to deliver in Anchorage, then?
FRED ELVSAAS: No, I had a barge. And I anchored my barge off the beach and their fish tenders would come and take the fish off the barge. So it was very, very easy for me.
And I had some other fishermen in the area put their fish on my barge, also. But nowadays there’s no tenders and there’s no barges and so forth, so we have to bring our fish into Kenai to sell them.
Which is an added hazard and so forth, but each fish day you run your fish into Kenai and if you get good fishing, you gotta make two trips.
We can haul, oh, fifteen hundred fish or so in and -- because now as we catch the fish, we also ice them.
And when we go to -- when we deliver the fish we get ice from the plant and take it back for icing the next fish and so -- so it’s far, far different. But the fish quality’s much, much better.
JAN YAEGER: The recorder’s back on now. Still September 24th with Fred Elvsaas and Jan Yaeger and it is now 11:10 in the morning, and we’re still talking with Fred.
And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more -- we mentioned statehood and how the fish traps were taken out at statehood. Can you talk a little bit more about the other changes that you saw around the time of statehood?
FRED ELVSAAS: Well, you know, talkin’ about the Seldovia area, there’s -- there’s a tremendous amount of changes. Alaska is a boom and bust state.
But you know, first thing was the furs. ‘Course there was the sea otters and the local fur and the trapping.
And then they had the herring fisheries. Kachemak Bay was a great herring fishery. And there was herring salteries all over the place.
Seldovia was -- there was several salteries right in town, as well as those along Kachemak Bay and Halibut Cove.
And after the herring was gone, there was the fur farming. The fox farming. There were several fox farms around Seldovia and Kachemak Bay.
So, see, they’d have the big burst of product or energy, the fur, the herring, the foxes, but then it’d be the bust.
And then there was the salmon. Salmon started, and the first salmon fishing was done for salting, also. And then eventually they started canning the salmon.
And the salmon industry lasted the longest of all the efforts in Seldovia. They brought fish from Cook Inlet and Kodiak, even in Copper River. I fished over there.
Prior to statehood and area registration, you could fish wherever you wanted. I fished Copper River one year, and then we fished in Cook Inlet for a while, and then we went to Kodiak and fished, and then back to Cook Inlet.
And -- and it was just you fished in Alaska, that -- but then, after the salmon, then we had the king crab industry.
And king crab, there was just practically no end to the king crab. I never thought we’d ever see the king crab fishery closed. And it was one of the more enjoyable fisheries.
All during the salmon and crab fishing, we also had the halibut fishery. So we had a cold storage here, and so Seldovia was a very busy, busy place.
The fish plants were working. We had the salmon canneries. We had the cold -- cold storage for the halibut. And we had a reduction plant here that took care of all the fish waste.
And then we started the crab fishery. And about the time of the earthquake and so forth, that was the end of the salmon canneries here in Seldovia. And the crab fishing kept on, and it was very good.
But -- and I recall I -- I had a couple of crab boats and the biologist at that time was tellin’ us that we should have more in the way of conservation and so forth, and we couldn’t understand why. There were so many crab. No matter where you put your crab pots, you had crab.
And little by little it got worse and worse, and the fishery moved to Kodiak and further west. And pretty soon they had to shut down the king crab fishing.
And then we had the Tanner crab fishery. And -- and it was -- the plant operator asked me one time if I would -- after king crab fishing was over for the season, if I would go out and bring in some Tanner crab. They wanted to try processing them. They didn’t know exactly how to -- how to handle them.
So he said, “What would you want?” And I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. We want two hundred dollars. I’ll take one man and we’ll go and put ten pots out, and we’ll fish ‘em for two hundred dollars, and you give us the bait.”
So he said okay, and we went. And we loaded the boat. We filled the boat full in nine pots. The last pot we couldn’t pull. We just had too many crab.
We came into the plant, and the plant operator came out on the dock and he looked down and he said, “All I wanted was a couple a hundred.”
I said, “Well, we re-baited the pots and set ‘em back.” And so they took the crab. And so they -- they couldn’t process that many crab. There was no way they were set up for it, and it was more of an experimental thing.
The next day we went out and there wasn’t that many crab in the pots. The king crab pot web, the Tanner crab could crawl right back out again. Once they found out they couldn’t get the bait they left the pots.
So it wasn’t that bad the second day. But that first day, we were very happy just loadin’, dumpin’ the crab in the fish hole and, you know, at least they’re gonna be happy with the fish.
Then they didn’t want that many. We didn’t -- they never told us to only bring a couple hundred in.
And so we -- we started the Tanner crab fishing and that’s the way it was. There was -- if we didn’t load up every day, we were not very happy fishermen.
And, of course, the effort got -- tremendous effort. All the boats fishing from Seldovia and Homer and the same thing happened as the king crab. They had to shut it down.
And now it’s difficult to find them, although I -- I know you can -- you can find ‘em. You just -- you have to know where to look.
The last crab opening that I fished was a special opening. I can’t remember what the limit was on it, but it wasn’t gonna last long.
But I set fifty pots out and the index showed that the Tanner crab are mostly around Homer Spit. But there was like close to a hundred boats registered to fish.
And I figured they’re all gonna fish up there where the index showed the crab. There’s gonna be so many boats the lines are gonna tangle and everything.
So I loaded my gear and I -- I set right outside of Seldovia. And I said, “I’m not gonna go up there and get in that mess with the other boats.”
And we did very well. My crew wasn’t happy. They were like everybody and they knew what the index showed.
And -- but -- but all those boats fishing up there, they were getting, like, twenty and thirty crab per pot. And we -- we set -- our first pot had eighty-some crab.
But I’ll never forget the second pot. It was a hundred and twenty six crab. Keeper crab. And all nice, big, beautiful, brown crab.
And they all figured I knew something. I didn’t know anything, I just wasn’t gonna tangle up with all those other pots.
And we had a very good fishery out of it. And we delivered, and we tied up in the boat harbor for the night and then went back the next day.
And it -- it was a three-day fishery and the limit was -- that was the end of the fishery.
And we did very well on that fishery. But by the evening of the second day, you could see those boats bringin’ pots down the bay. They’re haulin’ their gear, they’re getting’ out of there, there was no more crab up there.
And I felt pretty good about that. But the truth be known, I didn’t have a clue where the crab were. But we -- we lucked out.
So that's, you know -- then we also had the logging operation in Jakolof Bay, which brought a lotta people to Seldovia.
And they did very well. But again, every one of these things: the fur, the herring, the fox farms, the salmon fishery, the crab fishery, it all crashed. And now, you can see Seldovia is a very quiet little community. More retired people.
JAN YAEGER: Can I ask you a little bit -- you were the CEO of the Native Association for quite a long time and I think you helped get that started, right? FRED ELVSAAS: With what?
JAN YAEGER: The Seldovia Native Association? Can you talk a little bit about getting that up and running?
FRED ELVSAAS: Well, yeah, I -- during the fight for the Claims Act (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act), which wasn’t very easy but I attended a lot of meet -- I was on the RurAL CAP board and we used to -- the RurAL CAP area was Seldovia, Ninilchik, Port Graham, English Bay, and Kodiak. All of Kodiak Island.
And so we got involved in the claims fight. And we -- our basic thing was we all agreed that we needed some kind of a settlement. We didn’t really know what.
One of the things people talked about was -- as I recall, we talked about the Native people gettin’ land. But our thinking at that time was each Native would get land. It wasn’t like the way it turned out.
Then there was also those people that wanted land that they could sell so they could access money. There was -- there was all kinds of versions. We --
Every time we talked about it we would pass resolutions. I mean, every meeting we ever had we’d pass resolutions on the land claims. I don’t know that they ever went any place, that they ever did any --
But one thing that we were united in that we needed some kind of a settlement. We all agreed that what Russia sold to America was not the state of Alaska or the Territory. They sold the Russian settlements. Was Kenai, Sitka, Juneau, Kodiak. Those four places.
And they -- that is in the treaty. So then what about the rest of Alaska?
Well then, also, the United States said the Natives in Alaska could be citizens, but only the civilized tribes. Well, whoever said we were civilized or not?
See, that -- that raises a question on our citizenship. Nobody ever declared me civilized. And I don’t know who would or wouldn’t.
Well, I know who wouldn’t, but anyway, so when -- when the settlement was finally arrived at, we’d sent money. We’d donated out of our pocket for people to go to Washington, DC and stuff, but we couldn’t afford anybody from our area to go.
So we didn’t have any representation. Finally, Kodiak did get some people to go, but -- but we finally got the settlement.
Well, then when we got the settlement, we didn’t know what it meant. But they wanted us to organize. And one day we -- we had a meeting, and we had a very well attended meeting on the -- if I remember right, it was an old BIA schoolhouse.
And a lady member from here who lived in Anchorage, she brought an attorney. And they explained to us we needed to incorporate.
And in turn the deal was the regions -- there would be twelve regions and the thirteenth region out of state and then all the villages.
And our -- at that time, Seldovia was in the Chugach region. We said no, we didn’t like that. We wanted to be in Cook Inlet. We’re not in Chugach. That’s Prince William Sound and so forth.
But Port Graham and Nanwalek, Port -- English Bay -- they wanted to be in Chugach. So eventually we got the boundary changed so that we’re in Cook Inlet and they’re in Chugach.
But then we had to incorporate. And so this lady, she said, “Well, I will be the president and I can run the corporation from my home in Anchorage ‘cause the state offices and the federal offices are all in Anchorage.”
So I stood up and I said no. I said this is Seldovia’s Native Association and it should be in Seldovia. And we that live in Seldovia should be running our own corporation.
Well, then right away a lady sittin’ on the other side of my wife at the time, she says, “Well, Freddy, why don’t you do it then?”
I was fishing on a crab boat. I was happy as could be. And like a idiot I said, “Damn it, I will.” 'Cause I just didn’t want it to be taken away into Anchorage.
So with that, that’s how I got to be president. And, well, then we had to have incorporators.
And we had -- we actually had to ask people to volunteer, you know, because nobody really -- we’d been so close so many times to bein’ organized through the years and Native claims, and then it’s always taken away.
And so we did the incorporation, and the attorney took the paperwork and filed it. And I believe it was February when we got our certificate.
So that was in ‘90 -- or ‘71. And then in ‘72 was the year we got the paper finalized. Well, then we found out that the regions had five years control of the finances for each village.
And the Anchorage people, they decided that they would send us some office equipment. And they sent us a desk and a chair and a inbox, you know, like you see on the in and out for mail.
And this inbox was two pieces of wood with four pieces of brass, and they wanted fifty-five dollars charged to our account for that. And I said we got no need for it. So I got the Board -- the Board agreed and we voted to send it back.
And from that point on we had animosity between us and the region, because they -- they thought they knew what was best for us and we said no.
So the first five years were very difficult. I was the president. We had -- basically had to ask people to serve on our Board of Directors. And just -- the region wasn’t helping us on anything. They wanted to tell us what land to take.
And the way the Claims Act is, the village owns the land but the region owns the subsurface of that land. So they wanted to do a mineral search to make sure we selected mineral lands. And we said no, this is our homeland. We’ll do our own selections.
And we can’t do nothing about them owning the subsurface, but they’ll get it. So we did that, and then, of course, our first -- first selection is this township that this city of Seldovia is on. It includes the subdivision area.
Then the state fought us and filed a lawsuit against us because they didn’t want us to get that land. They said the state had selected it -- which, state-selected land was available to us.
They said, “But that land was encumbered.” Because they had -- were going to give it to the Kenai Borough. The Borough’s entitled to ten percent of the state land within the Borough boundaries and the Borough said yes.
Well, they never had done any paperwork or nothin’ on it, but we went to court. I told the shareholders I still believe that the people, the shareholders, should have the land.
I said the government’s taking all this Native land, puttin’ it in the corporations, and you’re gonna get a piece of paper, eight by eleven, that says you own stock. But you don’t own the land.
Now this is your land, but you don’t get it. You get the piece of paper. So I said, “Let’s subdivide the land and deed it to the shareholders.”
My idea was to subdivide all the land, but we couldn’t afford to subdivide all the land. We didn’t have no money.
But I said, “Well, let’s start out here.” And my idea was to give five acres to every shareholder.
Well, we got a firm that agreed to survey it and we’ll pay ‘em when we get the money. And so when they got to lookin’ at the land and everything, they came to me and said we can’t get five acres for two hundred and fifty shareholders out there.
By the time you take the roads out and so forth we can do three acres. So -- so we took a vote on that and we agreed to three acres.
And so we went ahead with the subdivision. Well, they were surveyin’ it while we were still fightin’ in court. The state wanted to file an injunction against us sayin’ we can’t do that, that we’re trespassing.
But the attorneys agreed that we were not trespassing because the land was state selected and that was available to us. So it took seven years.
We had the land surveyed. We had the road right-of-ways put in. We put in a hundred foot right-of-ways for every road. Instead of the sixty foot that the state wanted on the Jakolof Road, we put a hundred feet.
And it was all staked. The surveyors put in the brass -- or the survey markers with a locator stake on each one. And we still didn’t own the land.
And finally we won, and in June month we had a meeting. We used the city hall.
And we had a large map and we had all the shareholder’s numbers, share numbers, and we had the lot numbers. And we drew a share number and a lot number. And that’s how people got the subdivision.
And Crystal’s daughter and my daughter -- no, Crystal and my daughter, yeah, she didn’t have any kid then, they were the recorders. They wrote on the map who got what.
And it was an interesting day. Nice, warm, sunny day.
People would find out that they got the lot. Darlene was my secretary, and she made a map of each lot as well as a map of the big lot subdivision, showing where the lots were. There was no roads out there then, just the Jakolof Road.
But people would take off and go locate their land, and -- and they were stumbling around the woods. Most people didn’t know how to locate their land.
But it was an interesting day. And we did that. And the first guy to build, bought a lot down near the bluff. And he walked down. He located the lot. He bought it from a shareholder.
That was the other thing we did. We deeded this land fee simple to the shareholders, because we wanted them to be able to -- the elderly shareholders, we told, "Here’s your chance. Sell the land, and access the money. Because your kids have land. They’re gonna have their own lots." And most people did.
But after CIRI, the regional corporation, saw what we did, they got other regions and they went to people, and they went to Washington, D.C. and had the act amended to where now you can’t do that.
You can’t deed the land to the shareholders. You can deed land with what’s called a live estate, and you own it. But when you die it goes back to the corporation.
You can will it to your kids, but only if the corporation agrees. And you have to die to find out -- so you really don’t know if your kids are gonna get the land or not, because you have to die first.
And so -- so that stopped our great plan of gettin’ the land all to the shareholders. But it -- it did a great thing. It -- you know, a lotta people lived in town in rental places and trailers and whatnot. Now they got land, and they don’t have their neighbors lookin’ in their windows and stuff.
And I was on the city council also at the time and I remember the mayor was complaining about I’m takin’ his citizens away and there’s not gonna be anybody left in town.
Well, regardless of whether people are in town or not, you still got the tax base. The land, you know. And I don’t see any vacant lots available in town, so it brought more people in.
Now, we wound up with a tremendous amount of absentee ownership, which is fine, but we also had local people that needed land to build on.
And so -- so the subdivision has evolved and keeps growing and growing. And eventually, you know, we’ll need sewer and water out there.
And we had that plan, which will take many years to develop. But there’s -- the city, of course, let me know right away that I could not expect the city to provide water out there.
But I had a engineer friend come and look the area over, and he said if we put a dam in Barabara Creek canyon, and there’s -- you know, it’s a very narrow canyon -- it wouldn’t be hard to build a dam there.
There’s a system where water going over the dam kinda forms some kind of a jet pump that would pump water up. It -- it seems that for every two gallons going over, you get like a half a gallon up.
We could put a tank up on the hill and fill the tank and it would feed the whole subdivision.
As a matter of fact, the city was running out of water in the fish plants. They -- we had a terrible water shortage here. We could supply water to the city. Barabara Creek valley’s got a lotta water.
And the sewer -- sewer -- system was -- we could do it in about four systems. And so in the future that’ll all happen. But it takes growth and time to -- and, of course, a lotta money.
So all these things were happening, but at the same time we were short of funds. And the state had us tied up in court over this core township. We couldn’t do nothin’.
So I was talkin’ to a land planner lady in Anchorage one day. We were havin’ lunch together actually. And she said, “You know, your problem is the state is gonna break you, and the region’s not gonna help you. You guys are gonna go bankrupt.”
And she said, “What you need to do is change your priorities.” Our core township was our number one priority filed at the BLM.
She said you need to find some timber land. Timber in Alaska in them days was very high and very active and so forth -- and sell timber. And then -- then -- then you can stand on your own two feet.
So we did. We -- we passed the resolutions and we made this number two priority and made the Seldovia Valley Township number one.
And we -- the state -- feds had formed what was called a land use planning commission. They were to review all the Native selections, for whatever purpose.
John Colberg was our vice-president, I believe, but he and I were in Anchorage at a CIRI meeting. And he said, “You know, we ought to go see those land use planning people -- see what the hell they’re up to. We never hear from them.”
So we did. We went down and we met a fella named John Hall. And John, who’s the head of it -- He’s in Washington, D.C., represents the state now. He’s going blind now, but -- but anyway, they were so happy.
We were the first Native people to ever walk in their door. They’d been in business over a year and nobody’d come around.
And so we told ‘em about our experiences and why we changed and so forth, and they said, “Well we’ll get it. And we have forty-five days to review it. And if we see problems we can extend it,“ and so forth.
And I said, “Well, we need it done right away.” John Hall said, “I don’t see a problem with it.” He’d looked at the map. He said, “I can get this turned out in a few days.”
Well, the chairman said we better run the forty-five days. He said, “But then we don’t see a problem, you’re okay.”
So we had to wait the forty-five days. But -- but we got it from BLM over to the land use planning commission, and -- and BLM was upset because we were trying to do one township when we’re entitled to three.
What about the other two? We said we’ll take care of that later. We gotta get one going.
And so they -- there was no regulation sayin’ one way or the other. And some of the BLM people said no, you get all your selections and we review the whole thing.
And -- but they -- they finally let it go. There was a lady there that was very adamant against us gettin’ it, and so we got the --
And I went to Portland, Oregon and met with a timber survey group. Can’t remember their name. Anyway, they did planning and so forth for timber sales. ‘Cause we had no idea how to sell timber. And they agreed to take it.
But they said before they would sell the timber, they wanted us to agree to doin’ a road survey for the timber roads. In those days, we didn’t even have the road to where the landfill is. There was no way to access our land from Seldovia, except by water.
So that’s -- that’s what we did. We -- so we hired this fella. He was a timber -- timber planner, but I forget what the name is.
They -- but he lays out the sale of the timber, and also the roads. So we had one of our -- our shareholders help him, and I run him back and forth in my skiff. And they spent a week up there layin’ out the timber sale.
But then when -- when he came to me after the first day or so, he told me about this block of timber, and I said no.
When you build the road, we want to cut the timber. If you cut the timber on the right side of the road, about forty acres, we want the left side left alone, and move up and stagger it.
And he said why. I said, well, knowing logging people, the logger will come in and cut the wood and he’s gone. But we want some trees left for if we harvest ourself, and we won’t have to build a road.
Well, he said, you’ll never get a logging company to bid on it. I said, well, we’ll lay it out that way. And he said okay. Well, that extended the road further up into the valley because we needed more cuttin’ areas.
And so then the consultant put the sale up. And we had a couple people come in. One guy came in from Canada and he said, “We don’t need your plan. We got our own plan.”
And I said, ”Well, what’s your plan?“ And he said, “Well, I’ll bring a couple barges with equipment and housing for my workers. We’ll go up the bay. Where we land, we’ll start cuttin’ trees. And when we get all the trees cut, we’ll go home.”
And I said, “That’s not gonna fly with us.” So he left. And we had a couple others come and look, and they’d fly around. And I said, “I’m not selling no trees unless you look at the wood.”
Well, they’d fly over -- yeah, this is good timber and so forth. I said, “But you haven’t seen the trees other than flyin’ over.” Well, one -- one guy did hire a boat and he went up.
And then this fella Robertson came in. And I met with him for a while and he told me about how he builds roads down in the Tongass forest for logging and so forth, and he has a market and everything.
I said, “But you haven’t seen the trees.” So he said, “How do I get up there?” And I said, “Well, I can run you up the bay.” But he said no.
So he went to Homer and hired a helicopter, landed downtown, picked me up and we flew up in the valley, and he went to three spots and he looked at the trees.
And I took pictures of him holdin’ a tree, so he could say he did see the trees. And he bid, and he bid high, and he got the sale.
And -- and he in turn -- then he bought the Rocky Phillips homestead to build a road up there. So that’s how we got the road up to the Native land.
JAN YAEGER: Okay, so we’re still talking with Fred, and --
FRED ELVSAAS: Okay. Well, you know, we managed to get a logging contract and he did a very good job. He developed the land where the rock quarry is now as the staging site for the logs. And he was a very good logger.
One of the things we noticed right away was there was a lot of timber that wouldn’t make the market. Some had stump rot. Some was too short pieces. Some was windblown tops and whatnot.
And so I talked to the contractor and I said, “While you’re yardin’ out the logs, why don’t you bring those and dump ‘em along the road?”
People were burnin’ a lotta wood, but they don’t have access to wood. This would make a great -- great thing for the local people. And he agreed, and he did a wonderful job.
And we didn’t allow any wood cuttin’ when the logging was on, but after they finished people could go out there and cut wood and so forth.
We -- we issued a permit for ten dollars, thirty days, and you could cut as much wood as you wanted in thirty days.
An interesting thing. We had two -- two woodcutter guys. They had jobs in town. And they wanted to know if they couldn’t use their thirty days, just two days on each weekend.
And I said no. I said that wasn’t fair to the other people. I mean, for ten dollars you could buy another permit.
But anyway, so we got the logging going and we started making money - good money - and we started paying dividends. In the twenty-five years that I was CEO, we paid twenty-five million -- no, sixteen million -- dollars in dividends to the shareholders.
So with the land -- three acres of land per shareholder plus the sixteen million, we had a very good run. It was very good.
One of the interesting things was, the state filed suit against us in the core township, which tied up that land, and we selected the land around Jakolof Bay and between Jakolof and Tutka Bay, and the state filed suit again because they claimed it was state selected for mental health purposes.
We wound up in court again, and the state made the selections like they said. But we found out later that the state mental health selections were way over -- these were over-selections.
So the state never got the land under the mental health rule in the end. They did get it, but only because we dropped our claim.
And we didn’t have the money to fight them in court. But this land planner friend of mine -- we were having lunch one day in Anchorage, and she said, “Why don’t you file on the state park? Kachemak Bay State Park." And you know, “Well, that’s a park.” And she said “No. The state doesn’t own the land. They just filed selection on it and they call it a park.”
And so I went to the Board and the Board agreed. And so we changed our selections then to the state park.
That became known and, of course, right away everybody was up in arms, especially in Homer. People were just really, really mad about the whole idea.
And, of course, there was a fair amount of people supported our idea, too. They thought it was a waste of time havin’ a state park.
Well, we looked at a pretty good struggle there, but I suggested that we trade the land back to the state for other land that had income potential. Didn’t have to be in our area, just -- just income land.
And the Board agreed and we start lookin’ at other state land. We hired a consultant and we’re diggin’ up state lands.
One particular land site we wanted was Granite Point up in Cook Inlet. It’s a potential dock site for the coal mines on the Capps Glacier. There’s two companies in California that own the coal up there, but they have to have a way to get it out.
Well, they protested. One thing -- when the state disposes of land, they have to have public hearings. So every time we selected a parcel and they’d agree, we’d have to have a public hearing.
And no matter where it was, people were adamantly against us taking -- taking their land away, is basically what they said.
And so the dock site was one that I really wanted. I could see the potential. The tide runs equally north and south there, so ships could land at the dock with plenty of deep water, and it has -- a piece of land that we could generate revenue off of.
But the public hearings were strongly against us and we never got it.
That same happened in Ketchikan. There was a state subdivision down there. I believe it was like a hundred and some acres. I believe it was near Saxman’s land.
But the people there in Ketchikan and the people in Saxman, the Native corporation, they didn’t want us to own it. They wanted the subdivision to be put up for land lease.
And I took a look at some of the land. I thought the first thing I would do is log it off. It was some tremendous big trees.
And I really thought it would be a great idea. Log it off and then sell the lots. Sell all the subdivided lots. But that didn’t come to pass.
We did pick up a few lots along the Sterling Highway at Bing Brown’s Landing and Funny River Road in Soldotna, some in Kachemak Bay. Couple small parcels. But we didn’t get much.
After a long while -- there were several governors involved, but some were favorable, some weren’t. But the people in Homer were very much in favor of us doing what we were doing. We got a lot of support there.
I spoke to the Homer Chamber of Commerce and they supported us thoroughly. I think I was over there about three or four meetings. For the Chamber meetings.
And they always wanted to know what we were doing and how we were comin’ along. And they -- they had good influence with the legislators and so forth.
But, finally, when Governor Hickel was elected on his second term, he called me one night and he said, “Tell me about this park problem.” And this is about nine-thirty at night.
And I said, ”Well, you know, it seems to be workable, but we’re havin’ a lot of problem with your people.” And he said, well -- he said, ”It seems to me that it’s doable, too. Tell me who they are and I’ll take care of the problem.” And so I did and he did.
And the guy that was my main, I guess you could say opponent. He was very adamant against us. Got transferred right away and -- to another position, and so -- and that helped.
And then with his -- with Governor Hickel’s help, we agreed to do what land we could do but to cash out the balance. And I said, “Well, now that’s gonna have to go to the shareholders. I can’t make those kind of decisions.”
So we had a meeting and we agreed. And so that’s -- that’s how we saved the park as a park.
And we -- we have some holdings yet on the gravel bars on the front of the park that we still own. We own, of course, the island peninsula, and we own the north side of Peterson Bay. That’s outside the park.
And so we have adjacent lands, but -- but then we went to -- in selecting the park for trade, you know, when we were trading, the thing was, which land in the park does the state get every time we got a parcel? And they wanted to take the front -- China Poot Bay and McKeon Flats and so forth.
In other words, they would select maybe a third of the land and tell us we could own the mountains. And we said no. I met with DNR a few times and we finally agreed to -- we would give up the park land in a L-shaped pattern, starting from the back.
In other words, they would get the mountains first. Well, then they wanted an appraisal.
Well, prior to that, before the park was established, the state DNR people had done an appraisal, and it was a -- kind of like from a book or from a map.
And they valued the back land, mountaintops, at fifty dollars an acre, and down to the waterfront, China Poot and McKeon Flats area, I'm tryin’ to think if it was, like, three hundred dollars an acre or something of that sort.
And so we agreed that was the best numbers we had. And it was -- it was very difficult because we still had these DNR people that insisted they had to have some waterfront all the time.
And my -- my answer to that was, well, you know, clear up some of this state land for our selections and we’ll -- we’ll deal with you.
We’ll -- you know, ‘course right away they offered us the mental health selected land that was so near and dear to their hearts the year before. All of a sudden it was available and we said, “No, we don’t want it now.”
So anyway, thanks to Governor Hickel, he -- he said let’s do it. And -- and he made it happen.
The state office in those days was in the Frontier building in Anchorage. I went up one day and he said, “I will get this through and you let me know if there’s any problems. Just call me directly.” And he gave me his home phone number.
And so it was interesting. I -- I liked dealing with Governor Hickel ‘cause he’d call me in the evening, and he’d call me right here at home, and he’d wanna know how things were going and so forth.
And he said, “I don’t wanna call you from my office.” He says, “I have a lot of people that don’t think I should be governor” and things of that sort.
He said, “It’s better if I call you after I get home.” I said, "That -- that’s fine. I like that."
And my wife thought it was okay. And so -- I tried. When I left the office after work, I tried not to bring it home with me. And -- but in his case I didn’t mind. I mean, it was well worth it.
When you run a corporation with a variety of shareholders like we had, a lot of shareholders, especially the elder ones, want things to happen right now.
And it’s unfortunate, you know, we didn’t have title to the land. We didn’t have money. All we had was a piece of paper. And some of those shareholders wanted something to happen before they died.
And -- and I can understand that, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Just keep tryin’.
And so -- so we did save the park for the state. We did cash out. We did get some lands. And I think overall it worked out pretty good.
We had some land just east of Homer. I think it was about a hundred and thirty five acres around that small lake that’s east of Homer. And it’s very soft ground. It’s swampland and so forth.
But when they built the powerhouse at Bradley Lake and so forth, they built the tunnel from the lake down and they built the powerhouse.
And then the feds, under some federal rule, said that they were destroying moose range and they had to make it up. And they had no land available that was good for moose. But we did. And I got the Board to agree to let that land go. So the feds bought that land.
And if you ever look around there, you’ll see there’s no development there because that’s moose range to replace the land lost for the Bradley Lake power project.
So I believe we did our share of public service, too. But we -- we didn’t blow our own horn so to say and let the world know about it because there’s always the anti people.
Even in that case, there was people against us using the land for moose range. I don’t know what else you could use it for, but -- ‘cause it is all soft ground. And that -- that worked out real well.
One of the things -- while I was president and CEO, I was also president of our tribe. And we -- we had quite a time proving that, you know, we were for real.
The Natives have been in Seldovia forever. And there’s always been Natives. We’re kind of unique situation.
We have the Athabascan Indians from the north side and down Kachemak Bay. We have the Aleut culture from the Prince William Sound and Kodiak side. And we also have the people from the Iliamna side that would --
And Yukon Island was the trading site. And the Natives would meet there. So they would do their trading and settle their differences or whatever they had to do at the time.
And so -- so we’re a mix of Natives. We’re not just one side. We have a lot of the families here are Eskimos, and there’s Aleuts, and there’s Indians. And we’re far different than the average Alaska village. And it -- and it works out pretty good.