The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

You Know You Are From Kaktovik, Alaska If…

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Photos courtesy of Sandi Semaken (I only wish I took these…)

We’ve all seen those, “You Know You Are From … If … ” groups around Facebook lately.  They are kind of annoying, as you scroll down your page, because most of them are very personalized to the people from that area…and the rest of us couldn’t care less.  But the other day I noticed my friend Sandi…whom you’ve likely met in several of my more Alaskany adventures on here…commented on one and I just had to click on it. If you knew Sandi, you would know why I had to check it out.  Sandi makes me do things like eat whale blubber and muskrat.  She’s lucky to still be my friend after that one…

The village of Kaktovik in the winter

Sandi is from Kaktovik, Barter Island…just about as far north in Alaska as you can go.  It is a tiny village on an island of about 300 people.  You thought you knew everyone in your little town…you’ve got nothing on some of these little Alaska villages.  They literally can walk to every single house within minutes and from there out, are surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of nothing but tundra and ocean.  If you’ve heard of the big dilemma about whether to drill in ANWR or not…well, these folks live there…amongst the caribou and polar bears…and that’s about all.

I’ve been hearing about her village for years and have always wanted to visit.  I’ve always been a bit jealous of the closeness she feels to those she left behind.  Her village.  Her people. The stories she tells of family…of the bond…it’s indescribable.  I think most of us will never know that feeling…of belonging.

Sandi’s aaka (grandma) ice fishing near the village

The status updates for that particular group is very telling…and such an exquisite example of the difference between remote village life, and almost anyplace else in the world.  Here are some samples…exactly as they were written.

  • ·         your step dad is making musk ox rump roast for thanksgiving and forgot to remove the  butthole.
  • ·         when you only had carnation milk for your cereal. 😉
  • ·         your welcomed in everyones house
  • ·         They used to bring the whale on the lagoon side instead of the ocean side.
  • ·         If you had to use the bathroom, they were outside of the school.
  • ·         There was only one phone in town in a shack by the 2 fuel tanks.
  • ·         When you’ve been fogged in or out!
  • ·         Everyone had the 2 way radios and if ya didn’t have one you wanted one.
  • ·         All we cared about was playing out and was scolded to go home to eat
  • ·         Played hide n seek in the winter through out the whole town.
  • ·         you carried big sticks durin the dark months to keep rabie foxes away from you
  • ·         Drunks are on cb you instantly know who they are.
  • ·         you would be really quiet an pray along with who ever is on cb when they wud catch a whale
  • ·         When girls know how to mugruk accross the ice and not get wet. (I’ve no idea what mugruk is…)
  • ·         when u go to the point during whaling just to watch nanuqs (polar bears) munch out
  • ·         you chase nanuqs (polar bears) with your dirtbike.
  • ·         you’ve ever walked in a blizzard when you can’t see..& still find your way around the village.
  • ·         you know what time of year Polar Bear season is!
  • ·         you had to dig tunnels from house to house after a snow storm!
  • ·         when you go fish camp all summer with your aapa and aaka.. and never wanted to go home.
  • ·         When you and your crazy cousins start a stampede of tutu (caribou) with a 4 wheeler…!!!
  • ·         you heard the plane flew over the village, got excited and knew your parents were coming home
  • ·         We had to walk to the dewline for dental treatments in groups.
  • ·         you’re surrounded by 50 or more nanuqs (polar bears) at once

I loved this glimpse into her world and hope I get a chance to visit someday soon. If I do, you bet I’ll be bringing you all along with me via camera and a blog!

 
 
One Response to "You Know You Are From Kaktovik, Alaska If…"
  1. Ami says:

    I would love to take a year or two out of my life and dedicate to nothing other than exploring Alaska’s villages, the people and their stories. So much to learn 🙂

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