February 26, 2005

28. The Rivers Serve as Highways.

"A truck trail has been plowed in order that tractor trailers can haul freight to Kalskag. Beware of these large vehicles traveling upriver hauling heavy/large loads." email from Bethel, 2/25/05

The world’s waterways hold a vital roll in shaping civilization as we know it. While other means of transportation have become available relatively recently, rural places remain as dependent on rivers today as cities have become on highways. In the winter, our rivers literally turn into highways.

These are from an airplane ride on the way into Bethel last weekend. We stopped by Kongiganak and Kwigillingok (two costal villages) to drop off packages. You can see the frozen-solid Bering Sea in these next two pictures.

While we're up here, another look at Tunt...

February 18, 2005

27. Chicago Trip.

Two of our kids attended the Future Educators of America conference in Chicago last weekend. They won an essay contest for the new Future Teachers of Alaska program.(I was able to chaperone because I'm the only male FTA site coordinator in the district.) I have been to

Chicago before, but I must have forgotten how big that place is... much more of a New York than a Philly. The size impressed me, so you could imagine how the kids must have felt. Placing the whole experience even further over the top, we took a limo between the airport and The Hilton Hotel. (Limo service was cheaper than shuttle service, but still...)

Around 1300 high school students from across the country invaded Chicago for the 11th annual FEA conference. Held at the historic Hilton Downtown, we stayed next to Lake Michigan and walking distance from the Sears Tower. We ate Dinner in the Grand Ballroom the first night; workshops and speakers ensued all weekend. In our small amount of free time, we saw Lake Michigan, visited the top of the Sears Tower, ate at a classic Chicago pizza restaurant and did some shopping. They even figured out that they couldn't figure out why people buy shoes at Footlocker when Payless has the same thing right across the street for half the price.

This is the first year Alaska had representation at the FEA conference. On Saturday afternoon, a boy from our district joined some girls from Nome to deliver a special presentation about Native Alaskan culture and education to all 1300 participants (Nome was the only other group from Alaska at the conference). The presentation ended with a demonstration of Native dance accompanied by a video of Native drummers. After the demonstration, they invited everyone to try it out-

and even come up on stage. The entire conference- 1300 people- was up, dancing and having a great time. For the rest of the weekend, our kids must have felt like movie stars. I like to think that as a result of this trip, someday there will be a thousand more teachers who will be able to tell their students that they were taught how to Eskimo dance by Native Alaskan. I just hope they let their students try it. The image below is a link to a video of the whole ordeal:

February 07, 2005

26. Juneau Trip, Part II.

Both Representative Kapsner and Senator Hoffman were extremely warm and welcoming to our kids. Each invited them into their office and each, respectively spent more than an hour engaging them in conversation. I felt they spoke to our students in a way that showed an intimate understanding of their culture and an appreciation for the hard work they did in order to be there. Representative Kapsner told stories of when she lived in Tunt and even knew that one of our students had shot a moose a few months back. While we were in Senator Hoffman’s office, he pointed out the 1888 map of Alaska he had on his wall.
As you can see from the map, at that time Tuntutuliak was at the center of the most populated region of Alaska. The map shows the way things were just prior to the Great Death- the time when new diseases brought in by explorers and settlers from far away places swept through native Alaskan communities in epidemics that killed the majority of native people. This is something I've heard before, but looking at this map- and knowing that there are only a fraction of those villages still around today- brings it very close to home.

February 06, 2005

25. Juneau Trip, Part I.

The trip to Juneau was nothing short of incredible. We spent most of the week in the Capitol building. Here on the right are a couple of our kids standing by a replica of the Liberty Bell, which

coincidently was next to the front entrance. We actually arrived a day later than expected. The night we were supposed to land in Juneau, the weather prevented it, so we had to over fly and land in Seattle instead. It was pretty late when we got to Seattle, and we had to wait until morning to catch the next plane to Juneau. None of the kids had been outside Alaska before, so instead of waiting at the airport all night, we caught a bus downtown and ate hamburgers under the Space Needle.
The program we were on is called Jr. Alaska Close-Up and is designed to give students a first hand look at the going-ons of states government. It is not a free program by any means- everything from tuition to the cost of travel from Tuntutuliak to Juneau had to be covered by the students through their own fund raising efforts. The students got to spend time with a number of legislators, including their own (Rep. Mary Kapsner and Sen. Lyman Hoffman),

observe live sessions of the House and Senate, sit in on committee meetings, speak with Judges, defense and prosecution attorneys, attend court hearings... really they got to see most of what happens at the Capitol. During the times when they weren't actually in the Capitol building itself, they participated in mock trials and committee hearings, attended lectures from newspaper reporters, legislators and a lobbyist. Somehow, there was also time for a tour of the State museum and the congressional television studio... It was a very busy week. There are two things that happened that were particularly interesting to me: both have to do with our experiences in meeting with the legislators. I'll discuss one in the next post, the other is discussed here.


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