Last week I traveled to Nome (population 3600) and the Native village of
Elim (pop. 300). I organized the trip for 30 state representatives to learn
more about the region, it services, and areas that may need some
improvements. Logistically, everything went well, so I was very relieved at
the end of the trip. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about village
We stayed at a new hotel in Nome, so that was not much different than any
urban area. The temp was about zero there, but when the wind was blowing it
was COLD. When it was still, the sun felt warm. While in Nome we met with
the two non-profit Native organizations that provide social service to the
region. We were invited to Nome by an elder in the community. He spoke
briefly about the Eskimo culture. Our group wanted more information in this
area, but one thing I know is that a 27 year old white girl should not be
telling a 75 year old elder how to do things.
The second day we flew in a nine seat plane to Elim. After we got off
there was room to try to load a refrigerator, but it did not fit. The
funniest thing was that the fridge still had magnets on it. Apparently its
owner expects it back. We rode to town in a large wooden sled pulled by a
We slept on the floor of the school library and ate lunch and breakfast
with the kids. For dinner we went to the store and got some things that
could be microwaved. The store was well stocked, about the size of
Burdett's or Ideal. In addition to food it carried basic hardware supplies.
They had duct tape that was 6 inches wide. Not only could that tape
someone's mouth shut, it would cover your whole head.
Our contacts in the village were out of town and out of the office sick.
We had thought we were having a meeting. I convinced the city clerk to give
me a key to the building and got on the radio, like a CB that goes to
everyone's homes, to announce the meeting. As we walked over to the
building, a 90 year old was riding on a 4 wheeler (ATV) driven by her
granddaughter. A few other people showed up also. We learned about elders
in the community, an individual with a mental illness, and substance abuse.
Elim is a "dry" village meaning their is no sale or importation of
alcohol. People drive four hours on their snowmachines to Nome to haul it
back. Pot is also common in the village. The principal said that many kids
drop out of school when they turn 16 because they have no value for the
white education of the school system. There are not a lot of jobs in the
village, so many people may feel there is nothing better to do. The
principal and counselor are frustrated that the kids that do stay in school
have a hard time leaving home and/or succeeding in the city and come back to
the village without an education.
I have mixed feelings about this. First, it is sad that kids won't have
some opportunities. However, I also feel it is sad when someone leaves the
village and is jaded by our white culture in the city. Just learning more
about that dichotomy and seeing it first hand is helpful for people in the
social service field.
After returning to Nome, each small group talked about the village they
visited. It was amazing to wake up in Elim and go to bed on the same day at
my house in Anchorage. I feel so fortunate that I could see just one part
of our huge state.
This past weekend I went on retreat for school to Talkeetna. Denali was
out and from our lodge you could see the 18,000 vertical foot rise from the
valley bottom. I am almost done with all of my tasks for school. I am
looking forward to a relaxing spring and preparing for our field work in
June, and east coast vacation in July.
Take care...Heather April 3 2001
Heathers Trip to Nome Alaska, March 2001