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Regional Conference A-Go-Go

The Kawerak Regional Conference is happening this week in Nome. It’s when a lot of residents from the Norton Sound and Bering Strait meet up to talk about a whole host of issues that affect their lives and communities. It’s also a time when people and organizations operating in the region – the Coast Guard, state and federal agencies, educators and historians, legislators and more – gather to talk about what they’re doing in the state and in our region. It’s an interesting mix, to say the least: like the assortment of kuspucks shown in the image above, the conference brings together many  various … multicolored … and not cut from the same  … cloth … OK, that metaphor isn’t working. I just wanted to use the pictures of the kuspucks, OK? Let’s move on.

The event started off at 9am on Tuesday. I was at the Rec Center – the only building in Nome big enough to house the people and provide a venue for so many presentations – to plug in the morning’s keynote speaker to our wireless transmitter and get their voice on KNOM’s airwaves. After that, I went off to cover a meeting for a new Sobering and Wellness Center planned to open in Nome next summer. News director Laureli Kinneen also popped in to do a story on another presentation, happening at the same time but in a different room, on social science in the Bering Sea.

I went back to the station and put the finishing touches on a new episode of Elder Voices (90-year-old Dina Sagoonick from Shaktoolik) before I dug into my audio of the wellness center presentation and got the story ready for air.

The next morning, I was back at the conference. I troubleshooted (troubleshot?) a solution with the audio equipment they were using, and it helped make our signal much cleaner. Nine o’clock rolled around, and we again potted up the day’s keynote speaker. With time to spare, we left our equipment on and were able to broadcast a remarkable pair of Canadian Inuit throat singers, the Katajjaq Duo. I’ve never seen or heard anything like that before. Spectacular.

After the keynote, I popped in and out of two sessions: one on the historical precedents of marine law and “ownership” of arctic waters, and an elder roundtable on non-salmon fish. I stuck around to get a story on the Coast Guard’s plans for the arctic this summer – they’re big plans, and they’re testing their ability to perform in unfamiliar arctic waters – while my colleague Ben Matheson sat in on a very long session on regional planning (which is a lot more dynamic than it sounds). I went back to the station, got my audio edited and my story ready, and headed back to the conference later that evening to grab another story on a tribute to Kawerak’s president, who was stepping down after 27 years with the corporation. Got that audio edited and wrote that story, and then I did my rock show – called “KNOM College Radio” for no reason in particular, other than I like weird, experimental rock music – from ten until midnight. (And for the record, the playlist included Icelandic sextet Of Monsters and Men, Philadelphia’s homegrown Dr. Dog, Canadian Broken Social Scene-stealer Brendan Canning, Seattle newbies At the Spine, the inscrutable Father John Misty, and the folk-baroque Dr. John).

It was kind of a whirlwind few days – the conference is still going, and I’ll be headed there later this afternoon to get another story – but it’s exactly the kind of event that keeps you on your toes and offers a nice change of pace in news. It’s a wealth of people and knowledge that happens in one big push, and you’ve got to be ready to grab some audio, churn out some stories, and then do it all again tomorrow.