Nome is generally known as the “big city” around here. We’ve got restaurants, two grocery stores, a coffee shop, even a movie-theater-inside-a-Subway (or a Subway-inside-a-movie-theater, depending on how you look at it).
But most of Western Alaska’s 30,000 or so residents don’t live in Nome; they live in one of the many communities dotting the Seward Peninsula, the Norton and Kotzebue Sound coasts, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. These places are often little more than collections of houses and a school, and they’re almost all majority-Alaska Native.
So it’s been common in the almost 2 months I’ve been here to hear that you don’t really know Western Alaska until you visit the villages. Luckily, this weekend, Zoe and I made those visits for the first time: she to Shishmaref to report on two stories showcasing young people; and I to Wales to cover the 18th annual Kingikmiut Native Dance Festival.
Not only were these trips an opportunity to “get great tape” in the field, as we say — to record audio for our stories — they were times for personal exploration, for deepening our knowledge of this unique region and familiarity with its people, and for appreciating the great beauty of the Great Land.
Tune in to this week’s audioblog — just click “play” up above — to get an introduction to the villages from Zoe and me and hear us recount the first of many village excursions to come.
Photo: The village of Wales and Cake Prince mountain above. (Gabe Colombo, KNOM)