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Dateline: Shishmaref, Alaska

Shishmaref, Alaska

Alaska, as you might expect, is a place full of incredible stories: especially in the rural corners of the state where KNOM’s listeners can be found. For the past several years, we’ve endeavored to collect and tell some of those stories through an original, monthly program, Story49 (so named because Alaska is the 49th state).

Currently, the show is created — with great care and aplomb — by volunteer producer Maddie Winchester, who’s traveled far and wide to collect material for the show. (Thanks to an ongoing sponsorship agreement with a regional airline, virtually all of our volunteers’ regional airfare is free.) Just before Christmas, Maddie was in a community in the heart of KNOM country: Shishmaref, pictured above.

Shishmaref youth Esau Sinnok

Shishmaref youth Esau Sinnok. Photo: Maddie Winchester, KNOM.

Over the course of several days, Maddie collected the story of Esau Sinnok (EE-saw SIN-nuck, pictured), a youth who’s found a passion in raising awareness about how climate is affecting his hometown. Because of erosion and other factors, it’s estimated that the entire community of Shishmaref may eventually need to relocate. Maddie’s trip was special for several reasons: she not only got to know an exceptional young person of our region, but, like all of our volunteers’ village trips, she also got to see an incredible slice of life of rural Alaska: from dead seals on the beach, partially obscured in snow (left there to serve as food for local dogs, pictured) to a breathtaking, early-afternoon sunset on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

For more on Esau — and the other incredible, fascinating episodes of Story49 your support makes possible, such as a trip to an Alaska Native language immersion preschool or a profile on a Nome marathon runnerexplore the Story49 shows available on this website.

Dead seals and landscape in Shishmaref, Alaska

In Shishmaref, Alaska, in late December 2015, dead seals lay on the beach, partially obscured in snow, left there to serve as food for local dogs. Photo: Maddie Winchester, KNOM.