April 17, 2010

In a land far, far away....

There is a village called Kotzebue. . .

(Kotzebue in the summertime)

Kotzebue, a town/village of approximately 4000 people is the home of the Inupiat Eskimo people which translates to, "The real people".  
I went there for a mining conference and left there in awe.  So many questions/thoughts went through my head while I was there:
- How do people live like this?
-What do they do for fun?
-Why would someone (not from here) move here?!
-No wonder the suicide rate is so extremely high here.
-If I had to kill a walrus to survive would I be sad?- yes!

It was my first trip to a village-like town.  Kotzebue is considered a village hub which means they have a hospital and airstrip.  They are surrounded by much, much smaller villages.  Kotzebue is large by village standards-  They have an elementary and middle/high school.. a hospital, an "airport", a store, and two restaurants (Chinese) because for some reason, there is a large population of Chinese people there.  You can't really tell the 'good' parts of town from the bad because the houses all look the same.  Kotzebue is considered a "damp" village which means they can transport alcohol in but it can't be distributed or sold within the village.  You can get 18 bottles of liquor a month, two cases of beer, or 15 bottles of wine.. Some say that is far too much alcohol since Alaska Natives are historically known to abuse alcohol.
(The oldest house in Kotzebue)

As I ate lunch with the kids at the school I asked them if they liked living there. Suprisingly they all said Yes!  They said they liked that it was a small town and that they could walk wherever they wanted to go.  They liked being surrounded by the ocean and being able to do whatever they wanted because you didn't dare do something bad because everyone knew everyone and everyone knew everyone else's business.  They did say they sometimes wished they lived in Anchorage so they could eat McDonalds and go to movies.. They were also amazed at my iPhone-- they had never seen one before.  It sure puts things in perspective for a city-dweller like myself!
Front Street in Kotzebue runs parallel to the ocean.  The restaurants are on Front St and you can literally stand at the front door and toss a rock into the ocean (except for when it's winter and sheer ice).  If you look closely you can see little branches sticking out of the snow.  They travel quite a distance to get branches to make a path across the ocean.  This helps hunters and fisherman find their way back to town.  It's amazing to see how far these branch trails lead. It should be noted that they have to travel for branches because Kotzebue has no trees.  At one time they had one, "The Kotzebue Forest" (see below), but someone got drunk and cut it down to use as a Christmas Tree.
(Have a nice day in Inupiaq)

No comments:

Post a Comment