Thursday, August 25, 2011

"When I'm an Elder" (Where's Bethel?)

Good stuff here.  I get to the video slowly.  If you don't care about the other stuff, just slide on down to the video.  It's short and well worth watching.  Then you might want to go back and read. 

This project was first conceived by teens in a youth group (Teens Acting Against Violence -TAAV)  housed at the Tundra Women's Coalition in Bethel, Alaska in the Yukon-Koskokwim area.

For non-Alaskans, and for many Alaskans too, a little geography lesson would help.   The Yukon-Kuskowim Delta is where the two large rivers - Yukon and the Kuskokwim - drain into the Bering Sea.

Based on map from Enchanted

Most people have heard of the Yukon River, but what about the  Kuskokwim?

Wikipedia says the Kuskokwim River is 702 miles long and
 is the ninth largest river in the United States by average discharge volume at its mouth and seventeenth largest by basin drainage area.[6]
The river provides the principal drainage for an area of the remote Alaska Interior on the north and west side of the Alaska Range, flowing southwest into Kuskokwim Bay on the Bering Sea. Except for its headwaters in the mountains, the river is broad and flat for its entire course, making it a useful transportation route for many types of watercraft. It is the longest free flowing river* in the United States.
*What's a free flowing river?
A body of water existing or flowing under natural conditions without impoundments, diversions, straightening, riprapping, or other modification of the waterway (as defined in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act - 16 USC 1286 [b]). Also see Riprap. (references)

According to Wikipedia, the Yukon is 1980 miles long and there's a dam at White Horse, Yukon Territories.

Adapted from a map at KYUKonAssignment in Kuwait

When I am an Elder: A World Without Violence includes youth from Bethel, Kipnuk, Kwethluk, and Napaskiak**  reflecting on what they would like to see in their communities when they are  Elders.  (*My source spelled the village with an 's'.  Maybe there are two similarly named villages, but I'm guessing it doesn't have an 's'.)
[UPDATE Jan. 31, 2013 - see comment #3 below that explains there are two - one with and one without the 's'.  Thanks!]

The video was made by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault [I'm on the steering committee which is why I know about this], with funding from the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence.

For non-Alaskans, I'd point out that Western Alaska (and most of Southeastern Alaska) is off the road system. An area larger than any other US state, (and possibly Texas and California combined) is not connected by any roads. Transportation to and from these communities is by boat in the summer and snow machine or dogsled in the winter, by air all year. The map below shows Alaska's road system.

map from travelalaska

(Those straight east-westish lines aren't roads.)


  1. Intriguing post, Steve.

    When these kids are elders I hope they have more control over getting benefits from what worth is extracted from their area by non-locals, non-Natives.

    Meanwhile, it might be a good idea to teach some of these kids to monitor accumulating radiation coming in from Japan, especially after each big rain, otherwise a significant percentage of their grandkids might look quite grotesque. The cost of setting up an effective radiation monitoring system would be about 20% of what the pro-Pebble Mine people are spending on propaganda.

    Southwest is the first part of Alaska to get a lot of shit, the last to get much of the goodies.

  2. In West there is a small place where there are roads but not connected to Eastern parts. How can you get there? Or is it like the joke with snails:

    "The little snail asks his father how he could get to the other side of the road. The father answered: you need to be born there."

  3. There are in fact two villages with similar names, Napaskiak and Napakiak. Look on a map near Bethel and you should find them.

  4. Anon, thanks for the clarification. I've noted it in the post.


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