Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Iditarod Fever in Huslia

Aaron Burmeister was the first Iditarod musher to arrive in Huslia - the half-way checkpoint. Photo by Jo Derendoff
Aaron Burmeister was the first Iditarod musher to arrive in Huslia. Photo by Jo Derendoff
Huslia residents eagerly wait for the first musher to arrive in Huslia. Photo by Vivian Henry
Residents eagerly wait for the first musher to arrive in Huslia. Photo by Vivian Henry

For the first time ever, Huslia is a checkpoint for the Iditarod. It’s the official half-way point. Mushers began arriving in Huslia on Thursday evening. Huslia is my hometown. Unfortunately, I can’t be there for the momentous occasion, but I have been enjoying the updates from relatives and friends.

Everyone has been pitching in with cooking, coordination and whatever else is needed for the mushers, Iditarod officials and news media. Darrell Vent of Huslia said, “People are sure coming together to help make these mushers feel at home with a lot of positive feedback from mushers so far.”

Joslin Olin (right) and Warner Vent present gifts to the half-way prize winnter, Aaron Burmeister. Photo by Jo Derendoff
Joslin Olin (right) and Warner Vent present gifts to the half-way prize winner, Aaron Burmeister. Photo by Jo Derendoff

Dog mushing fans of all ages waited and greeted dog mushers late Thursday. Al Yatlin, Sr. said, “Everyone is so impressed about coming to Huslia. Warner Vent has been greeting all the mushers. They all know who he is.” Warner Vent, Sr. raced in the Iditarod three times in the early 1970s.

Huslia has a storied history of dog mushing with many mushers, like late Bobby Vent, George Attla, Jr. and more. People still mush dogs today. Many teams from around Alaska started out with dogs from Huslia and other interior villages. Many of the Iditarod dog mushers know many of the local mushers from rural Alaska, or they heard stories of them.

Gift were presented to Aaron Burmeister, the half-way prize winner. Photo by Teri Vent
Gift were presented to Aaron Burmeister, the half-way prize winner. Photo by Teri Vent

Aaron Burmeister was the GCI Dorothy G. Page halfway prize winner and received a trophy and $3,000 in gold from GCI. Huslia also presented him with gifts, including beaver mitts made by Eleanor Sam, Elsie Vent and Cesa Agnes and a marten hat made by Alberta Vent. Fred Bifelt and Alberta Vent donated the marten hat. Joe and Margie Ambrose donated a beaded cross. A fur ruff was also donated.

Al Yatlin Sr. meets Aaron Burmeister in Huslia. Photo by Andrea Ambrose
Al Yatlin Sr. meets Aaron Burmeister in Huslia. Photo by Andrea Ambrose

Upon meeting Aaron Burmeister, Al Yatlin, Sr. (my dad) said, “I knew him when he was a kid. He said I sold him a dog then and that’s where some of his current dogs come from.” My mom, Eleanor Yatlin, said “When we lived in Nome Al raced against Aaron’s dad, Richard.” Like many Alaskans, my parents are huge fans of the Iditarod and other dog races throughout Alaska.

Alaskans are tuning in from all over the state. Amy Modig was on a trip in Emmonak and listened to updates from KNOM radio. She said, “Over and over again, I’ve heard the loud cheers and everyone calling out to Burmeister – ‘Welcome to Huslia! Welcome to Huslia!’ Sounds like everyone in town was there!!”

Ten year old, Lydia Yatlin said, “He actually touched me, I’m never washing my jacket. He actually touched me. I can’t believe it!!” Lydia introduced herself to Burmeister and said, “Hi, my name is Lydia. Welcome to Huslia.” Lydia’s mother, Tanya Yatlin, said, “It was truly amazing. Once in a lifetime thing.” 

Huslia volunteer, Ross Sam, hauls Iditarod supplies for mushers. Photo by Teri Vent
Huslia volunteer, Ross Sam, hauls Iditarod supplies for mushers. Photo by Teri Vent

“I’m so proud of our family and friends in Huslia. I am really proud of the early days of the Iditarod, the beginning. I know it takes a special person to do this today, such strength and courage and money!!!! 

Back then, every person in the village was involved. They took mushers in. Everyone helped cut up meat and fish and make dog pot fire. We had to share our dog hay, food. We had pots of moose soup going for a week. Such a special time this was. It was a village effort.

We were so proud of each of these men and their dogs. I loved listening to Uncle Bobby, Herbie Nayokpuk, etc. all drinking coffee and sharing trail stories. Makes me lonely for these special days.” 

– Cynthia Erickson of Tanana

Annette Moses, a kindergarten teacher at the Jimmy Huntington School, brought her students to meet the mushers at the Huslia community hall on Friday. Mrs. Moses said, “My class and I keep going to the ball field and checking out the racers. It just made my whole year to meet Martin Buser…get his autograph and a picture. Our town is booming today, lots of snow machines and new faces. I am having a wonderful day and so are my students.” 

Mrs. Moses and her kindergarten meet Martin Buser at the Huslia half-way checkpoint. Photo by Doreen David
Mrs. Moses and her kindergarten meet Martin Buser at the Huslia half-way checkpoint. Photo by Doreen David

Update on March 23: Huslia received the Golden Clipboard Award. The Golden Clipboard Award is presented by the mushers since 2001 to a special checkpoint and it is voted on by the mushers. What an honor!

“Being in the house all winter for some of us, this event got us out walking, visiting and sharing…was the greatest feeling. It was so nice to see smiling faces, hear lots of laughter and seeing new and ol’ faces. Everyone did something to make this a successful checkpoint. The tables were full with food. The field was immediately cleaned of hay as soon as the team left to be ready for the next musher. Lots of teamwork amongst the Huslia people. The town was overflowed with love and happiness. Thanks to the volunteers for a job well done. It was too awesome to see Huslia was awarded the Golden Clipboard. The volunteers worked hard and fast on short notice, but got the job done!” – Cecelia Nollner, Huslia

Al Yatlin, Jr. said, “They gave them one big Huslia, Alaska welcome.” Huslia welcomed other dog mushers. For current race standings, visit the Iditarod website. Alaskans were pretty excited to have the Iditarod go to Huslia for the first time ever. Huslia has always been a dog mushing community and it couldn’t be more fitting as an Iditarod checkpoint.

Aliy Zirkle on the Koyukuk River in front of Huslia on Friday evening. Photo by Jo Derendoff
Aliy Zirkle on the Koyukuk River in front of Huslia on Friday evening. Photo by Jo Derendoff
Alaska life

Alaskan Road Trip Survival Kit

Denali View South is located at mile 135.2 of the Parks Highway. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Denali View South
is located at mile 135.2 of the Parks Highway. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

My family travels along the Parks Highway and the Seward Highway several times a year. We enjoy the scenery, fishing and road trippin’. We are thinking about driving up to Fairbanks this holiday season. What do you need to survive an Alaskan road trip in the winter? I will share travel tips from the State of Alaska and some extra things I like to bring.

Thank you to Man Crates for prompting me to write about my ultimate Alaskan survival kit! They stuff their crates with snacks, gadgets, gear and video games. This is not a sponsored post.

Download the Alaska 511 App for up-to-date info as you drive around Alaska.
Download the Alaska 511 App for up-to-date info as you drive around Alaska.

Winter Driving Tips from Alaska 511
Winter weather too often catches people unprepared. The National Weather Service reports that 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter-related fatalities are people caught off guard, out in the storm. What winter weather preparations are being made in your area and what are the appropriate steps to take that will ensure your winter weather safety? Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving.

Safe Winter Driving Tips from Alaska 511

  • Before you travel check with the National Weather Service (NWS). They issue winter weather warnings, watches and advisories. Please see www.arh.noaa.gov/hazards.php or you can dial 5-1-1 and request call transfer to the NWS weather information line. Any NWS weather alerts, if active, will also play on the 511 phone system, and they appear on the website and apps as well. Check the weather cameras where available.  They show what is going on in real-time.
  • Know the current driving conditions. Listen to the local radio station, call 5-1-1 Travel In The Know, or log onto http://511.alaska.gov.
  • Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights – even the hood and roof – before driving.
  • Plan long trips carefully.
  • Don’t let your gas fall below a half tank. You can’t count gas stations being open in the winter. If it’s an extremely long drive through rural areas, packing an extra gas can might be a good idea in winter time.
  • Let someone know where you’ll be going and when you expect to arrive or return. Tell them to call authorities for help if you don’t get back or check in within an hour of your estimate.
  • Carry a cell phone or other communications radio. Know, however, that cell phone coverage along much of Alaska’s highway system is spotty and you may not be able to reach someone on the cell. If you are within cell range and run into life-threatening trouble, use it.
  • Travel during the daylight and travel with another person.
  • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation.
  • Dress warmly. Wear layers of loose-fitting, layered, light weight clothing.
  • Carry food and several bottles of water.
  • Pay attention. Don’t try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
  • Leave plenty of room for stopping.
  • Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows – stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.
  • Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time to stop in adverse conditions.
  • Watch for slippery bridge decks, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition. Bridge decks will ice up sooner than the adjacent pavement.
  • If you use social media, you can subscribe to receive notifications via either the 511 Facebook or Twitter (@alaska511) pages.  

The Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game has first aid and travel safety on their website at:  http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.firstaid.

Winter road trip snacks for an Alaskan adventure
Winter road trip snacks for an Alaskan adventure

There is more information about car safety and emergency tips available online and from your insurance agent. In addition to safety and survival info for your car, you also need warm winter gear. The weather can change quickly. What else will you need for your road trip? Besides the survival and safety gear, we bring along some other food and supplies to enjoy  our trip.

Alaskan Road Trip Survival Kit Extras

  • Camera
  • Car charger for your phone
  • Thermos with coffee
  • Jack Link’s Beef Steak Tender Bites
  • Gardetto’s snack
  • Kellogg’s Fruit Snacks
  • Nuts – chocolate covered
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Dried moose meat and fish
  • Pilot Bread Crackers
  • Spam
  • Water and juice
  • Entertainment – books, games and movies
Alaska Natives enjoy cheese on Pilot Bread crackers, dried moose meat and dried salmon. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Alaska Natives enjoy cheese on Pilot Bread crackers, dried moose meat and dried salmon. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

In addition to the store-bought snacks, we also like to bring along some traditional Alaska Native prepared/preserved foods, like dry meat or fish. It is harder to come by in the middle of winter, because it gets eaten up pretty quickly. Of course, we have to have our good ole’ Pilot Bread crackers too.

The drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks takes about six to seven hours on the Parks Highway, depending on the weather and how fast you are going. We take our time going up to Fairbanks and stop on some pull-outs to take photos. We fill up our gas tank in Healy or other places along the way.

We have two kids, so we have to find ways to keep them entertained along the way. I make sure they bring books, movies or games. We usually download books or movies for them. I also remind them to download their favorite games to keep entertained. There is plenty of time for them to take naps, so they bring a pillow and blanket to keep comfortable.

There are a lot of adventures to be had in Alaska and there are many travel resources. For instance, AK on the Go is a website dedicated to Alaska family travel. I love traveling around Alaska by road, water and air. I feel grateful to live in this great state with adventure at our doorstep!

Entertainment

Great American Smokeout Day – November 20

Great American Smokeout - Nov. 20
Great American Smokeout – Nov. 20

The Great American Smokeout Day is coming up on November 20. It’s a day when tobacco users make a commitment to stop using tobacco. We hear the messages on TV and radio, see posters about it on the negative effects of tobacco-use and the reasons to quit. The statistics are not good for Alaskans, especially Alaska Native people. I am no expert on the subject, so I’m providing a few resources.

I smoked cigarettes in my teens and through college. I stopped when I became pregnant with my first daughter. It wasn’t easy to quit, but I made a commitment. It made me too tired and I wanted to make a positive change in my life. So many of smokers start out at a young age, and keep up the habit into adulthood. Prevention is so important because it is a difficult habit to quit. I reached out to my friends on Facebook and asked them for some advice, and they provided some excellent reasons to never start.

What is one thing that you would tell your younger self (or a younger tobacco user) about tobacco use?

Alaska's Tobacco Quitline has a ton of resources for tobacco-user to kick the habit and other information. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or enroll online through this website.
Alaska’s Tobacco Quitline has a ton of resources for tobacco-user to kick the habit and other information. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or enroll online through this website.

“If I knew then how hard it would be to quit now, 20 years later, I would have not started. I started smoking trying to be cool, all the kids were doing it. Cigarettes are $12.50 a pack out here in Hughes, and I pay it, it is the hardest vice ever to quit. A carton now a days in Fairbanks is about $80.00. It is different for everyone, I admire those of you who were able to quit, it is hard for some of us, because I do want to quit. I have quit a lot of vices/addictions, this is by far the hardest.” – Tal Beetus Baker

“Tobacco has never appealed to me. It taste bad, gives you bad breath, and lingers around you all day. It is in no way attractive. Tobacco, drinking and drugs are always talked about but one thing no mentioned is also having an addictive personality that plays a key role.” – Paul and Alberta John

“It started as only a couple a week. Then it turned into just a couple a day. It took forever to quit. It is so easy to fool yourself into thinking just a few won’t hurt me.” – Rhonda Pitka

“The cost are high not only money but health. Tough addiction to quit.” – Raquel Williams

“It doesn’t keep you stay skinny. It causes so many problems you don’t even realize, and some you do. You can even get periodontal disease, bladder problems, your skin will age faster, etc.” – Kathy Ward

“Stop before you start.” – Gabe Sam

The Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance mission is to create conditions for Alaskans to live free from the harmful effects of tobacco.
The Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance mission is to create conditions for Alaskans to live free from the harmful effects of tobacco.

“It’s too expensive there’s better ways to spend your money. I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to cancer and I don’t like the smell of it on clothes.” – Val Babich

“I would tell younger men that smoking is a total deal-breaker for many of the ladies.” – Miriam Aarons

“You cannot afford to smoke or chew.” – Agnes Dayton

“It is very hard to quit smoking and costs you a lot of money which you could buy a new snow machine or vehicle to drive. I smoked for 40+ years and could have bought a new house probably.” – Darrell M Vent

“Chew is not worth it! I used to tell my kids, ‘Who wants to kiss you with chew in your mouth?!’ ‘Don’t smoke’, dad used to say. You save thousands every year when you don’t smoke.” – Selina Sam

“How much are cartons of cigarettes these days? When I smoked, I was appalled when it hit $18 per carton. I think the last carton I bought was about $22. So I stopped buying them by the carton and only a pack at a time. I quit around 1999, and after that only an occasional smoke. Once in a great while I might smoke a pipe, but now I have no idea where my pipe went in 2008. That was the last time I saw it.” – John Gregg

“Don’t start because you won’t be able to stop.” – Marie Jeno

“Tobacco smoke will give you a face full of wrinkles.” – Will Yaska

“I started to be ‘cool’ also at age 11; more than 1/2 my life ago. I sure don’t want my kids to! It’s not even hard to quit – I did cold turkey 11 months ago tomorrow. You just have to want to! I still crave a cigarette when I’m stressed/aggravated, then sometimes I get a whiff of one and I’m good. Ryan quit when we found out we were pregnant…almost 13 years ago!” – Gina McCarty

“I have a lot of young friends who use tobacco in any form. I have friends who smoked since they were 11 years old!! Can you imagine that? Some don’t smoke anymore and some of them passed away. When I was a young girl my cousins were smoking and they hand me the cigarette and said ‘inhale’. I didn’t know what the meant so they showed me. I inhaled and got all choked up, couldn’t breathe, and I thought that was the end of me. My one cousin’s parents use to chew, so she use to sneak some from her dad. One time she put some in my mouth. It burned my mouth! I spit it out! That one I never tried again, but cigarette I tried but I didn’t like the smell on my clothes. My late dad also told us since we were little girls, ‘Women shouldn’t smoke.’ My late parents both smoked back then. Both of them quit later on and lived smoke free lives. I met a woman last night who quit three weeks ago. She will be 55 this month. She’s real happy for herself and I’m happy for her. She quit ‘cold turkey’ and said she’s been thinking about it for a long time. Think about your kids or grandchildren and think about, ‘Do I really want to continue doing this?’  It’s not too late to quit cigarettes or chew. It’s time to quit for the sake of your family.” – Velma Schafer

“I smoked for half of my life before I quit four years ago. I can’t believe people still smoke, it’s so archaic. There’s this pretty young lady that rides the bus in the mornings with me, she smells like an ashtray.” – Loretta Linus

“I quit smoking ‘cold turkey’ about eight years ago. I was sitting in the porch smoking my granddaughter said, ‘Grandma, you need to quit smoking because you’re the only grandma that I see smoking and it’s embarrassing.’ I was talking to late Kam Ballard, and he said to quit on his birthday so that’s the day I quit. The kids notice I don’t smell like an ashtray. I used to smoke four packs a day. I had lots of friends because they need cigarettes. I saved myself a lot of money, but lost my friends. I also got off all my medicines.” – Irene Peters

“Hey you young wild child, smoking makes you smell horrible! Snuff out tobacco.” – Teflon Barb

“Wow, I wish I could go back in time and talk myself out of ever starting. I wanted to be a cool bad kid. I have overcome a lot of addiction but cigarettes are far and away the hardest habit to drop I have ever seen. I genuinely wish I hadn’t ever picked up the addiction. There just isn’t any going back. Once you’ve been a smoker you will always be a smoker or an ex-smoker.” – April Lynn

“That it’s the only thing I did when I was young that I regret doing. It was something dumb that I could have avoided.” – Liz Fullerton

“I am the product of second hand smoke from womb until I moved out on my own at age 18. I have chronic problems with my lungs, heart and inflammatory disease, all symptoms of second hand smoke. Though I take excellent care of myself, that is one thing I had no control over and I hope that the healthy lifestyle I have chosen to live will override the toxins that my mother chose to expose me to from the first moment of conception. My mother was a child of the 1950’s and 1960’s where young women smoked to subdue their appetite and to look glamorous, where the Marlboro man was sexy and displayed on billboards up and down the highway, and young men wanted to portray that tough guy from the movies (who usually was smoking a cigarette). I think that the baby boomers had it tougher because they were misled into smoking, but my generation and the ones to follow should never have started smoking as the health concerns and warning information has been available for 30 years.” – Liane Mae

“To my young teen self:  ‘Give up cigarettes with your so-called friend & cousin who got you started! Twenty years from now you’ll appreciate that you look young while they have wrinkles on their faces! It WILL make you addicted and you will waste SO much money on it. Look at photos constantly of people with mouth & throat cancer from tobacco!’ I had parents who constantly hated smoking so eventually their lectures kicked in for me; I cut back to be one of those “drinker-smokers” and then eventually I just gave up the partying and the smoking, too! The smell is terrible and I see people with yellow stained teeth. I’m glad to not waste money on cigarettes and to have never smoked when I was pregnant either. Kids deserve better.” – Holly Flynn

“Hey you. You think you are cool with that cancer stick in your mouth. Get real. Grow up young Sarah.” – Sarah Mattingly-Benson

“That I would have never had the breathing issue I have now or the allergies.” – Katherine McConkey

“I’m at 4 months cold turkey after smoking for 20 years.” – Miz Tooyou

Thank you to my brave friends and relatives for speaking up and sharing their advice. Quitting tobacco is one of the most difficult things to do and it is a personal decision. I’m glad I quit smoking. I’m thankful for the support of my family and friends when I stopped smoking and later when I stopped drinking alcohol about five years ago. I really want to set a good example for my children. There are a million and one reasons to quit and there are tons of ways to do so. Let’s not let tobacco-use be our legacy for future generations. Consider quitting on the Great American Smokeout on November 20 or encourage a loved on to do so. You can do it!

In case you need more inspiration, here are some great digital stories told by Alaskans produced by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Entertainment

10 Reasons Why We Need to Teach Capitalism in School

Note:  This OP-ED was submitted by Edwin Bifelt of Huslia. Edwin is Koyukon Athabascan and holds an MBA. 

10 Reasons Why We Need to Teach Capitalism (Business and Economics) in Elementary, Middle School and High School

In 2009 all school districts in the United States spent $610.1 billion on elementary, junior high and high schools. That’s a LOT of money! Yet most would probably agree that youth are not prepared to succeed in the U.S. after high school. The majority of the U.S. population probably doesn’t understand basic accounting (Revenue, Expenses, net profit and profit margins), basic economics (supply and demand), human resources, marketing/business development, operations and the basic corporate structures (C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, Partnership, etc.). These are the basics of capitalism (free market economy), the engine that drives the entire U.S. and most of the world.

Here are 10 reasons why we should teach the basics of business and economics in public school (the reasons are more for Alaska, but they apply to the entire U.S.

  1. Kids ask why
    Challenging assumptions is critical for innovation. There are usually always better ways to accomplish things. Today innovation is more critical than ever.
  2. Logic
    We live in a capitalist society, yet we don’t teach capitalism in our mandatory public schools. That’s like the ancient Japanese Samurai not teaching martial arts… The system is almost guaranteed to fail.
  3. Hope
    In rural Alaska we have an epidemic of hopelessness. The opportunities are endless in this country! Maybe all a kid needs is for his or her eyes to be opened. What if the next great idea never comes to light?
  4. Finding something you love to do
    I am almost positive that there is scientific evidence that we are happier in life when we are genuinely passionate about our work. For those of us that have found something we love to do, think about how different life would have been had you not found your calling? But kids need to learn about all possible opportunities at a young age.
  5. Listen to our Elders
    “You need to get your education”. That message has been spread by our elders for decades in rural Alaska. Our Alaska Native elders grew up in a very different time. But they knew that success in the western and capitalist system meant a solid education and understanding of the system. They may have been talking about the school system, but there message was really to learn the ways of our new lifestyle. Which is capitalism.
  6. Business is everywhere!
    It’s the clothes we wear, cars we drive and homes we live in! Almost everything is made by a business.. Yet most people don’t know the basics about business and economics.
  7. Take a page from youth sports
    Ask any high school sports coach in the country. The key to a successful program is teaching kids sound fundamentals at an early age. You can’t hand a kid a basketball for the first time in 9th grade and say bring home a state championship. Building a successful individual starts from the foundation, when they are seeds sprouting their roots.
  8. Alaska is all about challenges
    We may not have a lot of things in Alaska (Red Lobster, current fashion, sandy beaches), but what we have plenty of is challenges. Challenging climate, challenging distances, challenging economics are just a few of our problems. It has always been a struggle just to survive. Solving these challenges will take innovation and creativity. The more minds we have working on these complex challenges, the better chance we have of creating a successful state economy.
  9. Most High School students won’t graduate from college
    It’s a proven fact. If we teach business in public school, then EVERYONE should learn at least the basics of business and economics.
  10. If you don’t understand the game, how can you ever expect to win?
    As kids we are taught winning at a young age. Winning in the United States means providing a comfortable and enjoyable life for you and your family. It means acquiring enough wealth to enjoy your life. It’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness. But poverty doesn’t either.

Just because we teach our kids about business doesn’t mean we want them to be business owners or managers. But they do need to understand the world we live in. They need to have a blueprint to succeed in whichever profession they enjoy. Here are examples of possible programs:

Ideas for Educators

  • Junior Achievement Program
  • One business class in elementary, junior high and high school
  • Incorporate ‘business lessons’ into classroom activities and lesson plans

Ideas for Parents

  • Find something a kid really enjoys, like sports, technology, fashion, hunting and fishing, video games or science, etc. Then, have them research jobs and small/big businesses within that field.
  • Alaska Business Academy
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Arctic Innovation Project

Idea for the U.S. and Alaska

  • Include Business/Economics as a CORE COMPETENCY in education curriculum!

I know it’s not simple. A change like this (adding business as core curriculum) would be a systematic revision to the entire U.S. education system. That’s probably impossible. Teachers and school administrators would hate it, politicians would argue over all details. But, then again, how long can we keep spending (and wasting) $610.1 billion on a terrible education system?

To Summarize: If we teach ALL youth the basics for success in our economy, then we increase the intelligence of our population. A smarter population should make it more efficient, reduce poverty and increase innovation and creativity. Everyone would have the OPPORTUNITY to have a good quality of life.

Edwin Bifelt
Owner
Zane Hills Capital, LLC
www.zanehillscapital.com

Thank you for sharing Edwin!

Alaska life

Meeting Shirt – A Clothing Staple for Rural Alaska

Many roads in rural Alaska are sand or gravel, like this one in Huslia. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Many roads in rural Alaska are sand or gravel, like this one in Huslia. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Michelle Moses of Alatna is wearing a nice 'meeting' shirt, and dresses it up a bit with a suit jacket. She was attending a conference in Anchorage recently. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Michelle Moses of Alatna is wearing a nice ‘meeting’ shirt, and dresses it up a bit with a suit jacket. She was attending a conference in Anchorage recently. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Rural Alaskan ladies often have what they call a ‘meeting’ shirt. They might have one or two or sometimes several. They usually only use it in the city. A meeting shirt is usually a nice blouse that you could in a business meeting, training or conference. Men might wear a nice dress shirt. They will pack up their shirt to wear when they have meetings or other events to attend outside of the village.

In rural Alaska, people dress for the weather conditions and activities they mostly do outside, like fishing, berry picking and hunting. They dress to be ready to face the elements. Overall, the dress code is casual.

People really look at you if you are too ‘dressed’ up. Years ago, I wore a dress to the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention. That was even too dressy for my uncle who teased me and said, “You are the only one wearing a dress.” We laughed, and since then I remembered not to dress up too ‘nice’.

I’m not saying that people in rural Alaska do not dress nice or don’t have occasions to dress nice. They do indeed for school events, like proms or picture days. My dad, Al Yatlin, Sr., says, “Fancy clothes are not practical to wear for working. You can’t be cutting wood in your suit of clothes.” Suit-O-clothes is a saying older villagers had for fancy clothes like suits, ties, slacks, ties and white dress shirts.

Minnie Gray made a summer parka for Ermelina Gonzalez. Summer parkas can be worn for many occasions in rural and urban Alaska. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Minnie Gray made a summer parka for Ermelina Gonzalez. Summer parkas can be worn for many occasions in rural and urban Alaska. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Recently, my auntie came to Anchorage and said she wanted to buy some new meeting shirts. She said, “People see me in the same shirts every time I come to town. I wonder what they think.” We both laughed about it. Needless to say, she has a few more meeting shirts to add to her collection.

Speaking of shirts, wearing a summer parka in rural and urban Alaska is always in style. Commonly called a cuspuk or kuspuk, the summer parka are made out of calico or other colorful fabrics. Many sewers sell them at events. Koyukon Athabascan people call the summer parka a bets’egh hoolaanee. Inupiaq call it an atikłuk. Summer parkas are usually hooded with big pockets. They are used for a variety of events and can be dressed down or up. Men also wear darker and solid colored summer parkas.

Read about a piece I did on the Athabascan Word of the Week: Summer Parka for the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer.

Rural Alaskans prepare to go to the city with their meeting shirts, but urban Alaskans also need to be prepared when they travel to the villages.

Tips for Traveling to Rural Alaska

  • Be sure to dress appropriately for weather conditions. Many villages do not have a building at the airport. You may have to walk to the village from the airport or ride on the back of an ATV or a four-wheeler. Dress in layers, and have more layers in colder weather. Inclement weather is common.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy or wet. High heels are not really practical because most roads are sand or gravel.
  • Casual dress code is the norm. For example, jeans are okay.

I think sports, casual and hunting clothing stores probably have excellent sales in rural Alaska because those are the types of clothing that are most practical. I used to love catalog shopping for those types of clothing when I lived in rural Alaska. The dress code in rural Alaska is more casual because life is different. A lot of people spend time outside. Practical clothes rule in rural Alaska.

My daughter, Janessa, and I got a ride on the back of a truck from the airport into town. The airport is about one-two miles from the village. ATVs, snow machines and trucks are the main modes of transportation in rural Alaska. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
My daughter, Janessa, and I got a ride on the back of a truck from the airport into town. The airport is about one-two miles from the village. ATVs, snow machines and trucks are the main modes of transportation in rural Alaska. Photo by Angela Gonzalez