While living in Anchorage I struggle with a lack of connection to village life. My parents used to fly me home to McGrath when their chore list piled up, but that hasn’t happened in years.
One of the challenges going into villages as an outsider is that the village doesn’t know your agenda. Villages are inundated with outsiders coming in to take (stories, natural resources) and give (trainings, advice, funding). I’ve found the most comfortable way to visit villages is with an established program. Skiku (statewide), which grew out of NANA Nordic (which serves northwest Alaska) has been building relationships with village schools for… maybe 8 years? It is a wonderful feeling to arrive in a village with a Skiku hat and feel instantly welcome; the kids are psyched, the adults know why I’m there.
Skiku and NANA Nordic follow in the footsteps of other programs to make playing outdoors more accessible to village kids. From boats to bikes, someone has worked to share a love of human-powered play. Next month I’m joining Lars Flora on a trip to deliver 30 bikes to Dillingham. In conversation with Lars and the directors of Skiku, I question how much influence we have, and if that is even a good thing, but Lars is quick to point out, “Hey. The kids are smiling and having fun. That’s all the justification we need.”
Skiku is currently in a fundraising push. If you like what you see in these photos, please consider donating to the program. I’m happy to answer questions about the program and my efforts trying to stay connected to village life.
Photos are from Anaktuvuk, Kotzebue, Kivalina, and Noatak.