The Good Old Days in the Arctic

Last days working on the ice road and the drill site at Pt. Thomson. Big, big sun now. My eyes physically hurt if I take off my sunglasses. I’ve seen a few ravens with lemmings in their mouth. Yesterday the ice road was in the final stage of closure. The delineators had all been removed, and a back hoe was proceeding from the drill site to Badami digging out the areas of the ice road that were over streams.

Some good stories told by one of those there with me in the end. He talked about stories he’d heard working as community health worker in some Eskimo villages in western Alaska. One was how hard life was before “white people came”, according to an elder. I’ve often wondered how any animals, much less people, could survive the winter with so little food available in the high arctic. The health worker related how much on the edge the people were then. Families necessarily had to be small. Food gathered had to be put in caches for the winter when food was scarce. If the male hunter was sick or injured, it could mean starvation. Newborns might have to be left behind when food was scarce. Families that ran out of food in the winter might not be given food by other families from their food cache if food was scarce. Kind of a wake-up to the often romanticized way of life we think of in “the good old days”.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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