Winter in Rural Alaska

Many volunteers come to Alaska and serve in villages during the summer months.  The weather is warm.  The children are out of school. Adults are busy at fish camp, or gathering berries  People are travelling up and down the rivers by boat.

In the winter village life changes.  There is the secure feeling of having enough fish, moose and caribou meat for the winter.  Boats are pulled up on the beach.  Their motors are stored away. Four-wheelers are exchanged for snow machines.  Frozen rivers become super-highways.  Families on snow machines visit other villages up and down the river.  The children are in school with opportunities to play basketball.  It is a special time of , " no bugs and no bears".

The cold and short day light hours encourage people to spend more time indoors.  Many of the traditional crafts, now practiced as art forms, were once essential skills.  For example, snowshoes made of birch and laced with moose or caribou sinew (babiche) now are sold for hanging over fireplaces.  In times past, snowshoes were an essential way of travel.  Even mushers used snowshoes for breaking trail for their dog teams in deep snow.  Wonderful carvings, and items of beadwork are created during this time.  It is amazing what delights to the eye can be made using simple items and human creativity!

For those of robust health and winter outdoor skills, trapping animals for fur is a winter activity.  Trapping fur-bearing animals is not the large-scale enterprise it once was in Alaska, but it still is done in many places.  Martin is the most commonly trapped  animal.  It's fur is known as sable.

Finally, winter is a time of gathering together in native Alaskan villages.  Along with the Christmas celebration, traditional potlatches are also held.  One village will invite another village to a feasvillage wintert and dancing.  These uniquely native activities are especially appreciated in remote communities.

So, even in the stillness of winter life goes on.  It is a wonderful testament to the character of rural Alaskans that winter is not just endured, it is embraced as a time with unique opportunties for living.