Home and Back Again

This Christmas break gave me my first chance to return to Sitka since the beginning of the school year. Re-entry took about 72 hours. There’s such a dissonance between life in Akiachak and life in Sitka that my brain needed some time to readjust. This, of course, made it that much harder to leave Sitka and come back here. 

I took the river route from Akiachak to Bethel to catch the plane home. The truck had its back window knocked out, but we used cardboard and boys to keep out the cold.

And I’m one of the lucky few who who have regular breaks away! For most of the teachers and non-resident employees, the only opportunities to return to home and families is the Christmas break and summer. I can really appreciate what a strain that can be on one’s mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not equating living in Akiachak with a prison sentence – it’s just just “home” for me, and for most of the teachers that work int his district, is somewhere else. Leaving that connection is a difficult thing. Staying mentally healthy while being away from home requires some rearrangement of mental furniture. It ain’t easy.

The ice build-up on the inside of my double-paned window.

Since I’ve been back the weather has been in the minus 20’s. When school districts up here recruit for new teachers, they tend to focus on job fairs in Minnesota and Montana – places where folks will already have the cold weather gear they’ll need during the dark days of winter. 

For whatever reason the tribe hasn’t taken the trash to the dump in the village for a while. Once things get this full the dogs start to scavenge and drag trash all over.

Some things that have happened in the past month:

  • A 19 year old male died of alcohol poisoning over Christmas Break in Tuluksak.
  • A woman was killed (domestic violence) over the break in Tuluksak.
  • The Tuluksak water plant ran out of fuel (used to heat and pump the water) and made an emergency request fro fuel from the school. This came in at 9:30 pm on a Friday. 
  • Water and sewer lines froze in the Tuluksak school and teacher housing, repairs are still underway. 
  • A notice was delivered to the District Office from the Village of Akiak that as of June 30 all housing being rented by the District would revert back to the tribe. 90% of teacher housing in AKI is rented from the village. The erosion of the riverbank has led to concerns that villagers should have priority of the existing housing. Clearly this is part of a bigger story – I’ll keep you posted.

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