"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

Current Weather Info

Current Sun and Moon Info

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Village spotlight: Napakiak

Napakiak, Alaska is a village of about 350 people (2000 census) located approximately 8 miles SouthWest of Bethel. Almost all of the villagers are Yup'ik people. My estimate would be that the teachers are the majority of the nonYup'ik population. The picture above was taken from the top of the bluff across Johnson slough. The white strip in the background is the Kuskokwim river.

The village is close enough to Bethel that the river road is frequently used by Napakiak residents and therefore, many of them own vehicles (trucks mostly). Vehicles and other things that dont get used in the summer are buried under the winters snow accumulation.

The History of Napakiak according to explorenorth.com

Napakiak is on the north bank of the Kuskokwim River, 15 miles southwest of Bethel. It is located on a sandbar between the Kuskokwim River and Johnson's Slough. It lies 407 miles west of Anchorage. It lies at approximately 60° 41' N Latitude, 162° 07' W Longitude (Sec. 17, T007N, R072W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Bethel Recording District. The area encompasses 7 sq. miles of land and 0 sq. miles of water.

Yup'ik Eskimos have lived in this region since 1,000 A.D. The village was first reported in 1878 by E.W. Nelson, although it was downriver, at the mouth of the Johnson River. In 1884, Moravian explorers mention Napakiak as being close to Napaskiak, which suggests that the new village site may have been occupied by that time. By 1910, the village had a population of 166. In 1926, the Moravian Church had a lay worker in the village who began constructing a chapel; funds were raised for construction by the Ohio Moravian Association. It took three years to complete the work, and in August 1929, people came from many villages in the area to attend the dedication ceremony. In 1939, a BIA school began operating, and in 1946 a Native-owned village cooperative store was opened. A post office was established in 1951. The National Guard Armory was built in 1960, and the first airstrip was completed in 1973. The City's primary priority at this time is to relocate all public facilities and homes to a bluff across Johnson's Slough. The sandbar on which the City was built is severely eroding.

See the power line poles in the background of the picture above which are A-frame style? That is part of the power grid that is hooked up to Bethel without a return. You can find out more about the single wire earth return system by clicking on the link below.

According to this website...

In 1981 a high-power 8.5 mile prototype SWER intertie was successfully installed from a coal plant in Bethel, Alaska to Napakiak, Alaska. It operates at 80 kV, and has special lightweight fiberglass poles forming an A-frame. The poles can be carried on lightweight snow machines, and most poles can be installed with hand tools on permafrost without extensive digging. Erection of “anchoring” poles still required heavy machinery, but the cost savings were dramatic.

The phase conductor also carries a bundle of optical fibres within the steel armor wire,[6] so the system supplies telecommunications as well as power.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks estimate that a network of such interties, combined with coastal wind turbines, could substantially reduce Alaska’s dependence on increasingly expensive diesel fuel for power generation.[7] Alaska’s state economic energy screening survey advocated further study of this option to use more of the state’s underutilized power sources.[8]

A new apartment building under construction. I dont know for sure (maybe some of the village teacher who read the blog can comment), but it seems like Napakiak must be one of the few villages that is growing. I saw this new construction and it seemed as if several of the other houses around the village were newly constructed as well.

A church. I believe it is Moravian. The Moravians were some of the first missionaries in this region and their influence is heavy.
I was impressed by how well kept the village looked. Most of the house were in good shape and looked as if they were recently painted. Many of the house were exactly the same.
The health clinic.
The village store.
See the little house next to the bigger brownish colored house on the left? I think that is the sewage collection system. I'm not sure what they do with it after it is collected in this little hut thing though...maybe it is an incinerator and they burn it?
Typical village seen. This was the "downtown" area of the village. It seemed like the older part of the village. More house, more people, more going on. Heavily travelled and that electric pole in the middle running wires out to lots of houses made it look like a christmas tree.
A couple little kids pretend playing on the boat...very cute!
Many houses had BIG satellite dishes...
There always seems to be a cemetery right in the middle of every village.
See the basket thing on wheels to collect trash? I wonder where they take it? Is there a dump or do they ship it to Bethel?
A steam bath house. Water is often scare in villages and many people take steams to clean themselves. Other people just steam for the pure enjoyment of it. And for some Yup'ik people it is a tradition very much ingrained into their culture.
We met some local kids while we were in town. This boy in particular took a liking to Chris and loved the attention that we gave him. He was all for posing for the camera.
Here's Chris being goofy with the kids. It was strange that we were outside talking to these kids for a good half hour. Two strangers to the village talking to a group of about ten kids and not one adult ever came out to see who we were.

The school is a K-12 school. About 45% of the village population are under the age of 18, that means you would expect there to be about 150 kids in this school, but that school doesnt look big enough for that many kids and the school does not have a website so I'm not sure how many kids it serves.

Here is the school play ground and basketball court. And our little friend posing again for the camera. What's with the ballerina pose anyway?

No comments: