Monday, October 29, 2007


This weekend one of the locals caught a walrus. Usually at least one walrus is shot each year. The picture shows a walrus that was cut up on Saturday by several local residents. The person who shot the walrus keeps the ivory tusks. It took several men to haul the walrus from the ocean, to the river, and back to the village. Once the walrus meat was butchered, an announcement was made on the VHF offering to give each family some walrus meat. Sharing is very common in this community. People still live a subsistence lifestyle and there’s always game to freeze before winter arrives.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Weekly Blog

Last night after class I went to a “Women’s Throwing” party. This is the second one I’ve been to since I’ve been back. A local lady had a throwing party next to her yard, but I am not sure for what occasion. I invited some teachers, but none of them came because they were busy working during after school hours. I got there shortly after the lady began her party. I had to bring my gloves because it was cold outside and I was freezing a little bit. The lady stood on top of a tall freezer van. Some of the gifts she threw were cloths, rugs, bowls, clothes-pins, hair accessories for little girls, mini-bottles of hair shampoo, conditioners, lotions, tubberware, Alaska Ulu Knives, yarn, combs, and other plastic containers. This time it was not a huge crowd, probably because of the cold temperature. I enjoyed the fresh air outside and not being locked up in my study room. This was my excitement for the week.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Community of Kongiganak

Hello everyone,
I want to share more information about Kongiganak, since I didn't include enough information when I published my flicker slideshow. Kongiganak has been experiencing a moderate population growth over the last several years. The origin of the village began in 1964 when my grandparents, Charlie and Elizabeth David, along with another family moved to Kong from Kwigillingok. They moved because they wanted to live on higher land. Flooding was a concern in Kwigillingok and that basically forced the moved. Shortly thereafter, the population of Kongiganak started to increase.

Kongiganak is an unincorporated community within an unorganized borough. It is governed by a traditional council. The council owns and operates the washeteria, the village office, the community center and the health clinic. Qemirtalek Coast Corporation was incorporated in 1972 after the Native Claims Settlement Act was passed on December 18, 1971. With 250 people enrolled in the corporation, Qemirtalek was entitled to 115,200 acres of land. Qemirtalek Coast Corporation is managed by five board of directors. Children born after December 18, 1971 don’t receive stock from their corporation.

Currently there are two active religious denominations in Kongiganak. Approximately three quarters of the villagers are Moravian. The church consists of about 250 members. When Kongiganak was first established, community members of around twenty people would gather in tents for church services.The current Moravian church was constructed right after the log cabin school was built in the early 1970’s. The congregation is maintained and operated by the congregation and by selected officers.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a congregation of about fifty members. One of their main annual celebrations is the Russian Christmas (Slaviq). In early January, members of the church take part in activities that are related to the Slaviq celebration. Families donate gifts and they are given to various households. While at the houses, members of the Russian Orthodox Church will sing songs, pass out gifts, pray and eat with members of that particular household. This will continue from one house to another until all of the gifts have been distributed. Generally school starts around January 10th, paying respect to this tradition.

When Kongiganak was first established, about sixty students used the log cabin for their classes. Students were given the option of staying in the village and receiving an 8th grade education, or going on to a boarding school for their high school years. Some students went to boarding schools in Mt. Edgecumbe, Sitka, and Oklahoma.

In 1975 a new school was built. The school was large enough to educate students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. The school was named after a life long school board member, Dick R. Kiunya. The school was built with classrooms on two sides of the hallways. In the middle, temporary partitions were set up and used as classrooms. At the time, a school developer felt the children could learn better if students were in an open area. It’s questionable whether this format actually has improved or impeded the students learning.

Today there are about 120 students enrolled at the school. Many students are active in basketball, cross-country, Native Youth Olympics and student government. Over the last couple of decades, several students have to go to boarding school in Mt. Edgecumbe, Sitka and Nenana. Parents often feel that students in boarding schools are offered more structure, better academic opportunities, more educational role models and a wider variety of extra curricular activities that allows the students to travel.

The people of Kongiganak have been dependent on land, water and the welfare system for their survival. There is plenty of wild game to fill the freezers of residents year round. Many people hunt for caribou, moose, ducks, geese, ptarmigan, seal and walrus. Salmon, white fish, herring and halibut are harvested from the waters.

Berry picking is a main stay in the village. Several people go out on the tundra between the months of July and September to pick blackberries, blueberries, salmonberries, raspberries and red berries. Berries are often used to make akutaq. Hunting, fishing and gathering berries has gone on for years.

Kongiganak is a relatively new village having only been in existence for less than 50 years. My family relatives said they have seen many changes in Kongiganak since its inception in 1964. While the subsistence lifestyle has remained fairly constant, the ways and means of hunting and fishing has changed. More boats, four wheelers and snow machines have given hunters and fisherman an upper hand on gathering meat and fish for their families. The growth in the village also has increase in the number of planes flying into the village. Three small airlines travel to Kongiganak on a regular basis transporting goods and passengers to and from Bethel and the surrounding communities.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kongiganak, Alaska

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Here's my "Sense of Place" project on my home community of Kongiganak, AK. Most of these photos were taken last month in September. Kongiganak is a Yup'ik Eskimo village located on the coast of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, approximately 100 miles southwest of Bethel. The origin of the village began in 1964. The current population today is about 375 people.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Kongiganak New School By 2010

The Dick R. Kiunya Memorial School held a community meeting on October 8 at 7 p.m. LKSD superintendent Bill Ferguson gave a report to the community. Plans are in place for Kongiganak to have a new school building completed by the fall of 2010. In order to build the school, the community will need a letter from the village council allowing the district to have a building built on village corporation land. There was also some discussion about building a 500,000-gallon water tank for the new school.

Once the new school is built, the community would like to use the old school for community office space and community activities. In order for this to happen, the community will have to have funding available to maintain the old school. Excess heat may be available from the community power plant to heat the old school for little or no expense to the community. The current school is built on land that is no longer leased by the school district. Because the lease expired, the building may automatically be handed over to the community.

Some fuel oil was given out as door prizes and the meeting ended after about 45 minutes. If remember correctly, the Kongiganak school was built in the 1960s, so Kongiganak is due for a new school. I am very excited about the new school project.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Week in Fairbanks

Hello everyone,
I have been in Fairbanks with several students for Math 205. It's been a real busy week with assignments due and chapter tests. It's such a relief that it is almost Friday tomorrow and flying back home. I've enjoyed meeting our instructor in person, seeing familiar faces and also shopping and it's nice to buy and see a variety of things in town and have change of scenery.
Happy Fall!