MISS Woman of the Week:
A woman named Katie Mack embraced Kotzebue for the summer after she graduated college. The east coast native came to town as an intern for the National Park Service but was interested in learning about the rich Inupiaq culture more than anything else. She flew approximately three thousand miles across the country in search of “real Alaska” and in return found that this might be the place for her.
After graduating from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire with a degree in History, Society, and Culture, Mack didn’t exactly know what her next big dream will be. She dedicated the summer to jumping at opportunities and left with the experiences of caribou hunting, camping, learning to Eskimo dance, using common Inupiaq words, and listening in to the stories of the locals. She spent the majority of the summer making it a point to have a connection with everyone around town.
“The job I came here for was important to me, sure, but what was really important to me was making friends with people from Kotzebue. To really understand what this places means to the people from here and to understand what it means to me.” Mack says as I asked her who in Kotzebue has made her feel differently. “Everyone I met shaped my view, from the people walking around town, to the carpenters, to the clerks at AC, to the people working at the park service and most importantly my friends I met here.”
This summer, Mack has learned about diversity in terms of experience and background. Between all the people she has met and gotten to know, she realized that you can never assume anything about anyone until you talk and ask them. A summer in Kotzebue has taught Mack the importance of generosity, acceptance, family roles, appreciation, and the “arrigaa” feeling. Before leaving town, she realized that the people she met and the experiences she’s had make her want to come back for something more.
“It came to me one day that there could be a really incredible ‘soul sports’ facility,” Mack says. She envisions a place where she can be an outdoors instructor where she teaches snowboarding, skiing, kayaking, hunting, and camping. Anything that has to do with getting the people to go out and enjoy the country in the region. Mack noticed that there’s not a lot of things going on to keep the kids and teenagers out of trouble and would like to make a difference in that area. Mack has been a snowboarding instructor for eight years in New Hampshire.
“I thought it would be cool to have a non profit organization like that in town - give people a cool job, something to do, a positive outlet for their energy, something that makes people proud of themselves and builds tight bonds.”
Katie Mack has left the town of Kotzebue carrying this big dream in her head and the intentions of coming back to make it happen. She has been inspired to look into the master’s program at Alaska Pacific University in Outdoor and Environmental Education where she can learn things like Sea Kayaking, Dog Mushing, Snow and Avalanche Science, and Wildland Ecosystems amongst other things. Mack has also mentioned trying to partner up with Whaleback Mountain in New Hampshire for a possible exchanging program to give the experience of seeing new places to people in both areas.
“Even if I couldn’t do it, I’d definitely still come back to visit people and be here again. Kotzebue stole my heart and I didn’t even see it coming!” Katie Mack mentions.
Little things to love about rural Alaska by Katie Mack:
- The people who know how to be passionate about the needs in Northwest Alaska.
- The people who are always down for an adventure.
- The people who know how to “just be” without saying much but smiling a lot.
- The incredible generosity people hold.
- The people who share countless stories about hunting, snow machine races, and friends.
- Camping on the Noatak River.
- Learning about a family that raises sled dogs.
- Caribou hunting while sharing songs and stories of shamans of the Inupiaq culture.
- The culture camp Sivunnigvik that is a native based organization.
- People of all age hang out together and understand each other more across generations.
- Men that see themselves as a part of a family and understand they have a role to hold (“This is a rare thing to happen where I’m from” Mack says)
- People who love to express being proud to share their culture and town with an outsider.
- Stores are open late at night.
- Openness of the land and sea and the big sky.
- When the days get really long every hour of the day gets stretched and the sunsets last so long.
- When the street lights come on after a long summer of daylight.
- The fog in the tundra hills.
- Being more aware of the weather, plants, and animals and what they are doing.
- Being on a boat.
- Being friends with the pizza guys from Otto’s.
- Watching Caribou.
- Hanging with friends trying to figure out what to do.
- Four wheeling on New Road.
- Listening to people’s stories.
MISS Quote of the Week:
“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” -Liz Carpenter, Writer and Feminist
MISS Song of the Week:
Video - India Arie