Native Alaskan Villiages: Notebook

As with all the episodes in the series, the planning for the Native Alaskan Villages episode started more than a year before we arrived in Alaska for the shoot.

We knew we wanted to visit some native Alaskan villages that were not on any tourist travel itinerary. I had already contracted with an outfitter to film a horseback adventure in the Alaskan mountains, and, as we talked about the horseback schedule, I mentioned my need to access some remote native villages.

He mentioned he was friends with an Athabaskan indian who could get us access to villages that we could not get on our own. This guide would be our introduction to peoples and places that would normally shun outsiders. As we talked more, I knew I had found what I wanted.

We were set to spend the better part of a week traveling 460 miles— camping on the banks of the Yukon river. We would travel down the mighty river visiting the villages of Tanana, Ruby, Galena and also make stops at a remote native cemetery and two fish camps where local Athabaskans lived.

If this was not exciting enough we were to meet and interview on camera the last living member, 101 year old George Noliner of the world famous 1925 serum run. The yearly Iditarod sled dog race follows the path of those who delivered the serum to Nome to stave off the diphtheria epidemic.

While shooting the project what amazed me most was the openness of the people we encountered.

At one stop, a family that lives on the bank of the Yukon opened their home and their lives to us and never asked for anything in return. The wife appears on camera talking about how they smoke the salmon they catch so they have fish to eat for the year. At another stop when we asked for permission to spend the night camping. The owner, after showing us around his fish camp, came down to our camp and serenaded us into the night around our campfire.

I think you will enjoy this DVD because you get a look that few visitors do… into the lives of the average people who live and survive in the interior of Alaska, on the mighty Yukon river.

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