Young storytellers share tales of their life in rural Alaska
Six young story tellers stepped forward to share a piece of their life in rural Alaska Saturday evening at Tales From Around the Woodstove, a presentation of the Nome Arts Council. The event’s theme was “This Is Me – Stories of living in rural Alaska.”
“Family is a big part of who we are and why we tell stories,” said Mike Hoyt, the master of ceremonies. He began a story learned from his great-great-grandfather of a hunter named Kaaxaachgook, a Tlingit who never missed. He told the story in small bits between each of the young presenters. Hoyt’s tale served as a connector that tied all the evening’s stories together.
First up was Makayla Marble who despite being terrified of roller coasters went on one of the scariest with her family at Disneyworld. “I told my family I’d go on one roller coaster,” she said. They picked Expedition Everest, one of the most frightening. “We got off the ride and I’m shaking really bad. I couldn’t stop shaking,” she said. “Stop shaking, the ride’s over!” said her dad. After the fear went away Makayla realized she can have fun on a roller coaster.
Mike Hoyt continued his tale of Kaaxaachgook, the great hunter, hearing the seal people speak, warning each other than he was there to hunt. After that he didn’t want to hunt anymore and he broke his spears and his paddles.
Now it was time for Anna Ashenfelter.
Anna’s story was about hunting, a moose hunting trip she took with her parents and her new boyfriend. It was the first time he’d gone hunting with them and she felt some pressure. They caught a pair of young bulls on a beautiful morning. “Hunting to us is not just going out and providing,” she said. “It’s a lot more than that.” It was about family being together and bonding.
Now Mike Hoyt continued with his story of Kaaxaachgook. He needed to provide for his family so he went hunting and chased a seal way out onto the ice, too far out. This brought the narrative to “trying to figure out what to do when things go wrong” and the story of Alicyn Bahnke.
“I’m generally a good kid,” began Alicyn. While her dad slept upstairs she and a friend managed to lock themselves out of the house. It was past curfew and they spent the entire night outside because they didn’t want to wake her dad. Thanks to their phones they were able to summon help from a friend who lived a few blocks away. She provided a butter knife but the locked-out pair didn’t know how to open the door with it. So they You-Tubed it. “We You-Tubed now to break into your own house,” said Alicyn. When that failed the pair walked to the nearby softball field and sat in the dugout. Eventually it was time for her father to wake up so they knocked on the door and he let them in. “I knocked on my own door,” she said. “So now every time I leave the house I make sure it is unlocked.” But her father didn’t believe their tale and was suspicious they’d been up to something.
Mike Hoyt tells how Kaaxaachgook, far out on the ice in pursuit of a seal, drifts and drifts. Soon he and his nephews arrive at an island with bamboo. That brings Ava Earthman up to tell her story of camping.
Back in elementary school Ava’s favorite thing was the Girl Scout campout. But there was the belief the tents they slept in were not safe from bears. As she was awakening in the morning she heard a low screaming. “Were there bears?” she wondered. One of her friends in the tent began to scream and shake. Then she realized “the low scream is coming from me. And that’s why I don’t really like camping.”
After a ten-minute intermission Gigi Durden told about growing up in a small town in New Mexico. “I wanted to get out of there and I wanted to see the world,” she said. After finding a postcard from UAF in her mailbox she applied to the university and was accepted. So off she flew to Fairbanks. Being in auditorium with 1,000 people was overwhelming and she wasn’t sure she could deal with it. But she did. After finishing with Russian studies she was off to Russia. After her time there she returned to Fairbanks. “I knew I didn’t want to go home to New Mexico,” she said. A friend was moving back to Nome and invited her to come along. And now Nome feels like the town where she grew up in New Mexico.
Now Mike Hoyt resumed his tale of Kaaxaachgook the great hunter, sitting on the island with the bamboo and trying to determine where they are. He sits and stares at the constellations and eventually figures it out. He and his nephews missed their home and so they gathered up their courage and set out on the sea.
Jahira Hawkins-Dempsey stepped up with her story of having to be brave about setting off on a journey into the unknown. Her family was living in North Carolina and her father was searching for a better job. He was doing interviews online and finally was hired by AC in Nome. Jahira was a sophomore in high school and came home to learn she’d be moving to Alaska. She was afraid of heights and had never been on an airplane. But she made it. The arrival in Nome was at first difficult but she soon found Nome to be “a pretty cool place.”
Mike Hoyt returned with the final installment of Kaaxaachgook’s story. The long lost hunters paddled and paddled and eventually spotted Mt. Edgecumbe off in the distance. Their families had given up on ever seeing them again so their return was triumphant. And Kaaxaachgook had sea lion whiskers to give as gifts.
With the story telling over, Arlo Hannigan played and sang.
The Nome Arts Council presented a check for $500 to the Nome-Beltz Speech and Debate class so they can attend The Moth, a story telling event in Anchorage. When the students return from The Moth they will report to the council at their meeting and perhaps make suggestions based on their observations.