A growing archive of contemporary
stories of cross-cultural encounter.
As Ping Chong + Company toured the theater work
ALAXSXA | ALASKA throughout the state of Alaska, artists invited community members into ongoing conversation to share their experiences and reflections.
maliaq kairaiuak | wasilla
"I have such a strong native name and it kind of displaced me in both settings. And that bothered me. A lot of the times during my teenage years that’s what I would think of, how I didn't quite belong with native people, but I didn't quite belong with white people either."
jennifer romer | anchorage
Koala Vaundoff | Anchorage
Lorena lupsin | st. michael
“The first encounter with white people is they talked too fast and a lot of times we couldn’t really understand what they were saying because they spoke really fast. That’s what I remember.”
“When I turned ten my mom and dad moved back here to St. Michael [from Nunum], and when we moved back we really wanted to move back to the Yukon because the dried fish and the geese and birds were fat and rich. The dried fish, we thought, tasted like cardboard, but we got used to it. When they used to take us camping during the Summer, we’d travel as a whole family and nobody was left behind, even the babies came.”
brian sierra | st. michael
Minnie Aluska | stebbins
“[What are my memories of encounters with outsiders?] I have no comment on that. But the first ones I seen were school teachers and missionaries.”
“[What brought me to Alaska?] I wanted to be somewhere different, somewhere different. I'd been in California my whole life, pretty much."
robin child | unalakleet
“I came back [to Alaska] when I was 22, ten years ago almost to the day. It was November 4th. I remember because Obama had just been elected as president for the first term and I had just arrived in Alaska. I thought I was just driving someone’s car up as a favor and here I am…”
frank stanek | st. michael
“When we went back to school to be teachers, my wife wanted to go to Alaska and I wanted to go to warm weather, the tropics. But when we went to a jobs fair the first booth we went to was the SSB, Alaska, so my wife won.”
brenda bergsnd | anchorage
judy lyon | eagle river
Dana anderson | anchorage
"[I went to Seattle with my mother,] we were walking down the street in front of the great, wide sidewalks and I'm looking around at people and she's like "what are you doing?" I said "Well, I'm looking for people I know." But she says "you don't know anybody here. You don't even live in this state anymore." I said "Well, every time I get on the plane people say 'Hey Dana, how're you doing'...Everybody knew everybody up here.”
Brian Walston | St. michael
“There’s a 70 mile road from Nome to Teller, so we drove all the way to Teller. Here’s where the good part happens. So we hop in a boat—seriously, this boat’s a little skip and there’s probably about 5 or 6 teachers and we pile all of our luggage in this boat. There’s two teachers sitting in the front of the boat and there’s myself, another teacher, and the principal’s son is controlling the boat, and literally I can’t see the people in front because there’s a mountain of luggage in front of me. Next thing you know, the boat turns off right away. It’s probably one in the morning. So he hands me the gas line, and I’m holding the gas line in place for the rest of the ten minute ride in this boat, just so we can get to where we’re going. And if I’d pulled it out it would’ve stopped. When we get there there’s another five mile ride to the village. [We’re driving from the beach], and the beach is all rocks. We’re literally maybe six inches from the ocean and [the driver’s] flying. The next minute he stops and he’s texting on his phone, and I’m holding on for dear life. That was my first day in Alaska.”
CARRIE LONGPRE | Bethel
"I remember as a little kid some of the people would tell scary stories to watch out for the kass'aqs. 'Be careful! The kass'aqs are coming!' And like, I was one of the kass'aqs. ...Wait a minute, I'm not scary!"
Alyssa Overby | Sutton
"I get really excited when people come up to visit. Or I meet somebody who's not from here, and I'm like, 'Oh! I get to share and experience this beautiful place.' That's my first instinct when I'm meeting somebody that's from out of Alaska."
AMY GORN | WASILLA
"You didn't realize there weren't going to be trees in this town you were moving to. The people were incredibly kind. They folded you into a community right off the bat. You don't get to sleep much, because it's summer adventure season, and you need to get out. It was intoxicating. It really was."
KEVIN LEE | ANCHORAGE
"I always get amazed at how many people think that I hunt. I was in the military for awhile, and people are like, "So what's hunting like?' I've never been hunting! I don't particularly want to. I've been fishing more times than I care to do, and I'm not sure if I ever want to again. Everyone has a perception or an idea of what people from here should be like. At least in Anchorage, it's almost like being from anywhere else."
TY HEWITT | ketchikan
"If you're hanging around and you're still in Ketchikan come October when it can blow 80 miles an hour and will rain for three weeks at a time... like the moment the cruise ships leave, people will be like, 'You're here! Welcome!' And then it's the most friendly place in the world."
ALLISON AKOOTCHOOK WARDEN | KAKTOVIK & anchorage
"When I was 14 and I went away for my mom to get her masters degree and I traveled with her to Iowa, I was constantly thought of being Korean. Which helped as a stereotype in school, I guess, because I was like, this is really surreal. But people, when they found out that I was Iñupiaq, the igloo question would come up all the time. So I really related to that in the show. I would also say I had a two-story igloo, and they would believe me also."
MARY ANN NAGEAK | BARROW
CHRISTINA POWERS | KASIGLUK
“[There have been maybe] a hundred times in the last fifteen years where I've felt like, yeah this is really good, I made this great connection, I'm really here. I'm going out and celebrating fish camp and I'm going to feasts and I'm doing all these things that make me feel like I'm part of the community. I've made these connections and they're real life connections. And then something will happen that's just like, no actually... I will always be a visitor.”
JASON OVERBY | SUTTON
ROY ASHENFELTER | NOME
"My life is somewhat like [what was depicted in the play about] Kasigluk-- born and raised in White Mountain, small village, subsistence lifestyle, enjoy it. Being here in Nome-- believe it or not, I never thought I'd live in Nome. The images for us-- [of life in Nome from the village perspective]-- is quite scary. I've been here since '82. Having said all that, all the things I ended up doing in White Mountain, I do in Nome. My children are born and raised here. So it's been a real community, when I thought it wasn't going to be."