Young Eskimos Break Out on Their Own on TLC’s New Series ‘Escaping Alaska’

Click image to preview series “Escaping Alaska”



This will be the first program from Discovery Networks International to debut in the U.S. first

The Wrap  June 25, 2014

By Jethro Nededog

In a similar vein to its popular “Breaking Amish” franchise, TLC once again places its gaze on a subculture whose youth want to experience the outside world on new series “Escaping Alaska.”

The six-part series will be the first program from Discovery Networks International (DNI) that will air in the United States first before moving on to more than 200 countries and territories across the world.

Debuting on Sunday, July 27 at 9/8c, “Escaping Alaska” will feature the challenging journey of Alaska natives, broadly referred to as Eskimos, Mary, Frank, Tamara, Qituvituag aka Q and Nuala, as they set out to explore the world outside their villages and small towns. Though filled with love and pride in their heritage, these young people yearn to know life outside the insular communities. But, that’s not how their families will take it.

“‘Escaping Alaska’ provides a rare window into a remote world that is quite foreign to many of TLC viewers – a look at the lives of an endangered culture and private community that is seldom seen by the lower 48,” said DNI’s production and development vice president, Jon Sechrist in a statement.

He continued, “The series is a fascinating study of people struggling to preserve their traditional way of life, and the aspirations of its younger generation who are seeking their own way. The five characters featured are a microcosm of their community.”

Leaving one’s home is considered a betrayal in that culture, so these young people will have to use cover stories to mask their true intentions for leaving for California. Their new experiences will include new jobs, dating and challenging their traditional upbringings. In the end, they’ll each make the decision to return home or continue their lives within the contiguous 48 states of the U.S.

Sechrist commissioned and executive produced the series. Hot Snakes Media is producing the series for DNI.

Alaskan Inupiat group develops video game

Never Alone expected this fall for PS4 and XBox One

CBC News May 18, 2014


A video game that draws from Alaskan Inupiat culture is expected to be released this fall.

Never Alone is the first title from Upper One Games, a joint venture between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media of New York.

“We call it an atmospheric puzzle platformer,” says Sean Vesce of E-Line Media.

“The game stars two characters: an Inupiat girl named Nuna and her unlikely companion, an Arctic fox. The game provides an adventure in which the two characters must work together to overcome challenges.”

Each of the characters has unique skills and abilities. The game can be played by a single player, who can switch between the two characters at any time, or by two players.

Never Alone is the first title from Upper One Games, a joint venture between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media of New York. (courtesy of Upper One Games)

Vesce says it’s styled as a 2-D side scroller, where players jump and run through perilous environments found in the North slope such as ice fields, ice floes and forests.

The over-arching storyline is told by an Inupiat storyteller.

Amy Fredeen, executive vice president of both the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Upper One Games, says the game highlights the value Inupiat culture puts on interdependence.

She says the tribal council chose to found Upper One Games to connect with the growing population of Inupiat youth.

“What’s been really phenomenal is seeing the video game come around as a new way of storytelling,” she says.

“Indigenous people have always had an indigenous way of learning, and we have our Western models that we work within now, but we’ve always held on to our storytelling and our dancing as a way to pass wisdom and knowledge. And this is just another new way we’re going to be able to share this with the younger generation.”

She also says the game is an invitation to anyone to learn more about Inupiat culture.

The game is expected to be released this fall for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Sealaska regional Native corporation stumbles, reporting $35 million loss

By PAT FORGEY Alaska Dispatch

May 15, 2014

JUNEAU — Sealaska Corp. had an operating loss of $35 million last year and a 22 percent drop in revenue, the Native corporation said in an annual report released Thursday.

Sealaska said the largest of its losses was $24 million at subsidiary Sealaska Constructors but said the company had taken steps to limit the losses.

“Sealaska management has taken corrective action and the losses will be contained in 2013,” the report said.

Surprise losses from the subsidiary mean that the even with investment earnings and profits shared by other Native corporations, Sealaska was forced to post the large loss. Sealaska had net revenue from continuing operations of $165 million, it said.

The management of the subsidiary has been “released,” the report said, without providing additional details. It said bidding on new projects has been halted. The problems stemmed from civil construction projects in Hawaii on which the company underestimated construction costs when bidding.

The company provided some written answers to questions from the Alaska Dispatch, but declined to say exactly how big the projects were, although officials maintained they were multimillion dollar contracts.

Sealaska Constructors specializes in 8(a) contracting on federal projects in which the its status as a Native-owned company gives it bidding preference.

The news did not sit well with some of Sealaska’s 21,600 shareholders.

“It literally made me sick to my stomach,” said Carlton Smith, a shareholder and a City and Borough of Juneau assembly member. “The results for 2013 were far worse than I thought they would be.”

Smith is also part of a slate of independent candidates seeking to win seats on the corporation’s board of directors and running against corporation-backed candidates.

Smith said the corporation needs to provide shareholders with more information about its finances, including what happened at Sealaska Constructors.

“This report puts shareholders in a challenging position to try to figure that out,” he said.

The losses at Sealaska Constructors overshadowed other losses, including Sealaska’s long-profitable natural resources segment and $25 million in losses due to accounting changes.

The company’s total revenue of $165 million, with operating losses of $35 million in 2013 contrasts with revenue of $211 million and operating profits of $11 million the previous year.

But the company also showed a decrease in total assets of $66 million during the year, falling to $319 million. The company’s investments amounted to about $180 million at the year’s end, which produced investment profits of almost $17 million this year. But that wasn’t enough to make Sealaska profitable.

This has been a year of transition for Sealaska, as Chris McNeil, the company president and CEO, announced his resignation from the job he’s held since 2001. Further, Board Chairman Albert Kookesh has announced he’ll be stepping down as chairman but will remain on the board.

Kookesh is a former state senator who lost his seat after redistricting, and also recently stepped down as co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives

Longtime board member Byron Mallott has also announced he’ll be leaving the board when his term expires this year to concentrate on his campaign for governor.

Also in the last year Sealaska sold off its plastics manufacturing business, Nypro Kanaak, to focus on other businesses.

Despite the difficult year, company executives emphasized that Sealaska remains strong, with significant assets, including cash.

Contact Pat Forgey at

Isadore Boni: AIDS Stigma Holding Back Progress in Indian Country

Courtesy Wellbound StorytellersIsadore Boni, San Carlos Apache, was diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C in May 2002. After his disease escalated to AIDS in November 2004, he was cured of hepatitis C in 2013. Now he is an advocate for HIV prevention and HIV/AIDS treatment and care.
Courtesy Wellbound Storytellers
Isadore Boni, San Carlos Apache, was diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C in May 2002. After his disease escalated to AIDS in November 2004, he was cured of hepatitis C in 2013. Now he is an advocate for HIV prevention and HIV/AIDS treatment and care.


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), of persons diagnosed with HIV, more than 38 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives progressed to an AIDS diagnosis in less than 12 months, which is the highest percentage among all racial/ethnic groups.

Many question why American Indians and Alaskan Natives progress so fast to an AIDS diagnosis, which also contributes to Natives having the shortest survival time among all racial/ethnic groups. AIDS/HIV awareness activist Isadore Boni blames the stigma attached to the disease.

“Stigma in Indian country in general is still very very strong,” Boni said. “Stigma prevents people from getting tested, prevents people from accessing the care they need and it stops people who are positive from going through the process of acceptance. That is more important than anything.  Stigma to me in my opinion, is the reason, that Native people, have the highest death rates, among all other people according to the CDC.”

Boni, a San Carlos Apache tribal member, spoke to college students at Haskell Indian Nations University for their AIDS Awareness event.

RELATED: Victory at Last: Apache Activist Helps Pass HIV/AIDS Confidentiality Resolution

Native AIDS Survivor Finds Empowerment Through Honesty, Fights for HIV Confidentiality Law

Apache AIDS Survivor Runs Fifth Half-Marathon

Regardless of the statistics, Boni has gone on to lead a healthy and productive life. Since being diagnosed with HIV, he recently finished his fifth P.F. Chang’s half marathon this past January in Phoenix, Arizona, where he resides.

“I want the students to know, even the most educated and most successful people have HIV and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a death sentence,” he said. “The sooner you get tested, the longer you can live.”
According the CDC, Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives had the 3rd and 5th highest rate of new HIV infections, respectively.

One concern of Boni is making sure when someone does find out they are positive for HIV that they have support.

“Sharing with people makes me stronger,” Boni said. “It is also medicine, whether it’s words or a hug, that to me is medicine. That support, is more stronger than any medication that I have been taking.”

The National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 20. Organizers are looking for tribal communities to host events to help increase awareness. Anything from hosting talks, walks, runs or by going with someone to take a test as a form of support, National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day has materials ready for anyone at their website at

This article was originally published by Wellbound Storytellers. Read more blogs about healthy living written by Natives throughout Indian country at



Tester and Begich Call for Faster Action on Tribal Disaster Recovery Provision

Provision enables tribal leaders to call on President for major disaster and emergency response

Press release: United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Mark Begich (D-AK) this week expressed concern over the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) lack of timely implementation of their tribal disaster declaration provision in the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA). 
Tester and Begich’s letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate emphasizes the need to ensure Native American tribes and Alaska Natives are true partners in the emergency management community.  In January 2013, Congress passed Tester and Begich’s provision, which allows Indian tribes to directly request federal assistance after a natural or man-made disaster.  Under previous law, tribes had to work through state governments to seek assistance after a disaster on their land.
“We are disturbed by the long delay in promulgating guidance and urge FEMA to move quickly to finalize it,” Tester and Begich wrote.  “As the original authors of legislation to amend the Stafford Act to allow the Chief Executive of a federally recognized tribe to make a direct request to the President for a major disaster or emergency declaration, we recognized the importance of promoting tribal sovereignty and highlighting the pressing needs of tribal communities. As with any new federal provision, guidance from the relevant agency is an important step in ensuring the policy is applied consistently across the country.
“Following the release of draft guidance, FEMA must move swiftly to implement an effective outreach strategy that recognizes the unique needs of different Tribes across the country. Tribal communities range in membership, geography, and organizational structure and a “one size fits all” approach to consultation will not produce meaningful feedback. As members of both the HSGAC and Appropriations Subcommittees with jurisdiction over FEMA we are keenly aware of the need for adequate resources to conduct critical outreach and we urge you to keep us informed of any resource gaps that may affect your ability to meet your required targets.”
Full text of the letter sent by Senators Tester and Begich to FEMA Administrator Fugate is below:
March 4, 2014     
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Dear Administrator Fugate,
We are writing to you today to acknowledge the work FEMA has done to implement the direct tribal disaster declaration provision of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA), P.L. 113-2 [Sec. 1110], but to also strongly encourage faster action, more outreach and better communication with tribal nations as guidance is developed.
As the original authors of legislation to amend the Stafford Act to allow the Chief
Executive of a federally recognized tribe to make a direct request to the President for a major disaster or emergency declaration, we recognized the importance of promoting tribal sovereignty and highlighting the pressing needs of tribal communities. As with any new federal provision, guidance from the relevant agency is an important step in ensuring the policy is applied consistently across the country. We are disturbed by the long delay in promulgating guidance and urge FEMA to move quickly to finalize it.
Following the release of draft guidance, FEMA must move swiftly to implement an effective outreach strategy that recognizes the unique needs of different Tribes across the country. Tribal communities range in membership, geography, and organizational structure and a “one size fits all” approach to consultation will not produce meaningful feedback. As members of both the HSGAC and Appropriations Subcommittees with jurisdiction over FEMA we are keenly aware of the need for adequate resources to conduct critical outreach and we urge you to keep us informed of any resource gaps that may affect your ability to meet your required targets.
While consultationwith tribal communities on the SRJA provisions is the most urgent matter at hand, FEMA must sustain its efforts to work with Alaska Native and Native American tribes. In order to ensure tribal communities are true partners in the emergency management community, we urge FEMA to hire full-time, tribal liaisons for each FEMA region. As members of both the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, we are uniquely positioned to advocate on behalf of tribal communities across the country and understand each FEMA region must approach outreach differently. By positioning a tribal liaison in each region, communities can be active partners and provide localized expertise on disaster related issues. They must be involved in the development and execution of policy from the beginning and cannot simply be used to validate decisions made internally at FEMA.
We appreciate the work FEMA has done to address the unique needs of Alaska Native and Native American tribal communities and we look forward to working with your Agency as new policies are implemented. Thank you again for your efforts and please contact my office with any questions or concerns.
Mark Begich
U.S. Senator
Jon Tester
U.S. Senator

Chairman of law and order panel says Alaska should stop fighting tribal rights


Chair Troy Eid, right, addresses the audience as fellow commissioners Ted Quasula, left, and Carole Goldberg of the Indian Law and Order Commission review a section of their report at the 23rd Annual BIA Tribal Providers Conference on Wednesday, December 4, 2013, at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center. ERIK HILL — Anchorage Daily New
Chair Troy Eid, right, addresses the audience as fellow commissioners Ted Quasula, left, and Carole Goldberg of the Indian Law and Order Commission review a section of their report at the 23rd Annual BIA Tribal Providers Conference on Wednesday, December 4, 2013, at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. ERIK HILL — Anchorage Daily New


Anchorage Daily News December 4, 2013

In the three weeks since the U.S. Indian Law & Order Commission chastised Alaska for opposing Natives who want their own village cops and courts, chairman Troy Eid says he’s been called a radical and an outsider who shouldn’t be sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Eid swept aside such criticism Wednesday when the commission officially presented its report in Anchorage. He declared that Alaska “was on the wrong track” and that public safety and security were so bad in rural Alaska, especially for women and children, that it had become a national disgrace.

“I don’t claim to be an Alaskan,” said Eid, the former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, “but I know injustice when I see it.”

Speaking to a crowded room of mainly Alaska tribal officials and Native rights advocates at the 23rd annual Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Providers Conference, Eid was interrupted by applause almost every time he called on the state to acknowledge sovereignty here.

“There ought to be a recognition of tribal sovereignty as THE force that will keep people safer — and why not?” Eid said. “It’s what we do everywhere else in the United States. We recognize local people should be able to govern themselves, make their own decisions, that they should not be fighting with their states.”

A life-long Republican, Eid said it wasn’t a matter of politics, though opponents of the report have tried to portray it that way. “I would hold my conservative credentials to (Attorney General Mike Geraghty’s) or the governor’s anytime,” he said.

The nine-member Indian Law & Order Commission was established by Congress in 2010 and directed to report back to Congress and the President on its findings after holding hearings and meetings around the country, including Alaska.

The report, released Nov. 12, was mainly about the successes and failures of reservation justice programs and recommendations on new policies and laws.

But the panel singled out Alaska in a special 30-page chapter. It accused the state of falling behind the rest of the country in providing a secure environment in Bush villages.

“What’s so shocking about Alaska is that you have the most rural state in the country and you have the most centralized law enforcement in terms of how the state provides — and fails to provide — services,” Eid said. “We cling to this model because we know it and because there’s a lot of perverse pleasure taken in controlling the lives of other people … The colonial model, which is alive and well in Alaska, does not work.”

Eid and panel members Carole Goldberg of the UCLA School of Law and Ted Quasula, a former BIA police officer from Arizona, said Alaska should recognize tribal authority, not fight it.

Tribal courts exist in Alaska, but they mainly handle adoption and other family matters. The state recognizes their jurisdiction over village members, but recently challenged a decision by the Minto tribal court that stripped a convicted wife beater of his parental rights, arguing that the court exceeded its authority because the man was enrolled in another village.

Eid and Goldberg had sharp criticism for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the law that paved the way for the trans-Alaska pipeline by settling Native land claims and establishing regional and village corporations in place of reservations. While supporters of the act, like the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, have described it as forward-looking legislation designed to integrate Alaska Natives into the dominant economy and culture, Goldberg said it was the “last gasp of termination policy” designed to separate Natives from their traditional lands.

Laws passed since then have recognized Native American tribal authority, though often, as in the Violence Against Women Act, Alaska was written out of the legislation, they said.

“Alaska has been left behind because of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act,” Goldberg said.

Eid said he has heard the law described in almost reverential terms, as if it had been “set in stone” and handed down like tablets.

In fact, he said, the law has been amended 35 times since passage, and it should be changed again to bring “Indian country” — and Native sovereignty — to the thousands of acres of land owned by Alaska Natives, villages and other Native entities.

“Attitudes change, people can change, people can learn,” he said.

Eid said that when he arrived at his room in the Hotel Captain Cook Tuesday night, there was a six-page letter in an envelope on his pillow. It wasn’t a love note, but a hand-delivered defense of Alaska’s position by Geraghty, the state Attorney General.

Eid noted that Geraghty acknowledged that public safety was deficient in Alaska’s villages, but opinions diverged after that. Geraghty said that increasing the power of tribal courts and police, using the reservation model, would subject non-Natives to a justice system they had no power to affect democratically.

“The report does not explain how non-Native residents in these communities will participate in … tribal self-governance given that they have no right to vote on tribal laws or participate in electing tribal leaders,” Geraghty wrote. Since ANCSA’s passage, he said, “Alaskans have been free to reside in any Alaska community and expect to be governed by a uniform system of criminal laws.”

But Eid said that was no more relevant than he, as a voting resident of Colorado, being subject to Alaska criminal law while visiting here. If he broke the law, he said, he would expect Alaska courts to be fair to him even though he can’t vote here, just as he would expect tribal courts to fair with non-Natives in their villages.

Geraghty also referenced the Parnell administration’s secret plan to bring a measure of self-determination to some villages. As outlined by Gov. Sean Parnell to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in October, the proposal would allow tribal courts to hear misdemeanors as civil, not criminal cases, with culturally attuned punishment or rehabilitation — but only if the defendant agreed.

Geraghty said in an November interview that he couldn’t provide a copy of the proposal he had given the Tanana Chiefs Conference because it was subject to negotiations.

“Has anyone seen this thing?” Eid asked the room Wednesday. No one had. He and Goldberg said the negotiations were doomed if the state didn’t treat the Interior villages as sovereign governments.

Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.

Former Inter-Tribal Council execs indicted on theft charges

August 26, 2013 Anchorage Daily News


A federal grand jury has indicted two former top staffers at the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council on charges they stole nearly $236,000 from the nonprofit that advocates for tribal governments across the state.

Former executive director Steven D. Osborne is accused of taking the lion’s share of that sum — $213,380 between January 2008 and February 2009 when he resigned, according to the indictment, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. It says Osborne spent some of the money on a motorcycle, three boats and other personal items.

Thomas R. Purcell, the council’s former finance director, is accused of taking about $22,720, according to the indictment. He’s also accused of funneling nearly $70,000 to Osborne to pay off a council-issued credit card without ensuring the director spent the money in accordance with council policy and procedures.

Purcell served as acting executive director after Osborne resigned but was terminated only a month later, in March 2009, by the group’s Executive Council.

Given the amount of money involved, a federal prosecutor on Monday called the case “certainly significant” and in line with several other federal cases filed against top officials of groups working on behalf of Alaska Native people. In the most recent, two former officials of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission stand accused of stealing more than $575,000 from the organization.

Osborne and Purcell could not be reached for comment Monday. Prosecutors say Osborne lives in Fairbanks and Purcell lives in Anchorage. As of Monday afternoon, an arraignment had yet to be scheduled.

Founded in 1992, the council has weighed in on behalf of Alaska’s tribes on high-profile issues ranging from salmon bycatch and climate change to affordable energy and land rights. During the time the alleged theft took place, the group’s annual budget swelled as it distributed fuel vouchers from the Venezuelan government’s CITGO Petroleum Corp. to heat thousands of rural homes around Alaska.

Then the council’s work stumbled, a staffer said.

The stolen money and resulting investigation “really hurt us,” said Delice Calcote, the council’s current executive director. Calcote, originally hired as an office manager in 2007, has worked without pay for the last two years, she said. The office is largely run by volunteers these days.

She said she couldn’t comment on the indictment until it plays out in court.

“It’s been a long road, nerve-wracking,” Calcote said. “Now the path begins.”

Getting to an indictment took years. Suspected problems with the council’s books first came to light internally in 2009 when a federal grant administrator raised red flags, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini. Once the suspicion of wrongdoing got the attention of law enforcement, investigators began the painstaking process of forensic accounting.

“It literally involved gathering a large volume of material in the form of bank accounts and information from AITC itself and crunching the numbers,” Bottini said. “It was a long, drawn-out process to get all that done. We had to recreate thousands of documents.”

The indictment specifically references two pools of council funding. An EPA grant paid for the executive director position. Between January 2008 and December 2010, the council got nearly $1.1 million from the agency. The council also received more than $8 million from the Venezuelan government for the home heating program, according to previous reports.

Osborne started work with the council in December 2007. According to the indictment, he stole money five different ways: by issuing himself $99,221 in checks without approval; by double-billing the council for Web and database development for $5,843; by making cash withdrawals totalling $31,500 for personal use; by issuing and cashing checks to himself in the amount of $24,595; and by misusing AITC credit and debit cards to buy personal items worth $52,703.

Purcell started as the council’s finance director in January 2008. According to the indictment, he made 16 separate payment transactions for about $69,475 from AITC accounts to pay off the balance of Osborne’s AITC credit card. He also submitted false time sheets for $19,200 charged to the CITGO account and upped his bi-weekly compensation by $3,520 without Executive Council permission, the indictment states.

Iditarod musher Mike Williams served as AITC chairman until the end of 2008 when he lost a re-election bid. Williams, an Akiak tribal council member, said he had no idea that much money was being stolen during the time he served as chair. He called the whole situation unfortunate.

“What needs to happen is to move forward from here,” Williams said. “Really the tribal leadership in Alaska must move forward and get this behind us.”

Reach Zaz Hollander at or 257-4317.

Qayaq Co-Op Campaigns on Kickstarter for $25K To Build High-Tech, Indigenous Boats

By Ralph Richardson, Indian Country Today Media Network

When Traditional Culture Meets High-Tech Construction, The People Can Qayaq Forward

More than 10,000 years ago, Eskimos constructed the first kayaks from stitched seal and other animal skins by stretching them across a wood or whalebone-skeleton frame. Called skin boats, they used them to hunt on the inland lakes, rivers and coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

Today, kayaking is one of the fastest growing sports in North America, with nearly 8 million active participants in the U.S. alone, up from 3.5 million just 10 years ago, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

With its rising popularity, David Michael Karabelnikoff (Aleut/Athabaskan) noticed kayaking equipment was primarily being mass-produced. So, in August 2012, Karabelnikoff established Qayaq Co-Op with co-founders Julian Jacobes and Martin Leonard III.

The Co-Op’s mission is twofold, Karabelnikoff explains: To inspire a movement in Southeast Alaska to revitalize canoe building and paddling, while encouraging youth to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and to produce top quality kayaks that elite athletes would seek for their own use on the water. While the nonprofit embraces traditional Native craftsmanship, it also updates the kayaks, canoes, and skin boats with digital manufacturing and fabrication technology.

Karabelnikoff explains that the first aim, “is to provide high quality digitally fabricated and individually customized Qayaqs. We do this by providing high school and college apprenticeship programs to be mentored by master boat builders in digital fabrication and traditional boat building, which will help in placing jobs for the apprentice.”

These apprentices, or young Qayaq builders, measure the person who will be using the boat with a biometric model produced with a 3-D printer. This allows the apprentice to produce a digital fabrication. After this digital fabrication has been created, the apprentice selects materials and constructs the Qayaq according to the measurements gathered. According to Karabelnikoff, this process provides rich opportunities for learning in all 4 STEM areas.

In addition to working with young apprentices, the company provides kits to schools so that students can assemble their own Qayaqs. Learners can use the process of designing and modeling, as well as the construction of materials, to develop STEM skills. Providing kits to schools also encourages the revitalization of cultural skin boat skills. Karabelnikoff says he wants to match the level of traditional skin boat revitalization that he says is taking place in Greenland.

Karabelnikoff, 31, is focused on helping young people harness their future success. “We provide a culturally relevant context to digital fabrication,” he says, “which improves apprentices’ self-esteem, and establishes a basis for long-lasting success. By learning the skills needed to build a Qayaq, the apprentice will earn the pieces needed to build his or her own skin boat – the skeleton pieces, the paddles, and the skin. We provide the opportunity for building on a long line of successes.”

An historic Alaska Native qayaq (UA Museum of the North)
An historic Alaska Native qayaq (UA Museum of the North)

Qayaq’s second core mission develops equipment suitable for top-tier elite kayakers. Qayaq’s Bio-Metric personalized kayaks will allow the company to compete for elite customers willing to pay top dollar. He claims his Qayaq’s are not only customized to the buyer’s size, they are also socially responsible because they engage young people in positive work, and are environmentally responsible because kayaks encourage traditional boating.

While young people in local schools and who work as apprentices have benefited from association with Karabelnikoff’s non-profit, Qayaq Co-Op has put together a Kickstarter campaign to train at-risk youth, especially Alaska Native youth. With funding from the campaign, Karabelnikoff wants to develop a culturally relevant social enterprise. This initiative would provide workforce development training and digital fabrication training for at-risk youth, particularly those who are Alaska Native. As is the case with Qayaq Co-Op, this Kickstarter campaign also aims to demonstrate a positive image of Alaska Native cultures to the broader community.

In addition to targeting at-risk youth, Karabelnikoff wants to jumpstart the development of an Anchorage-based maker space, a community-oriented, physical place, where people can collaborate on Native projects. He also needs to purchase digital manufacturing tools and secure space for prototyping and fabrication. With these initiatives in place, Karabelnikoff hopes to generate support for building community-based businesses related to kayaking.  Currently, Qayaq’s Kickstarter campaign, which ends Friday, May 18, is about $20,000 short of its goal.

Karabelnikoff says, “Apathy is a difficult one to overcome, especially in meager beginnings. The cynical say that there are not enough young people interested in our traditional skin boats, that aluminum skiffs with power motors are the only thing youth are interested in.”

The Qayaq Co-Op is determined to show the world how hungry urban Alaska Natives are for culture and a connection with the technological understandings of their ancestors. Karabelnikoff says the Qayaq Co-Op is about more than business. “Aleuts are Survivors. We are descended from one of the longest lasting civilizations on the planet, spanning thousands of years. In less than 50 years the population went from 20,000 to 2,000. Now we stand in the doorway between oblivion and revitalization; at times I do feel that the place where I come from doesn’t exist anymore. Then I hear the call from the future generations and answer it with the only prayer I know, one to be guided by my ancestors.”

Support Qayaq Co-op on Kickstarter at



Census Bureau reports American Indian and Alaska Native poverty rates

Contact:  Melanie Deal
Public Information Office

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 20, 2013 – The poverty rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives in Rapid City, S.D. (50.9 percent) was around three times the rate in Anchorage, Alaska (16.6 percent) and about 30 percent or greater in five other cities most populated by this group (Gallup, N.M.; Minneapolis; Rapid City, S.D.; Shiprock, N.M.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Zuni Pueblo, N.M.), according to American Community Survey data collected from 2007 to 2011 by the U.S. Census Bureau. See figure.cb13-29_chart

Nine states had poverty rates of about 30 percent or more for American Indians and Alaska Natives (Arizona, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah).

“With the American Community Survey, we can look at the poverty rates for even the smallest race and Hispanic-origin groups,” said Suzanne Macartney, an analyst in the Census Bureau’s Poverty Statistics Branch.

These figures come from Poverty Rates for Selected Detailed Race and Hispanic Groups by State and Place: 2007-2011, an American Community Survey brief that presents poverty rates by race and Hispanic origin for the United States, each state and the District of Columbia. For the nation and each state, poverty rates are summarized for the major race groups. For the nation, each state and selected places, poverty rates are summarized for American Indians and Alaska Natives, detailed Asian groups with populations of 750,000 or more, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander groups with populations of 25,000 or more and Hispanic-origin groups with populations of 1 million or more.

Two race groups had poverty rates more than 10 percentage points higher than the national rate of 14.3 percent: American Indian and Alaska Native (27.0 percent) and black or African- American (25.8 percent). Rates were above the overall national average for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (17.6 percent), while poverty rates for people identified as white (11.6 percent) or Asian (11.7 percent) were lower than the overall poverty rate. Poverty rates for whites and Asians were not statistically different from each other. The Hispanic population had a poverty rate of 23.2 percent, about nine percentage points higher than the overall U.S. rate.

Other highlights:

  • According to the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, 42.7 million people in the United States, or 14.3 percent, had income below the poverty level.
  • For the Asian population, poverty rates were higher for Vietnamese (14.7 percent) and Koreans (15.0 percent) and lower for Filipinos (5.8 percent). Poverty rates for Vietnamese and Koreans were not statistically different from each other.
  • For Asians, nine states had poverty rates below 10 percent (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina).
  • Among Hispanics, national poverty rates ranged from a low of 16.2 percent for Cubans to a high of 26.3 percent for Dominicans.

The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community across the nation. The results are used by everyone from town and city planners to retailers and homebuilders. The survey is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers, such as education, occupation, language, ancestry and housing costs for even the smallest communities. Ever since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790, the census has collected detailed characteristics about our nation’s people. Questions about jobs and the economy were added 20 years later under James Madison, who said such information would allow Congress to “adapt the public measures to the particular circumstances of the community,” and over the decades allow America “an opportunity of marking the progress of the society.”

 Source: U.S. Census Bureau