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YK Region Info

AVCP Region Map

The Region Introduction

The AVCP Region is a vast and beautiful corner of the world. Tucked between two of Southwest Alaska’s mightiest rivers – The Yukon and the Kuskokwim – this unique, isolated area is the traditional home of the state’s indigenous Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Athabascan people.

The Region is approximately 58,000 square miles (roughly the size of New York State), and encompasses 56 federally recognized tribes. Residents practice a subsistence-based lifestyle, with hunting, fishing and gathering providing the vast majority of their food.

The Region at a glance:

– Larger than half (25) of the states in the nation combined
– One of the most economically challenged regions in Alaska and the United States
– In 2008, over 21.5% of the population was living below the proverty level
– Unemployment is 16% in the first quarter of 2011 (Dept. of Labor, Bethel Census Area)
– Alaska’s population has grown over the last 10 years, but declined in the Region

 

Culture

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The Regional Culture:

In Alaska, the Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Athabascan cultures are the most intact – they still greatly resemble that of their ancestors. Many residents still speak their traditional languages and most practice a subsistence lifestyle, which is supplemented by seasonal work when available.

The Culture at a glance:

– Most rural communities originated from traditional hunting, gathering or fishing camps
– A majority of residents still speak their traditional language
– The Yup’ik culture represents the largest ethnic population in Southwest Alaska

History

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Harberg Collection pictures 029

Traditional Fish Camp:

A traditional fish camp is a place where extended family and friends gather to harvest subsistence foods, usually berries, salmon and seal. Elders, adults and youth work side by side to gather, process and store these valuable reserves for the upcoming season while passing down cultural knowledge and traditional subsistence techniques.

The Region History:

Western society and the indigenous peoples of Alaska first made contact in 1741. Over the next 100 years there were numerous voyages to “Russian America” before it was sold to the United States in 1867.

In 1971, the Alaska Claims Native Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed. ANCSA created 12 regional corporations and over 230 village corporations. The establishment changed the model of co-ownership of shared lands to a corporate model that managed the lands and monies on behalf of their Shareholders.

The History at a glance:

– 1741 – First Contact with the Western world
– 1840s – 1863 – Russian missionaries recorded the fur and fishing trade activities of the Region’s people
– 1907 – 1909 – Gold discovered in the Kuskokwim area
– 1964 – AVCP established by the federal government
– 1968 – Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) established in the Kuskokwim Region
– 1970 – Yukon-Kuskokwim Helath Corporation (YKHC) takes over management of CHAP
– 1971 – ANCSA signed
– 1972 – Calista Corporation established

 

Economy

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Boat Builders at Yukon Marine Manufacturing in Emmonak, Alaska.

The Region Economy:

The first real economic development in the Region began in the early 1900s with the onset of mining operations. Over the past 100 years, the economy has evolved from one of total subsistence to one that is combined with a cash economy. Although hunting and fishing remain vital, wage employment has become increasingly prevalent, although it has not developed enough to fully support residents.

Commercial fishing, construction, trapping, and crafts production have provided village residents with earnings, but unemployment still remains high.

Economy at a glance:

  • – Commercial fishing provides the largest influx of non-government money and wages into the local economy
  • – Additional sources of income are hunting, trapping, and crafts production
  • – Regional economic growth is centered in Bethel

 

Alaska Statewide

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Alaska Statewide:

Alaska – “The Last Frontier.” The 49th state covers 571,951 square miles of land, plus an additional 45,000 square miles of water, and is home to over 710,000 people.

Alaska is the least densely populated state in the Union and is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world, at roughly one person per square mile.

Alaska at a glance:

  •  – Contains more than half of the world’s active glaciers
  •  – Over 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes
  •  – Contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States
  •  – Officially became the 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959
  •  – Alaska’s name is based on the Eskimo word Alakshak, which means “Great lands” or “peninsula”

Urban Areas

Alaska: Urban Areas

Approximately 41% of the state’s population resides in its largest city, Anchorage, making this urban hub a major center for commerce and business in Alaska. Juneau, the capital, is the seat for all state politics and Fairbanks is a transportation and shipping gateway for the Interior.

Urban Alaska at a glance:

  •  – Approximately 70% of all Alaskans live in urban areas of the state
  •  – Only about 30% of the Alaska Native population lives in urban Alaska
  •  – Anchorage is the state’s largest city, followed by Fairbanks

 

Hub Communities

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Alaska Hub Communities:

Situated between Alaska’s bustling urban centers and the most remote areas of Rural Alaska are hub villages – communities that serve as transportation, distribution and economic centers for smaller villages nearby.

Many rural residents use hubs as a transfer point on their way to and from Alaska’s urban centers. Additionally, residents of hub communities typically have greater access to health care, grocery shopping and other services than those who live in smaller villages.

 Hub Communities at a glance:

  •  – Local road system connects the community
  •  – Local access to health and dental care
  •  – Local access to groceries, provisions and fuel
  •  – Transportation is readily available; connects to urban Alaska via air service
  •  – Populations are generally larger than in more remote villages
  •  – Only one FAA Part 139 certified airport in Bethel, serves the Region

 

Rural Communities

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Alaska Rural Communities:

Rural Alaska defies simple description. It is a place where tradition is revered and elders teach the old ways to younger generations. It is also a place where the complexities of the outside world have gained a foothold, creating new economy – a combination of cash and subsistence – that has affected both the Alaska way of life as well as its ability to survive in a rapidly changing environment.

Rural Alaska at a glance:

  •  – Lack of readily available prepared provisions, fresh groceries and fuel
  •  – Most residents speak their traditional Alaska Native language
  •  – Roads and cars are the exception; residents largely rely on ATVs in the summer and snowmachines (snowmobiles) in the winter
  •  – Lack of modern seage treatment (most homes use a honey bucket)
  •  – Characterized by a combination of cash and subsistence economy; hunting, fishing and gathering are a high priority
  •  – Most rely on generators for heating – diesel fuel can cost more than $10/gallon in some villages

 

Land and Subsistence

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Land Overview:

The region and its people have a strong tradition of land management that is based upon 10,000 years of cultural knowledge. Although faced with numerous challenges, the people of the Yukon Kuskokwim are first and foremost caretakers of their lands and the resources contained within it.

Subsistence Overview:

Communities are bound together by the social and cultural aspects of subsistence. The Region has developed a combination cash and subsistence economy, but most residents rely primarily on hunting, fishing and gathering to supply food for their families. Though most rural villages have a general store, the food is often very expensive and low in nutritional value.

Education

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Overview:

A major concern for all parents, no matter what their location or ethnicity, is having access to quality education for their children. Schools in rural Alaska face a unique set of challenges that differ from other areas of the United States.

Cultural Sensitivity:

Many of the Region’s schools are located in villages where Yup’ik and Cup’ik have been the dominant languages for thousands of years. These communities want their children to be fluent in their traditional language as well as English.

Challenges:

  •  – Depending on the region, subsistence seasons often mandate when the school year begins and ends for students
  •  – Rural Alaska schools face a high teacher turnover rate
  •  – Annual teacher recruitment fairs pull in fewer teachers every year
  •  – Many programs designed under the No Child Left Behind Act do not take into account cultural and regional differences
  •  – For many students, English is a second language
  •  – Lack of support services for children and parents

 

Housing

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Overview:

The infrastructure needs of rural Alaska are amplified by the size and geography of the state. Communities, which are not connected to each other or urban centers, rely on inadequate water, sewage and housing for their basic needs.

Weatherization and Affordable Housing:

Housing in rural areas is often constructed of low-quality materials with little insulation, which makes homes difficult and expensive to heat.

  •  – Energy costs in rural Alaska are much higher than urban areas; heating oil averages $6 per gallon and reaches almost $10 per gallon during winter months
  •  – Remote communities in Western and Northwest Alaska have some of the highest rates of overcrowding in the United States
  •  – Due to limited access to rural villages in the Region, building supplies are significantly more expensive in rural Alaska than in the rest of the country
  •  – Building supplies, gasoline and heating oil generally need to be ordered in advance so they can be shipped in during summer months when the river system is not frozen

 

Energy

Overview:

The enery needs of rural Alaska grow as residents have become increasingly dependent upon fuel oil for heating and gas for transportation. As oil prices around the world have surged, many Alaska Natives have been forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families.

Rural Energy Crisis:

The rural energy crisis has touched every region of Alaska. With fuel costs skyrocketing, many Alaska Natives have had to reallocate their already strained incomes in order to compensate.

  •  – Subsistence hunting and fishing severely affected by the cost of gasoline
  •  – Energy inefficient homes have become increasingly hard to heat
  •  – The high cost of heating fuel and gas have made some rural residents face the possibility of starvation – choosing heat over food

 

Health Care

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Overview:

Although steadily improving, the health status of Alaska Natives is much worse than most other Alaskans. As the majority of Alaska Natives live in remote villages with little economic base, they are more likely to live in poverty and the most basic health services can be hard to obtain.

Rural Health at a glance:

  •  – Leading cause of death is cancer
  •  – High rates of influenza, skin infections and pulmonary infections due to inadequate water supply
  •  – Incidents of suicide are twice the national average
  •  – Shortage of dentists and optometrists – most villages do not have them
  •  – Pregnancy, life threatening diseases and people in need of long-term care are factors that result in relocation for many, separating families and loved ones
  •  – Improvements include new clinics, local access to care and telemedicine access for rural communities to YKHC

 

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