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.
– 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
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.
– 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
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.
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.
– 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
Boat Builders at Yukon Marine Manufacturing in Emmonak, Alaska.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Housing in rural areas is often constructed of low-quality materials with little insulation, which makes homes difficult and expensive to heat.
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.
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.
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.