All the way from Fairbanks to Huslia, one and a half hours by plane, we see nothing but vast plains, rivers and wetlands underneath us. Beautifully meandering patterns, and snow-covered mountains in the distance. And just as I spot the first human settlement since we took off, we take a dive and there we are, in Huslia!
The welcoming committee at the airport consists of Orville Huntington, co-chair of the Alaskan Native Science Committee, who had the idea for the Climate Witness project in the first place, and George Attla Jr., our host. George is a native from Huslia and a legendary dog musher.
"Mush, mush!"...the fine art of racing dog sleds
A “musher” is someone who drives a team of dogs over snow. For several decades he beat everyone in all kinds of dog mushing races around North America. Turns out he’s a perfect host too! There’s a village festival on, and his house seems to be open to everyone.
On a warm and sunny day like today – we see the first snow bunting of the year – it doesn’t take long to get into the issue of how winters have changed. For one thing, the Alaskans are blaming it on their dogs being built for much colder weather that it was a Norwegian of mine who won the world’s longest dog race, the Iditarod, last month. I’m thinking it just might also be that they’re ashamed of being beaten on home ground?? Hm…
The afternoon goes by fast between races, testing of foreign visitors’ ability to stay on a sled behind a snowmachine (YES I did, mostly… but my level of elegance probably didn’t impress anyone …) and coffee at George’s. His house seems to be the hub of activity this weekend, with friends and relatives dropping in for a bite to eat, and for those spontaneous quality discussions that make it difficult to leave the table even for a minute. I get to hear about growing up in a Native Indian community in the times of white men “discovering” Alaska, about the old subsistence ways of life and how knowledge about nature has been passed down through the generations.
As we’re doing the dishes, George wants to know more about the climate change project we’re doing with the school kids and the recordings that are being made. Kathy explains that it is all really an education project, and George’s conclusion is: - That’s all well and good, but you know, this all happens because of us humans, so really, we’ve got to tell the world what’s going on!