Shishmaref Alaska 1968-1969

Photos by James Atherton

Kigluaik Mountain Range (Sawtooth Mountains), just about 34 miles north of Nome. Having left Nome about 20 minutes ago, you'd be one-fourth of the way to Shishmaref, maybe 45-50 minutes away. Today, with faster planes, travel from Nome to Shishmaref takes about a half hour. Shishmaref with winter coat. Shishmaref saved itself when the influenza (1918) struck all of Seward Peninsula by barricading the island and not letting anyone in or out of the village. That action stopped the deadly spread. The first building on the left was the Lutheran Church. It was the most northern Lutheran Church in the U.S. It burned down to the ground in early 80’s owing to a faulty heating system. Okpowruk’s homes, now gone due to erosion, located on west end of town. Later, newer homes were constructed just west of these homes but they were all relocated to the old airport site (which isn't used now).  If you were there now, where the picture was taken, you would be standing on the same sand but maybe surrounded by water. Charlie Okpowruk's home had been seen world-wide as it lay sideways at an angle. Now the building has been lost to the sea. (6 & 7) Looking eastward from west end of town.  Note some poles just past Charlie Okpowruk's white and black colored home.  The poles now show where there is solid ground;  everything else in the foreground has been taken over by the Chukchi Sea. If you now stood where this picture was taken, you’d be on top of the rip rap (sea wall). The main street, or trail, is still there but all the green vegetation has been replaced with sand. (9 & 10) John Hallum moved into this abandoned old sod home during the 1960’s. It used to be on the highest portion of town, located on the west end. View from inside the sod house. Note the summer tents pitched on the shore of the inlet.  John Hallum, who lived in this sod house for several years, showed nearly everyone who was willing how to play chess. He held chess tournaments  and said they learned to play very well. Unk Rod (Roderick Seetomona) was one of the champs. The underside of an old umiak resting on a rack. An old wooden boat located on the south side of the island. Roughly 20 yards beyond this boat was lost due to erosion, even on the south side of the island. (13 & 14) Umiak on north side of island, the west end of town. The skin boat may belong to Weyiouanna or Kiyutelluk. The high ground and two story home belonged to Charlie Weyiouanna and the building with the smaller roof showing belonged to Alfred Kiyutelluk. Both structures are gone and the sea wall is right about where the homes were. Umiaks were made from drift wood and walrus skins. The walrus skins were traded with Little Diomeders. The Little Diomeders would migrate each spring from Little Diomede Island to Kotzebue and would stay in Shishmaref for a week or two before moving on to Kotzebue. They would return by the North Star freighter (68-71) back to Little Diomede on its south bound trip. Villagers traded black meat and seal oil for walrus skins from them.  Now everyone has wooden speed boats which are made by the locals. Same house, winter and summer (16). It once belonged to the Sockpick family who moved to Nome then to Anchorage. VISTA volunteers stayed in this house. A hole had to be dug in the permafrost to bury the large box which was a trap for grey waste water. (17, 18, 19) A dead whale was sighted on the horizon and pulled to shore. The parts exposed above water were butchered for dog food. The parts preserved on the underside were cut up as muktuk, a combination of whale skin and blubber. Standing left, in plaid shirt, is Herbert Nayokpuk, nicknamed "Shishmaref Cannon Ball" after his dog team mushing in the famous Iditarod, beginning in the early 70's. He died several years ago. Shishmaref is not a traditional whaling village, as whale migrations occur some distance from shore. This old truck belonged to  Alex Weyiouanna.  The truck ran for a number of years.  Alex is now one of the village elders . (21, 22) Andrew Ningeulook with one of Shishmaref's first snowmachines, referred to as “Ski-Doo’s.” He later had a fatal heart attack while hunting around Ear Mountain. (23, 24) Ardith Weyiouanna:  now a grandma and doing well. Stella Weyiouanna Havatone has three sons, now young men. She works at the Shishmaref High School. Bessie Ningeulook, sister of the late Edgar Ningeulook (74). She is now married and living in the “lower 48.” #27. Delbert Obruk still lives in Shishmaref. Photo may have been taken up Serpentine River, but could be other rivers, such as Arctic River, Cowpack River, Nuluk River, or even Cape Espenberg River. Captain Russell Nayokpuk, operating the outboard, with Delbert Obruk (sitting, next to Russell). Picture is most likely in the one of the forks at Serpentine River system. (Note the ever present "Sailor Boy cracker", nicknamed "the Eskimo cookie.") Davey Ningeulook, noted for polar bear hunting, first with dog team then with "iron dogs." Here he is in his "speed boat" checking his fishing net. Davey passed on a few years ago. Johnny Weyiouanna, taking scales off fish with a clam shell. Morris “Moe” Kiyutelluk sitting on a drift log, snacking on dried caribou or dried reindeer. He is known as the “walking, talking historian for Shishmaref.” Eddie Olanna on the left, with Tony Weyiouanna (blue shirt) and Elmer "Boe" Nayokpuk. Seal meat drying Andrew J. Tocktoo, a reindeer herder during 1920's, butchering a reindeer. He was father of Fred Tocktoo who is Subsistence Ranger, Western Arctic National Parklands in Nome. Harold Olanna, main reindeer herder for Fred Goodhope Sr., and Sergie Obruk in the background. Davey Ningeulook helping out with reindeer processing. In fancy parka, Fannie Goodhope (Fred's wife), behind Fannie,<br />working on cleaning up reindeer carcass is Delbert Obruk; background Fred Goodhope Sr., Cape Espenberg reindeer owner. Fannie Goodhope. Sharon Olanna (now Nayokpuk) with friend behind a drying seal skin. Seal skins were made into clothing, mukluks, pants, hats, gloves, and still a "must have" for Shishmaref. Josie (left) and Sophie Weyiouanna. Shishmaref's north wind brewing. In 2009 it is still blowing but with higher gust and water levels and stronger north winds. A whale vertebra photographed under water. (68, 69, 70) Shishmaref's main support, annual supply ship, (BIA) the North Star. Bern Keating, writer, and George F. Mobley, photographer, traveling on the North Star. They collaborated on the National Geographic book titled Alaska, published in 1969. Edgar Ningeulook, used to be time-keeper for Christmas races and later was postmaster. Stanley Tocktoo (left) and  Josh Okpowruk. Stanley is now a native and cultural teacher at Shishmaref high school. He also serves in the governmental functions of Shishmaref. "La-la" Mr. and Mrs. Walter Nayokpuk's daughter. (81, 82) Josie Weyiouanna. She now works at Nayokpuk General Store. (84, 85, 86, 87) Perry Weyiouanna. Stanley Tocktoo (right) and Alfred Weyiouanna, now a ranger working with National Park Service at Kotzebue. They are enjoying what they do best, playing in the sub-zero weather in fresh snow.

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Captions Courtesy Fred Tocktoo*
*(Click on above thumbnails for larger images and captions)

All Images on this page by James Atherton


View 2001-2011 Shishmaref Photos by Curtis Nayokpuk


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