Hoopa Community Corps Helps Rebuild Alaskan Villages After Flood
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Hoopa AmeriCorps and Tribal Civilian Community Corps members rushed north when disaster struck villages along the Yukon River in Central Alaska to help survivors.
Ice jams on the Yukon River in Central Alaska sent water pouring over the riverbanks and into towns and villages along a 1,200 mile long stretch of the river.
The Hoopa teams arrived two weeks after the area was declared a federal disaster area. They helped people rebuild in Galena and Hughes, deep in the interior of the most northern U.S. state.
Tahsanchat Cooper, Hoopa AmeriCorps/TCCC director, said, “Hughes is a historical village with no roads leading there. The only way in is by plane or boat.”
Within an hour of landing in Hughes, called Hut’odlee Kkaakk’et in the Koyukon language, team members were busy repairing the damage to the small community.
Team member Sheldon Smith said, “We helped villagers deal with mold damage from the flooding. Sometimes we had to go underneath the houses and remove the base boards or belly boards and pull out the waterlogged insulation.”
They had to quickly finish the repairs before full winter set in, which could make further repairs impossible. First snows start to fall in Alaska in mid-September.
Smith, a member of the Navajo Tribe from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said, “It was cold.”
The TCCC teams also collected and distributed more than 500 pounds of food, over 40 pounds of clothes, and 5,600 pounds of other supplies.
Luis Rea said Alaskan Natives welcomed the team from Hoopa into their homes and invited them to dinner. “I thought I was at home with cousins.”
Sebastian Ferris said, “They treated me just like family.”
The villagers also shared some of their customs and traditions with the TCCC teams.
Cooper said, “There are about 200 people, at the most, who live in the village, so they take all of the men and set up camp eight miles outside of the village by boat.”
“Whatever they gather from hunting and fishing is divided equally among all the villagers,” Cooper said. “We were there when they came back with a big moose and we all had moose soup.”
The teams worked six days a week, rushing to finish the repairs before they ran out of time.
Cesar Flores, TCCC project manager and team leader, said, “When the floodwaters come in, they scatter everything. So part of our job was to pick up debris and set them aside so they could be picked up later.”
The team also put a motor on an elder’s boat, and fixed an overturned woodshed and restacked all of the wood for the coming winter, which lasts from mid-September to mid-May in that area.
“It gets really cold over there,” Flores said. “It was 25 degrees in late September.”
Flores said TCCC members, who are from different tribes from all across North America, were really glad to be part of the relief efforts.
“It felt good being able to help out the survivors,” Flores said.