Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 30, 2000 - Issue 26


Santa Arrives in Diomede

by Ian Cameron, Nome Nugget  Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom


In the middle of the Bering Strait, flanked between east and west, new world and old, lies Little Diomede, which turned out to be one of Santa's first visits. In place of eight reindeer, an Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter carried Santa and his helpers to what is certainly one of the most unique locations on earth. On a beautiful clear afternoon while the sun hung low over the Bering Sea as the children of the village clamored around Santa walked from the landing pad, ringing his bell.
The moment everyone had been waiting for was underway. Operation Santa Claus had arrived. The village was filled with cheerful exuberance as the thousand pounds of packages were carried into the school gym. The children stamped their feet in anticipation of the celebration and presents that followed.

A fresh Douglas fir Christmas tree, donated by the Bering Sea Women's Shelter and carried by Santa's whirlybird sleigh filled the room with fragrance. For many Diomede youngsters it was their first experience with a real live tree. The children lined up, and their names were read. Each child was granted an audience with our red-coated friend. No child was left disappointed. Each child received a toy.

Santa flew to Little Diomede on Saturday to bring a real Christmas tree for the school and gifts for all the good little girls and boys. The town of Little Diomede is in the background. 

Although neither of them was along for the ride, the operation was headed and organized by Major General Phillip Oates and Anita Porter of the Alaska National Guard. Although the trip was not strictly one of pleasure, only a stone throws away from Russia, as one villager remarked, “You can see Russia over there? Well, they can see you too.” One of the things that allows the National Guard to cargo supplies and presents to villages like Diomede is the fact that the participating officers often have other duties to fulfill while in the villages. At an operating cost of $2,500 per hour, using the Blackhawk helicopter for dual missions is a matter of necessary efficiency.

In addition to toys for the children, boxes filled with all sorts of foodstuffs were unloaded into the local armory. People were invited to take home what they liked. What was mostly canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, and juices were quickly whisked away by the villagers.  It was clear that for Diomede,   Operation Santa Claus was a complete success. In addition to acting as Santa for the children of the villages, the Guard also provided flights to former military personnel in the village to other villages and to Nome. As Operations Officer David Benesch noted, ” It's a way to show our appreciation to to them for their service.”

Operation Santa Claus has been going on for many years now, and is not likely to stop anytime soon. The program is very important to the Guard, and that importance was expressed by Lt.General Davis, with one word: "Delightful."

The Diomede, Alaska, Community Site


Alaska Native Languages


Alaska Native Heritage Center


Alaska Native Studies Curriculum and Teacher Development



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