to Disneyland was not the highlight of a recent Southern California
visit by Native Alaskan students. Instead, a hike in the hills above
The Oaks on the Soboba Reservation resonated with them.
Most of the youths in the tribe started
fishing and hunting at a young age in order to subsist off the land
as past generations have done.
"They all hunt, snare rabbits and
canoe. They all have their own knives and guns, so they couldn't
understand people standing in long lines to shoot a fake gun or
ride in a boat," said teacher Dora Powell, who runs the school
at Stevens Village in central Alaska.
Nine of Powell's 12 K-12 students were
on the weeklong trip, which ended Monday. The journey included a
visit to the beach and a stay with the Lopez family in Riverside.
The Lopezes were the connection between the tribe and California.
In 2009, an overflowing Yukon River flooded
the village and Emilio Lopez joined 15 members of the Mennonite
Disaster Services to help rebuild.
"I spent three weeks there and fixed
11 homes of the 21 that were damaged," he said. "FEMA
called the Mennonites because they could not get anyone out there
before winter. The Mennonites take the Bible very seriously to help
others in need. Today it is them, but tomorrow it could be us."
Powell raised money for the trip by charging
physicians, dentists and members of the Bureau of Land Management
who make regular visits to the village.
is no other place for them to stay except the school, but I charge
them," said the enterprising teacher.
Alex Tortes, of the Torres-Martinez reservation,
and Ed Soza, from Soboba, joined the group last Saturday for the
hike, lunch at the Maze Stone and a tour of the Western Science
Center in Hemet.
"They're curious and adventurous,"
Tortes said. "I've enjoyed getting to know them."
Soza and his 7-year-old daughter, Ellie,
spent the morning with the group. He said he hopes the Soboba Band
of Luiseño Indians will consider adopting the students for
the holidays and donating toys and other items.
Glenn Simon Jr., 19, graduated from the
village school last year and now is a classroom aide for Powell.
He is a tribal government member and is working to get plumbing
inside homes to provide running water.
Stevens Village, on the north bank of
the Yukon River, is about 90 miles north of Fairbanks, which takes
about four to five hours to reach. Powell said five families make
up the population of about 70 people, who are predominantly Kutchin
Starting June 21, the area will experience
24-hour daylight for a few months.
"We don't sleep much in the summer,"
Powell said. "It's not unusual to be out gardening at midnight."
For more information on the repair work
prompted by the floods in 2009, go to www.youtube.com and search
for "Repairing Stevens Village, AK."