Looking for the North Star



Visiting Nuiqsut


One of the special aspects about living in Fairbanks is the constant exposure to the indigenous people.

Thirty years ago, as a young psychologist, I was asked to evaluate a family in Nuiqsut, an isolated Inupiat settlement of about three hundred people on the Colville River, not far from the Arctic Ocean.

It was January 7th, 30 below zero, and the sun had not been above the horizon for almost two months.

That evening, I walked out to the end of only road in town — a mile or two — with the idea of looking  directly overhead for the North Star.

The Alaska Trooper in the area (in town for the week) happened to be driving that way too, and asked me what I was doing.

We got to talking, and he said, “You know, when they unload the plane here, with the TV’s and the rugs and and the toys, things look the same on the outside, like the rest of America — but it is not even close to the same on the inside.”

That conversation and experience has stayed with me — as did waiting the next day for a very small airplane in very small shack smelling of diesel fuel, looking for hours out a small window at the ravens in the twilight.

When I returned to Fairbanks, it seemed like the brightest place ever, even with the North Star being a bit lower on the horizon.

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