Nikiski, USA (Photo: Elijah Hiett on Unsplash)


“The spirits of water and sun fought with the spirits of snow and ice well before the white man came to this land aiming to tame them.” The old man spoke softly, punctuating his words with silence. “Our people did not fight the spirits. Birth and death. Light and dark. The Tinneh accept them as they do life.”

The elder’s story was met with quiet nods of respect. There was no need for sound when another was speaking. A log crackled in the fire and the hush of waves sang on the shore instead.

“Our Tinneh ancestors have lived here ever since Walrus and Whale were born from the womb of Water Spirit. The white man calls this place Nikiski. It is a fine name, but not as fine as the name it already has. Just like the seal that swims unseen, Kultuk still lives under the new name’s ice.”




For What Pegman Saw: Nikiski, Alaska



15 thoughts on “Kultuk

  1. I live in Alaska but have never been to this place. Your story is so well done. I meet many tribal elders in my work as we host a significant number of tribal events, Iรฑupiat and Athabaskan for the most part, and I can hear this story being told.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Violet! This is such a helpful comment for me! I try to research cultural norms and to use prior knowledge and familiarity with some who have worked and/or lived in Alaska and are familiar with some tribal customs. My intent is to be as respectful as possible. The stories I hear of the elders – and the high-context communication – offered me the perspective of the quiet recitation and the shared oral tradition. I am so so glad if my short piece reflected even in some small way the cultures and ‘tone’ of these magnificent, resourceful, hard-working, people!


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