Muktuk. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Muktuk. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Moving with muktuk: Planet Alaska relocates to Juneau

A new adventure in the new year.

Planet Alaska recently relocated from Sitka back to Juneau. When I got on the ferry I felt the slow pace of Sitka disappear and the fast pace of Juneau approach. As Southeast Alaskans, we know each town and village has its own spirit and rhythm. I’m not kidding myself, though, it’s going to be an adjustment moving from a smaller isolated community to Juneau, our capital city.

There are always unexpected adventures when moving around Southeast because the weather dictates our lives. When I stood in the sideways freezing rain with my dogs waiting to put them onboard the ferry, I remembered years ago when the ferry workers would’ve let me put my dogs on and go back to my car instead of standing in the storm. Instead, I received a lecture about policies and safety. I made a comment about common sense, kindness and the way Alaska used to be. Sigh. Our statements to each other were lost in the cold winter storm. Our personal rhythms out of place in a changing Alaska.

[10 things I learned at fishcamp]

Some of us Alaskans migrate around the state. I was born and raised in Wrangell, but my clan comes from Hoonah. We have been in Glacier Bay for at least two ice ages. As a migratory Alaskan, I have lived in Wrangell, Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Hoonah, Haines, Gustavus, Anchorage and Palmer. I’ve loved every single place for different reasons, but I am a Southeast Alaskan — I can’t help it. I’m Tlingit. I’m an islander. I love that Juneau isn’t connected to the rest of the world by a road. I also love that it has a lot more roads to drive on than Sitka.

Despite being excited to move to Juneau, moving is stressful. And this move was quick and surprising. For the most part, the ferry service has been cut back to once a month sailings from Sitka to Juneau so I had one sailing choice to my destination. We made moving miracles happen in a matter of days. We sure do miss the way the ferries used to be in Alaska, with frequent sailings between communities. Ferries are so important in connecting us to all of the unique places in Southeast.

[Welcome to Alaska, now please go home]

The ferry is a good choice for moving from town-to-town. As a traditional foods and medicine educator, I have quite a collection of each. The back of my vehicle was filled with freezer boxes: muktuk, caribou, deer, moose, herring eggs, salmon, halibut, black cod, rock fish, shrimp, beach asparagus, fiddle heads, berries and spruce tips. The front seat held the computer, clothes and dog food. A friend met me in Juneau to pick up the dogs and their crates. The teas and medicines came later on the barge with the rest of our belongings. It’s in the teen digits as we unpack into our tiny house, finding places for our books, keepsakes and harvesting supplies. Already we’re making plans for spring harvesting. We are hoping for lots of snow to feed the forests before spring comes, but the cold here is inspiring us to dream of warmer days.

Now, I wake up in a new place to a different rhythm, different weather, different sounds. The rhythm of Juneau is much faster than everywhere else in Southeast. It’s the hub for so many of us with less access to stuff. Like many Southeast Alaskans visiting Juneau, it means a trip to Costco and Fred Meyer. For a few moments, we stood in awe at the variety of choices. Then we had to practice restraint because we’ve chosen to move from a boat in Sitka to a tiny home and are now in the land of plenty. We only have so much room for giant packs of toilet paper and paper towels, which makes urban subsistence a fun sport in Juneau.

I’m excited for the new adventures that await. 2019 is going to be a fun year. We are going to be teaching plant classes this spring and summer. We’ll be making new friends to harvest with. Instead of harvesting in Sitka with more than one brown bear per square mile, we will be harvesting with black bears around every corner. Instead of climbing up steep mountains in Sitka to harvest, we’ll have access to plenty of flat areas. All winter, Sitka is usually a few degrees warmer than Juneau, but Juneau is normally a few degrees warmer than Sitka in the summer. And we get to harvest cottonwood again — I’m so excited. Juneau, unlike Sitka, is covered in beautiful cottonwood. The forests make each place smell distinctly different than the other. The forest speaks a different harvesting dialect here.

[Living the dream]

Planet Alaska will also be taking part in all sorts of Tlingit language activities. We’ll be joining projects and programs that a lot of people have created. We’ll also be dreaming up new ways to help perpetuate the Tlingit language. We love harvesting while immersed in the Tlingit language, too. It’s going to be a fun spring and summer full of culture, food, stories and beautiful scenery. And plenty of things to write about. Yes, I know there will be mosquitoes and rain, but I’m sure there will be laughter, too. Until then, we’ve hunkered in for the winter. We are unpacking, planning, visiting and dreaming. We are eating and sharing our traditional foods. We are writing poems and making art.

That said, we’re very thankful to all of our followers who’ve reached out to us via email, in person or on our Planet Alaska Facebook page this past year. We even had a Planet Alaska fan offer to help us move our belongings when our shipping container arrived. We get messages from people who relate to our stories. We get messages from people thanking us for all of our info on harvesting. We get messages from people with their own stories about their connections to people and place, stories about their grandparents, stories of harvesting and stories of Alaska.

We have more than 14,500 followers on Facebook and we’ve been growing our grass roots Alaska stories since December 31, 2012. We started Planet Alaska to celebrate the diversity of Alaska’s cultures, languages, foods, history, geography and more. We started Planet Alaska to let people know we’re like a different planet up here. There is nowhere like this in the world. We are truly lucky to be Alaskans. We are grateful to share this amazing place with others who love it.

Now that we’re here in Juneau, we can take a breath and unpack slowly and think about the coming year. Moving is easier when you can hang a carving created by a friend, when you pull the muktuk out of the freezer to share with visitors, and when we reconnect with the language learners and teacher’s we’ve missed, and when we can hug family and friends who live in Juneau.


• Vivian Mork Yéilk’ writes the Planet Alaska column with her mother, Vivian Faith Prescott. Planet Alaska publishes every other week in the Capital City Weekly.


A variety of traditional medicinals. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

A variety of traditional medicinals. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Fiddleheads. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Fiddleheads. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Beach asparagus. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Beach asparagus. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Ferrying from Sitka to Juneau in December 2018. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

Ferrying from Sitka to Juneau in December 2018. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

The view from Planet Alaska’s live aboard in Sitka before moving to Juneau. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

The view from Planet Alaska’s live aboard in Sitka before moving to Juneau. (Courtesy Photo | Vivian Mork)

More in Home

This photo shows the National Archives in the Sand Point neighborhood of Seattle that has about a million boxes of generally unique, original source documents and public records. In an announcement made Thursday, April 8, 2021, the Biden administration has halted the sale of the federal archives building in Seattle, following months of opposition from people across the Pacific Northwest and a lawsuit by the Washington Attorney General's Office. Among the records at the center are tribal, military, land, court, tax and census documents. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Biden halts sale of National Archives center in Seattle

Tribes and members of Congress pushed for the halt.

Snowfall in Juneau is expected to largely taper off this weekend, replaced by warmer temperatures, said National Weather Service meteorologists. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
More snow may be coming, but the end may be in sight

Many have begged fruitlessly to the uncaring gods for the arrival of spring in the Southeast.

This photo shows Unangax̂ Gravesite at Funter Bay, the site where Aleut villagers forcibly relocated to the area during World War II are buried. A bill recently passed by the Alaska House of Representatives would make the area part of a neighboring state park. (Courtesy photo / Niko Sanguinetti, Juneau-Douglas City Museum) 
DO NOT REUSE THIS PHOTO WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM JUNEAU DOUGLAS CITY MUSEUM. -BEN HOHENSTATT
Bill to preserve Unangax̂ Gravesite passes House

Bill now heads to the state Senate.

In this October 2018 photo, Bjorn Dihle inspects the acid mine drainage flowing into the Tulsequah River from a containment pond filled by effluent from the Tulsequah Chief Mine in British Columbia, Canada. (Courtesy Photo | Chris Miller)
Elected officials: Safe mining needed for salmon

Virtual briefing focuses on transboundary waters.

A role of "I Voted" stickers sit sanitizer. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: There’s a problem election reform efforts are ignoring

Campaigns should be shorter. But they aren’t.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to the White House asking for federal action to get cruise ship passengers, like the ones seen here in this 2017 file photo, back in Alaska. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Dunleavy asks White House to allow cruises

Cites severe economic impact.

At Thursday's ribbon-cutting, Governor Mike Dunleavy said the electric bus is a “terrific bargain” as it only costs about 5 cents a kilowatt-hour to charge the 40-foot vehicle, which seats 40 people and can accommodate larger standing crowds if needed. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
Running on rain

Capital transit harnesses local hydropower

Most Read