Light streams in through the trees above Mickey’s Fish Camp in Wrangell. Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott.

Light streams in through the trees above Mickey’s Fish Camp in Wrangell. Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott.

Planet Alaska: Sharing Our Stories

Planet Alaska began as a desire to share and celebrate the diversity of Alaska from Ketchikan to Utqiagvik. Planet Alaska is two writers/artists, a mother/daughter team, who’ve been co-hosting Planet Alaska on Facebook, Instagram, Blogger, and Twitter for five plus years. We have more than 14,000 followers from around the world now, but it began like many Facebook pages do, with our friends and family. Planet Alaska is dedicated to our mentor and teacher Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley. After Dr. Kawagley died (in 2011), and the opportunity arose to host a Facebook page, we wanted to continue his legacy of storytelling, scholarly work, and encouraging others.

We wanted to tell the rest of the world that Alaska isn’t the familiar stereotypes. Alaska is one the most culturally diverse states in the nation. Many of our communities are separated by vast distances; we can be a thousand miles away from someone else’s story of Alaska. We wanted to share the stories of artists, writers, musicians, educators, traditional food experts, linguists, historians, and elders, and those involved in language and cultural revitalization and preservation. What we Alaskans have in common is our love for one of the most amazing places on the planet.

Taking our popular Facebook page to the Capital City Weekly is a bit unnerving, though. We’ve been somewhat autonomous. Often people assume we’re a part of the National Geographic news network. We’re not, but that’s a nice compliment.

Here’s a bit more about your Planet Alaska columnists:

Vivian Mork Yéilk’

I was born in Wrangell, Alaska and live on my boat in Sitka. I’m Tlingit, a Raven from the T’akdeintaan clan, Snail House from Hoonah. My Tlingit name is Yéilk’ (Cute-Little-Raven). I come from a large multi-cultural family, which is also Sámi, Hawaiian, Chinese, and Irish. I have an M.A. in Cross Cultural Studies with an emphasis in Indigenous Knowledge Systems. I’m a tourist guide, a traditional food and medicine specialist, a storyteller, a writer, a carver, a tinkerer, as well as a Tlingit language and cultural educator. I grew up exploring Southeast Alaska’s islands in a commercial fishing family, spent my young adult life as a professional vagrant exploring the world, and I now spend a lot of time moving stuff around on my boat in Sitka.

Vivian Faith Prescott

I’m a fifth generation Alaskan of Sámi, Irish, and Norwegian heritage, among others. I’m adopted T’akdeintaan, given the name Yéilk’ Tláa (Mother-of-Cute-Little-Raven). I was born and raised in Wrangell and I live at my fishcamp where I spend my time learning about subsistence and teaching that lifestyle to the next generation. I hold an MFA from the University of Alaska and a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies. I currently facilitate community writing workshops and writers groups in both Sitka and Wrangell. I’m the author of a full-length poetry collection, The Hide of My Tongue (Plain View Press), and three poetry chapbooks, Slick (White Knuckle Press), Sludge (Flutter Press), and Traveling with the Underground People (Finishing Line Press). Another chapbook, Our Tents Are Small Volcanoes, is forthcoming. I also recently published a short story collection, The Dead Go to Seattle (Boreal Books). I’m also a mixed-media artist, sculpting with items found on Alaska’s old garbage dump beaches.

Planet Alaska is about diversity: nature, cultures, families, landscapes, art, writing, and more. It is the story of us — what makes us Alaskans. It’s about you, Dear Reader, Dear Alaskan, Dear Fellow Traveler and Human. Thinking about this big step into newsprint makes us consider the mentors we’ve had along the way. What does it mean to be a mentor and what does it mean to take on the role of student? Sometimes we’ve been offered a reciprocal mentor/apprentice relationship and other times we’ve had to seek it out. Who has inspired us – given us hope to continue despite challenges?

Between us, we have mentors in common, some who’ve walked into the forest recently. Teri Rofkar and Clarissa Rizal were two of these mentors, though they were also our beloved clan sisters who influenced our creativity. Teri Rofkar advised us to tell contemporary stories, which is what we do at Planet Alaska. In her art, we see the mega-tsunami that tossed our uncle’s fishing boat over an island in Lituya Bay, the fault lines cracking the surface of a dance robe. Clarissa encouraged us to be mentors ourselves; to take a daughter, or cousin, or friend, and show them how to make devil’s club salve or harvest spruce tips.

Nora and Richard Dauenhauer mentored us in literature and the Tlingit language. Dick and Nora taught us to look for metaphor embedded in the language and to not be afraid to learn and speak Tlingit. They gave us both the gift of language and understanding that opened a whole new world for us. We’ve tried to share our love of language on our Planet Alaska page and share what other Alaskans are doing within their language revitalization efforts.

As well, Marie Olson, Kaayistaan,a Juneau resident, is one of our dear mentors. Marie has mentored us through our graduate programs and beyond. We went to the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in New Zealand together. She taught us Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights. Marie has lived some incredible stories and is a brilliant scholar. Says Yéilk’: “I am so thankful to call this woman my friend. This is the woman who tells me I remind her of Russell Means. This is the woman who calls me to tell me she was thinking of me and that I should start a media company telling our stories. This is the woman who calls me to simply say let’s go to dinner.”

What our mentors have in common is that they saw possibilities; they took risks and faced their challenges — and in doing so, they inspired others. Dear Reader, think about how you could mentor someone in the coming year or consider being the student. Learn something you’ve always wanted to know. Don’t wait. Go knock on that door, send a text, a card, or pick up the phone. Nora Dauenhauer Keixwnéi said, “The things you want to do in your life, get it done now.” So here we are: Welcome to Planet Alaska.

Mickey’s Fish Camp in Wrangell, where Planet Alaska coauthor Vivian Faith Prescott lives and writes. Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott.

Mickey’s Fish Camp in Wrangell, where Planet Alaska coauthor Vivian Faith Prescott lives and writes. Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott.

Mickey’s Fish Camp in Wrangell, where Planet Alaska coauthor Vivian Faith Prescott lives and writes. Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott.

Mickey’s Fish Camp in Wrangell, where Planet Alaska coauthor Vivian Faith Prescott lives and writes. Photo by Vivian Faith Prescott.

An avid reader of Planet Alaska. Photo courtesy of Vivian Faith Prescott.

An avid reader of Planet Alaska. Photo courtesy of Vivian Faith Prescott.

More in Neighbors

Athletes practice new moves while wrestling during a 2023 Labor Day weekend clinic at the Juneau Youth Wrestling Club. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neighbors briefs

Juneau Youth Wrestling Club hosting two clinics this summer The Juneau Youth… Continue reading

Ingredients for cauliflower shrimp salad ready to prepare. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for pleasure: Cauliflower shrimp salad

I realize that this combination sounds a bit odd, but I’ve become… Continue reading

Fred LaPlante is the pastor at the Juneau Church of the Nazarene. (Photo courtesy of Fred LaPlante)
Living and Growing: Your story matters

Have you ever noticed on social media how most posts seem glamorous?… Continue reading

People gather for “Our Cultural Landscape,” Sealaska Heritage Institute’s culturally responsive education conference. (Sealaska Heritage Institute photo)
Neighbors briefs

SHI to offer pre-conferences on Native literature, artful teaching Sealaska Heritage Institute… Continue reading

Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks to Juneau Community Foundation and CBJ for supporting elders On behalf… Continue reading

(Photo by Maxim Gibson)
Living and Growing: The silence of God and the language of creation

“There is one God who revealed Himself through Jesus Christ His Son,… Continue reading

Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Photo courtesy of Tari Stage-Harvey)
Living and Growing: Mixtape for the nation

The world would be a little more beautiful if we still shared… Continue reading

Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks for Challenge Grant to help arboretum project The Friends of the… Continue reading

Sockeye salmon in a red chile sauce, ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Sockeye salmon in a red chile sauce

Every summer I look forward to finding fresh sockeye salmon for sale… Continue reading

Participants in a junior naturalist program hosted by Jensen-Olson Arboretum walk along a beach. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Neighbors briefs

Registration for arboretum junior naturalist program opens July 8 Friends of the… Continue reading

Gene Tagaban, a Juneau resident, ends his story and joins with the Raven spirit for one final dance during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., between June 26 and July 1. (Photo by Maria James)
Neighbors: Tlingit storyteller Gene Tagaban participates in Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., hosted its Smithsonian Folklife Festival, with… Continue reading

Page Bridges of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Page Bridges)
Living and Growing: Not a single bug

I just read a great shocking and informative article about our treatment… Continue reading