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Three-part series: To live and die in Wales, Alaska

Tony Hopfinger

For Mike Weyapuk, his short and tragic life in many ways tracked the horrific history and loss of his Bering Strait village of Wales, once one of the largest Native settlements in Alaska.

Mike’s life and death, as well as the story of one of Alaska’s most historic villages, puts a face on the troubles -- suicide, sexual abuse, family violence, alcoholism, unresolved grief, mental illness and racism -- that have all too long plagued many of our communities.

For many readers, Mike’s death simply adds to the horrifically high statistics of suicide in Alaska. For others, he was a son, a brother, a relative, a neighbor, and a friend.

The series ran May 25-27, 2012

  1. 1 Part 1: To live and die in Wales, Alaska

    For Mike Weyapuk, his short and tragic life in many ways tracked the horrific history and loss of his Bering Strait village of Wales, once one of the largest Native settlements in Alaska.

  2. 2 Part 2: At the edge of Alaska, boredom, guitars and more death in Wales

    Mike Weyapuk had few opportunities in his Bering Strait village of Wales, Alaska. But he had a dream: to escape the poverty and death around him and start a metal band in the Lower 48.

  3. 3 Part 3: How the Alaska Eskimo village Wales was never the same after 1918 flu

    In 1918, a flu epidemic decimated the Alaska village of Wales, explaining many of its troubles today. Mike Weyapuk knew the history, but he faced his own problems to the end.

  4. 4 Photo essay: To live and die in Wales, Alaska

    The life and suicide of a young man in the Inupiat village of Wales -- one of the most historical communities in Alaska -- reminds us of how much more we Alaskans must do to help our own.

  5. 5 Living with Mike Weyapuk's story, seven years after his death

    Seven years after 26-year-old Mike Weyapuk died at the far northwest corner of North America, his story and that of his Inupiat village of Wales are still emblematic of Alaska's most horrific problems.