We Alaskans

Why I love Unalakleet? Let me count the ways.

UNALAKLEET — I love that when I check in at the clinic, the lady at her desk behind the counter happily greets me with a "Hi, baby." A name I'm often called for being the youngest of three.

And three seconds later I hear "Hi, brat" from my older teasing cousin I jokingly and lovingly call ugly.

I love that when I go for my morning run in the summer, the fishing boats I see parked in the guuk are all named after women I know.

First goose and swan

I love that while getting ready for bed, my daughter asks if she can take a subsistence day from school because a sweet friend offered to take her bird hunting. And when she comes home with her first goose and swan, she asks when we'll pluck them before giving them away.

My papa's smile when she gave the plucked goose to him that evening.

The Facebook post by her friend's mother expressing gratitude for the swan she'd later feed to guests.

I love that most of the kids at the school's spring concert have real tan faces from playing outside, some only going home for supper and curfew. I love hearing, "Auntie, auntie, I over!" from kids playing a few houses over when I let the dog outside.


I love driving by Happy Valley and seeing my auntie Doris outside her house, smiling away, cutting ugruk meat and blubber for oil. Then coming home and waving at my uncle Jerry who smiles even bigger while putting stuff away from his ugruk hunt. His face just as tan as the kids'.

Cherry slush puppy

I love that when the news is bad — so bad it seems you couldn't even make it up — a cherry slush puppy from Lala at Igloo makes life not only tolerable, but enjoyable again.

I love that I can still get very inappropriate giggling fits at church. This, 25 years after shaking the pew from laughter with my good friends, Myra and Tera. It's one of the most uncomfortable experiences, but oh so funny.

This time I get them with my daughter.

I love that I can announce at church, "She's going to hate the attention, but it's Mori's birthday today," and then everyone sings to her. And Doris prays the nicest prayer for her and we later celebrate with German chocolate cake and homemade maple bars at a picnic at the bridge.

I love that my brother is a good cook and invites us for caribou stew on cold spring days. And my mom made the best biscuits ever, so I bring some and we all, in a small way, remember mom's love.

I love the sunsets.

The smooth flat rocks on the beach.

The way most people wave at you when you pass them on the road.

Hearing, "Hi, babe!" when walking into the Garage to buy butter.

I love free shipping.

Choosing diplomacy

I absolutely love that I can write a letter of disagreement to people of influence, have a good conversation and remain friends and still support one another.

I love that we choose to diplomacy.

Really. The town's size. We're all held accountable.

I love that after days of wind, we woke up to a calm morning and my brother and dad took my daughter and her cousin seal hunting. I loved parking on top of ice floes, waiting for seals to swim by. I loved hearing my dad's stories of hunting with his brothers. Seeing Fred Jay help cut the blubber and skin off the animal and then showing Sid how to expertly butcher the seal. Fred Jay, opening the mouth so Sid could thank the seal and prepare it for afterlife. Pushing the boat over ice, until our legs burned, so we wouldn't have to camp out on the ice. Never once being afraid, fully trusting my dad and brother who constantly monitored the wind and watched the ice movement.

I absolutely, positively love living at home.

Laureli Ivanoff lives in Unalakleet where she's raising her two children, Joe and Sidney. They eat a lot of fish and are very proud of their Yorkiepoo named Pushkin.

Laureli Ivanoff

Laureli Ivanoff, Yup'ik and Inupiaq, is a writer and advocate in Unalakleet where, with her family, she cuts fish and makes seal oil.