Ariel Tweto, an Alaska Native woman from Unalakleet and former star of Discovery Channel's "Flying Wild Alaska," has a new show on the Travel Channel, which will showcase the diversity of experiences and people that the state has to offer.
"Flying Wild Alaska" ran for three seasons in 2011 and 2012, and focused on the Tweto family's operation of Era Alaska — now Ravn. The show followed the Twetos as they transported goods and people across rural Alaska, facing difficult conditions and situations along the way. Central to the plot was the upbeat Ariel Tweto, daughter of Era's chief operating officer.
Tweto hopes that her new program "True Alaska" will show that Alaskans are more than the one-dimensional hunters seen on most reality TV shows.
"I want to make a show about Alaska for Alaskans, and show people that we are more than what you usually see on TV," she said. "Yes, we hunt and fish and we live in stunning and difficult terrains. But we also go to the store, live normal lives and have great families."
The pilot episode, which premiered Wednesday, Nov. 8, on the Travel Channel, shows Tweto playing on glaciers, mining for gold and trying "Eskimo ice cream."
Tweto, a natural optimist, hopes that the show will cut through the gloom of the country's political climate.
"I want to make people happy," she said. "Everyone — myself included — tends to take life too seriously. If I can inspire people to get outside and do something different, or make someone laugh, I feel like I've done my job well."
Aside from her work in TV, Tweto runs a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention in rural villages. She travels to villages to speak with students in local schools, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and go after the opportunities open to them. The organization is called Popping Bubbles, a reference to getting out of the insular "bubbles" in which we all live.
The prevalence of suicide in rural Alaska communities is personal to Tweto. She has lost friends and family to suicide, and is, in her words, tired of it.
"I will work until kids in rural communities no longer see suicide as an option," she said. "I just want to show them that they can accomplish their dreams. I mean, I'm doing it. Why can't they?"
Tweto does her best to lead by example. Growing up, she never saw anyone on TV or in movies who was Alaska Native or, in her words, "looked like me." By continuing to appear in shows, she hopes more people will know that they, too, can do what she does.
Ultimately, though, she wants to make people happy.
"I want to be Eskimo Oprah!" she said with a laugh.
For now, though, she hopes people will tune in to watch her travel around Alaska.
This article originally appeared in the Arctic Sounder and is republished with permission.