Kwethluk is one of Alaska's ancient settlements. Just east of Bethel, the area at the junction of the Kuskokwim and Kwethluk River has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and life there is inextricably tied to the land. Families live by subsistence. The name Kwethluk itself comes from the Yup'ik word meaning "dangerous river."  Today, the community is one of the largest on the Kuskokwim, home to some 790 people, predominantly Yup'ik and Eskimo.

Winterized boats tied up on the shore of the Kuskokuak Slough. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)

Nearly all residents are affected by a massive infrastructure project guided by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium–a multiyear effort involving a new water and wastewater treatment facility and home water and sewer hookups where there previously were none. Launched in 2009, the new infrastructure is almost done. Residents like Darlene Ayapan helped build it. Residents like Frank Alfred run it. When all is complete, the City of Kwethluk will manage it. Everyone will benefit. It's a modern development in an age-old place: This is what it looks like.

Before the new water treatment plant, this building was the only source of drinking water. It also had the only public showers and washing machines. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
Varlam Jackson, one of the water treatment plant operators posing in the new plant. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
This new River Pump Station and junction box where water is pulled from the Kuskokuak Slough. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
Kids playing in the street. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
Frank Alfred a water treatment plant operator, with wife Natalia and grandson Junior Wick, standing in front of their house which was recently connected to water sewer and plumbing. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
Philip Schoon, ANTHC senior plumber, soldering pipes. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
Darlene Ayapan, an electrical apprentice who worked on the infrastructure project, and daughter McKenzie. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
Zoya Ayaan using the newly installed kitchen sink with running water. (Photo by Kerry Tasker)
 

This sponsored article, created in partnership with Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, was originally published in 61°North – The Design Issue. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at jgonzales@alaskadispatch.com.