Tyonek, The Beach People


Tyonek, home of the Beach People, may be just an up and down flight across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, but that short hop includes flying over the delta where the mighty Susitna River empties into Cook Inlet and a view all the way down the Inlet to the Aleutian volcanoes. Oh Tyonek, so beautiful on the first three perfect spring days!







Tyonek is a small, quiet village. We received a warm welcome at Tegbughna School from Principal Pam Potter. Some of us even had real beds at our headquarters across the road from the school in Teacher Housing.

Thirty-three children participated in our workshops, which is interesting considering the school’s official enrollment figure is 28.  Way to go, Tebughna School students! Several of you were able to keep a straight face in spite of all the silly antics of our actors who were determined to make you laugh. Following our theater games, Erika (Lynx) Bergren’s poetry workshop helped us connect with what makes Tyonek special to the kids who live there.

Actor and Poet Lance Claymore (Wolf) models the prompt for our Poetry workshop.

Such a wealth of talent among Tyonek kids!

The pre-show potluck carried on despite a 1.5-hour power outage which meant none of the cooks were able to make fry bread. Thanks to Janelle Baker, Native Village of Tyonek, we had a terrific turnout of 45 for our show, that’s 38% of the total population.

Ah Tyonek, we’ll remember your endless beach and breaching belugas, but most of all your great kids and friendly people.


36th Annual Protecting Our Children Conference – Anchorage 2018

We were excited that The Winter Bear & the Power of Story was accepted for a panel discussion at the 36th Annual American Indian Child Welfare Association meeting at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage in April 2018.

We were honored that Sidney Huntington’s daughter, Anna Huntington-Kriska, who is also the Grant Advisor for Behavioral Health at Southcentral Foundation, was one of our panel members, along with Winter Bear Lead Actor Brían Wescott, Director Tom Robenolt and Playwright Anne Hanley.

Ms. Huntington-Kriska told her own powerful story of how suicide has impacted her life and why she has chosen time and again to cycle back into suicide prevention work.

Annie Huntington-Kriska, one of Sidney’s daughters.

Audience members told us about their own arts-related suicide prevention projects. Two that stood out: A California project about suicide that wove personal stories of suicide survivors into compelling dramas; and an arts collective in Manitoba that explored the root causes of suicide through poetry, music and art.

Thank you NICWA for allowing us to connect with people from all over the U.S. and Canada who are harnessing the power of story to break the hold of suicide.

~Anne Hanley, Playwright


Kalskag Grizzlies

We were so busy, it was hard to keep up with blogging at each location!  But I would be remiss if I didn’t recount our visit to Upper and Lower Kalskag.  We stayed at George Morgan Senior High School, Home of the Grizzles!  How appropriate.  The high school is located in the center of the two villages, and each site has a population of about 200-250.


We were delighted to see another mural by artist Kevin G. Smith up at the school. Kevin has created several of these murals celebrating each community’s unique history.


As we were flying into Kalskag, our pilot mentioned Kalskag Hill and encouraged us to have a local drive us up to the top.  We followed suit, and took in a glorious view of both the Yukon and the Kuskokwim River Valleys.  At Kalskag, these two important rivers are the closest together they ever get (about 50 miles apart).

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Stage Manager Kadey and Actor David with the Kuskokwim behind them.


David and I thought the stellar view was worth a celebratory jump!

We are never sure how the audience turnout will be for a given show, but people really started to pour in for the potluck! The school cook spent the entire day preparing moose pasta and other dishes, and all told it was QUITE a spread.



Hungry animals Aurora (Lynx) and David (Wolverine)!

Hungry animals Aurora (Lynx) and David (Wolverine)!

We ate to our hearts content and then the actors headed to the “Green Room” (in this case a weight room near the gym) to get ready for the show.


Tons of kids in the audience!









Actress Misty (Miranda) chatted at length with an elder after the performance.



We were honored to be able to perform for the people of Upper and Lower Kalskag. Thanks for coming out!