We Heart Aniak

April 17, 2016

The second stop on our Kusko tour was another hub, Aniak, a village of about 500 people that rests at the confluence of the Kuskokwim and the Aniak Slough.  In fact, it’s technically an island!

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 7.57.38 AM

There’s a simply stunning view of the Kuskokwim from a dyke at the center of town — we enjoyed several visits there during our stay.


Holy Alaska, Batman.

A walk around the village is always our big adventure, and Aniak had tons of interesting buildings like this “Stop N Shop,” which became “Stop and Hop” for our purposes.

stop n shop

Instead of their usual Math class, Aniak students got a big dose of Theatre Games on Friday. The activities utilize eye contact, using your voice & body, imagination, and improvisation. One of my favorite games to play with students from rural areas is “Expert,” where you pretend to be an expert on a topic given by the audience.  It tricks them into talking, which can be a big ask!  One young lady gave a hilarious speech about Road Paving.


And don’t get me started on the POTLUCK!  It was the first of tour, and the community brought some amazing dishes to share.  I think the musk ox stew was the highlight. We had over 100 people turn out for the performance – such an engaged and appreciative audience!


A local resident shared stories about Sidney Huntington before the show.


Front row is the best! Pardon the blurry photo.


Curtain Call

Some of the most memorable moments of tour happen right after the show!  We had a few young ladies who were just dazzled by the actors and posed for tons of pictures.


The little ladies love Lynx!


Those are some good-looking animals!

If you’ve never heard of Aniak, you may be asking yourself, “Home of the Halfbreeds?  Seriously?” As it turns out, this community is proud of its mascot and many are protective of it. Students selected the Halfbreeds moniker in the 1970s. These Alaska Dispatch News  and Juneau Empire articles go into more detail.

It was a true pleasure meeting the fine folks in Aniak.  We miss it already!


Go Halfbreeds!

~Sarah Mitchell, Associate Producer

Bethel, Home of the Warriors

The Winter Bear Project’s 2016 Kusko tour is well underway!  We just enjoyed three days in Bethel, Alaska, a major hub of about 6,000 people on the Lower Kuskokwim River.  We’ll be working our way upriver throughout this tour.


The Kuskokwim on our Bethel to Aniak flight.

Bethel Regional High School has an enrollment of about 500, so there is LOTS going on at the school!  Wrestling, Running practice, Student Council, and even a Health class program where kids have to take care of fake infants for a few days (that made us do some double-takes…)!


Mornings are HARD.

Photo by Brían Wescott.

Photo by Brían Wescott.


Packed matinee for the high schoolers.

We performed on Tuesday and Wednesday for high school and middle school respectively.  The young audiences were right there with us, laughing along and feeling the heavier parts of the play as well. Following each performance, we had a talkback with the cast.

Questions included:

  • “Do the animals get sweaty in their costumes?”
  • “Does the villain ever get attacked in real life?”
  • “Why doesn’t Lynx speak?”
Actors giggling during the question and answer session.

Actors giggling during the question and answer session.

With the high school group, the conversation went a bit deeper.  A student asked if we had ever encountered suicide, and we shared that almost everyone on stage has lost a loved one in this tragic way. Actor Brían Wescott mentioned how in Sidney Huntington’s early days, suicide was practically unheard of.  The cast agreed that talking openly about our struggles can help the healing process.

Actors led student workshops in theater games.  Following these laughter-filled sessions, a teacher remarked, “I haven’t seen that many smiles and that much participation in months.” The power of the arts at work!

Photo by Ryan Fuhrig

Pick me! Pick me!  Photo by Ryan Fuhrig


Getting our drama freak on.

After a few days of hard work and lots of fun, it’s onward to Aniak!


~Sarah Mitchell, Associate Producer


The Winter Bear Documentary on KUAC

We’re excited to report that The Winter Bear Project’s 2014 Yukon-Koyukuk Documentary will air on KUAC 9.1 TV at the following times:

  • Tuesday, 4/12, at 8pm
    (repeats in overnight Wednesday, 4/13, at 2am)
  • Tuesday, 4/26, at 10:30pm
    (repeats in overnight Wednesday, 4/27, at 4:30am)

The 30-minute documentary covers our September 2014 tour to the communities of Ruby, Nulato, and Kaltag. Thank you to KUAC for the great partnership!


The Yukon in Autumn. Kaltag, 2014.