Villages Hunker Down To Protect The Elderly

Small villages in the Copper Valley are hunkering down . Several have put up signs to keep visiting down . The idea is to hold down traffic ...

Small villages in the Copper Valley are hunkering down. Several have put up signs to keep visiting down. The idea is to hold down traffic, both in and out of the village.  Of special importance (as is true all over America) is the concept of protecting the elderly, who are simultaneously most at risk  
and most revered in Native culture.

Sign at entrance to Gulkana Village. (Photo, Country Journal)
In Gulkana, 1/4 Of All Villagers Are Elderly
Twenty of the 80 people who live in Gulkana are elders. That's 1/4 of the entire population. To keep cross-village and regional traffic down, Gulkana has a sign up at its junction with the Richardson, asking non-residents to not enter the village. The sign went up on March 24th, with exceptions for CRNA elder lunches, fuel and garbage services. Gulkana is also trying to keep people from traveling outside the village unnecessarily. Angela Vermillion told the Country Journal that locals are being asked "to hunker down, and only one household member at a time" should leave the village  for groceries or gas.
KTUU TV. Mentasta Village entrance. (Photo, Charles David)
Mentasta Village Rushes To Keep Down Traffic To Other Places For Groceries, & Monitors Visitors 
The entrance road to Mentasta Lake is at Mile 80 of the Tok Cutoff. Mentasta Lodge, at Mile 78 of the cutoff, had a small convenience store until recently. But the lodge and store closed down several years ago. To get basic groceries Mentasta people then had to travel to either Three Bears Supermarket in Tok (at Mile 125 of the Tok Cutoff) or to Posty's Trading Post (at Mile 34 in Chistochina) to the south. 

Because buying groceries was such a problem, Mentasta decided to start its own village store, even before the coronavirus pandemic. "It's a slow process," Anita Andrews told the Country Journal. But they're working on it, trying to speed things up.   Meanwhile, the village is concerned about both in and outbound travel, in which people can unwittingly introduce coronavirus. "We're trying to stress that people don't leave the village" except every week or two, she said. On March 21st, the village put up a sign and enlisted local men who were willing to work a checkpoint at the village entrance.  "Our main concern was our elders and the young kids... especially the young kids who have health issues like asthma," she said. "We're encouraging our people to hunker down and stay home." 

Chitina Village Residents Also Hunkering Down
The village of Chitina has closed its village hall to the public, and the clinic is also not open says Precious Billum, Village Council Tribal Administrator. Around 40 people live in the "village" – in three apartment buildings. One of them is an elder. Elders are apparently the most vulnerable group to Covid-19 virus. "It seems like everyone is pretty much staying home," said Precious. Local people can buy groceries in a small Chitina store run by the Chitina Native Corporation. 

Chistochina Cancelled Popular Spring "Fun Days"
Chistochina Fun Days (Photo, Doyle Traw)
It was safety first when the village of Chistochina cancelled its popular yearly Chistochina Fun Days on March 21st and 22nd in an effort to hold down the prospect of introducing the coronavirus to the community and its elders. The event typically draws people from all over the region and the state, for village dog races and other wintertime activities.


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