Nome Sweet Home: Finding a Place to Live in Nome, Alaska

Nome Sweet Home. Photo by Mike Miller.

National Geographic Young Explorers Charu Jaiswal, Sarah Robert and Jenny Miller are embarking on a one-month expedition to Alaska to document food scarcity and a revival of hunting and gathering among young people. Follow team’s updates from the field on Explorers Journal.

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Welcome to our humble abode in Nome, where we’ll be staying for a week. Nome is a small town along the Seward Peninsula. It was originally a mining town during the gold rush, but its current claim to fame is being the final stop on the Iditarod sled dog race.

There were a couple of cabins we were considering staying in. One was a cabin that Jenny’s dad is building. Another was on Nuuk beach– but Jenny didn’t want to relearn how to use a rifle. See, bears tend to roam those areas (and Nat Geo and Fulbright don’t want their explorers to get eaten). Moreover, bear spray was not an option because according to Jenny’s dad “bear spray is for liberals, who get eaten.”

The living room. Photo courtesy of Charu Jaiswal.
The living room. Photo by Jenny I. Miller.

From the look of it, it may look like we’re squatters, but I assure you we are not! We actually went through several people to get the key to this empty house. Jenny’s third grade teacher Josie Bourdon ended up having it.

Part oven, part toaster, part furnace. Photo courtesy of Charu Jaiswal.
Part oven, part toaster, part furnace. Photo by Jenny I. Miller.

This is the kitchen; on the counter you’ll see our grocery haul from Anchorage. Groceries are expensive in Alaska in general, but even more so in Nome, which is relatively remote. We stocked up in Anchorage and checked a suitcase full of food. The stove doubles as a toaster and a furnace.

The bedroom...more like sleeping bag-room. Photo courtesy of Charu Jaiswal.
The bedroom…more like sleeping bag-room. Photo by Jenny I. Miller

This is the bedroom, where after an adventure along the coast and the effects of jet lag, we conked out for 12 hours of much needed sleep.

In all honesty though, the house was kindly lent to us by Jenny’s Aunt Leah Senungetuk-Warburton, who now lives in Fairbanks. It holds a lot of history for Jenny’s family. Her Aaka (great-grandmother) Helen Senungetuk, a respected elder from the Seward Peninsula, moved here in May 1985, and had a dog named Jackpot.  Jenny, her mom and older brother once shared the room we were sleeping in for a short period, Aaka had the back room, and Leah had the smaller third bedroom. The house was part of the Nome Eskimo Community Housing Program for Inupiaq elders.

As we looked through the rooms, Jenny spotted a small etching of a person she had carved into the bottom of her bedroom door when she was little. A nostalgic smile spread across her face.

–CJ

Small etching of a face Jenny had carved into the bottom of her bedroom door when she was little. Photo courtesy of Charu Jaiswal.
Small etching of a face Jenny had carved into the bottom of her bedroom door when she was little. Photo by Jenny I. Miller.

You can follow our journey on Twitter and Instagram.

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The Young Alaskan Hunters and Gatherers team is made up of three people. Charu, Sarah, and Jenny met through the Fulbright Foundation's Killam Fellowships program. Charu is a Biology student at York University in Toronto, Canada; Sarah is a Film and Media student at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada; and Jenny recently graduated with a BFA in Photomedia and BA in American Indian Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle. Jenny is originally from Nome, Alaska and is a tribal member of the Inupiat community.