Friday, May 27, 2011
Defining America: Tell us about yourself, Alaska

iReporters have shared hundreds of stories from Alaska over the years, but most have focused on the state's natural beauty and majestic wildlife instead of the people who live there. Today seems like a good day to change that, so we want to invite Alaskans (all 698,473 of you) to be a part of CNN iReport's cultural census project.


If you're a bear, you can't participate in the cultural census. Sorry.


The goal of the cultural census is to tell stories about Americans that you can't find in the U.S. Census statistics – how people dress, what they eat, how they talk, and things like that. It's also a chance for you to share what makes Alaskans unique and to learn what you have in common with your fellow iReporters in the lower 48 states. The challenges are also pretty fun and there's lots of room for creativity.


To get started, fill out this short survey. Then take a look at the cultural census assignments below and start sharing your stories. We'd love for you to do all five, but you can start out with whichever one you think would be the most fun.


Share a photo
Take a self-portrait. Get creative!


Read aloud
Tape yourself reading a standard passage.


Eat dinner
Show us a photo of you or your family's typical weeknight dinner.


Write this down
Scan or snap a photo of your handwriting.


Get around
Show us how you generally get around town.

May 27, 2011
Click to view SCOTO's profile

I'm particularly interested in why some of you voted for an ignoramus like Palin to be your Governor

May 27, 2011
Click to view rbot's profile

Your census assignment seems to suggest that what is most interesting about Alaskans is what we eat, read, write & how we get around, as if we live in igloos, eat muktuk, read by candle, and travel by dogsled.  What I find most interesting about Alaska and Alaskans, through my 35 years here, is that we come from everywhere in the world; we are a diverse community of people with many languages spoken here, and many traditions practiced.  We are all attracted to the incredible beauty of this unbelieveable, magnificent, mystifying, and yet potentially dangerous (for those who are unprepared or underestimate it) state, and its many opportunities.  This largest of states is one big small town.  Most importantly, I find the problem-solving focus of many people here to be very different from the focus of those in the lower 48 states.  Here, people survive (or not) on their wits and their equipment.  In solving problems, I have never heard anyone in Alaska say, "this is how we have always done it".  Instead, people brainstorm & think outside the box, & come up with new solutions to old, as well as unique, problems.  It is intellectually stimulating to live in such a place with such interesting people!

May 27, 2011
Click to view smooney15's profile

@ scoto : I'm particularly interested in why some of you voted for an ignoramus like Palin to be your Governor


I did not vote for Palin for governor.  In fact, the only state with a lower approval rating for Palin, than Alaska, is Massachusetts.  Yes, she won her bid for governor but that was because she was still better than former Governor Frank Murkowski, our current Senator's father.


Personally, I'm an independent and cringe each time I see Palin's name in a news report.  She can be Arizona's problem now.


May 27, 2011
Click to view estamps's profile

I second you smooney15.  Palin is a joke and needs to go away.  Unfortunately we are a vastly republican state that tends to vote party line regardless of qualifications.  Small-town, Alaska mayor seemed like a good fit at the time she was elected when you take into account how bad Murkowski was.  She is not a legitimate candidate for president and she deserves zero airplay.  She does not know the issues and simply panders to uneducated or ignorant people.


Alaskans are much more independent than Palin makes us seem.  Sarah, as the Steve Miller band once said, Take the money and run.

May 28, 2011
Click to view ArdDruid's profile

Scoto  Palin wouldn't get my vote for sewage inspector.  I live in Wasilla AK, yes THAT Wasilla, and I can say that people here are pretty much like people everywhere Typically convinced that they are right and others are wrong.  Now having said that, I have lived in Alaska for 7 years and I think that Alaska is one of the most unique states I have ever lived in and I have lived in several.   Alaska has some crazy wildlife that makes a walk in the evening around the neighborhood quite the adventure.  The people here are proud of the rugged individualism that they live by, although as ESTAMPS  said they tend to be conservative to the detriment of free thinking.  I happen to be a left leaning libertarian that likes guns, although I do not hunt. In Alaska even liberals have guns, there are more than a few families here that actually do hunt to eat.  By hunting to eat I am meaning true subsistence living and not the grand standing crap that the Palin types do.  One of the jokes I heard up here that made me really take notice: In the Lower 48 wives look at their husbands and say " WHAT !!?? You are going fishing again???  In Alaska wives tend say "Why the hell aren't you out fishing?" Life in Alaska is not easy especially when winter can seem like it is up to 8 months long in some areas.  I like Alaska I find it suits me in ways I would never have thought of, although to put a finger on those ways is harder than wrestling a salmon away from a grizzly.  A person either loves it here or can't wait to leave, I personally think I am going to stay. 

May 28, 2011
Click to view AkAmy's profile

I'm with you, smooney15. I didn't vote for Palin either, even though I will admit that Frank Murkowski was worse. I'm getting REALLY tired of hearing her name. Even if she did run for president, chances are good that she'd  bail on the nation. She bailed on Wasilla when she was mayor, she bailed on Alaska when she was governor...her track record isn't good. And worse, she won't shut up about ANYTHING, even if she doesn't have a clue about the subject at hand. I hate hearing about her in the news, because then the rest of the nation thinks that that's what Alaskans are like. What an embarassment.


The bad part about Alaska is the price of everything. Stuff is so expensive up here. Housing, food, gas. Gas prices in North Pole are $4.38 a gallon, renting a 3 bed/2 bath place can run you close to $1700 a month, and food prices reflect the price of shipping. Shipping stuff up here is sometimes more than what you paid for the item.


On a happier note, I have to agree with ArdDruid when you said that Alaska's the best place to live. It's cold in the winter, and that sucks, but it's not crowded, the wildlife is amazing (even the twenty pound mosquitos), and most people will go out of their way to help you out when your car breaks down on the highway at -60. The people up here are pretty cool, and we are definitely a diverse place.



May 28, 2011
Click to view 4tniner's profile

I am a 5th generation Alaskan. I was born in the territory of Alaska as was my mother, and my mothers family. Great Great granpa took gold out of Nome a year (1897) before it was declared a "gold rush" in 1898. Three of the first five federal homestead patents in the Mat-Su valley went to my relations. My grandmother grew up eating moose shot by granpa Cornelius and salmon caught by granma Edlund and vegetables were grown in their garden. The homestead was a 320 acre plot that they proved up on and built the house out of spruce trees milled on site which is now off trunk road. And all this long before any body dreamed of a place called Wasilla. Now Wasilla is one of the largest city's in the state. I hear its the "crack capital" as well.

I partly grew up on a homestead until I started first grade. My dad flew in our supplies by a piper PA-14 on floats, or drove in by a 1947 Willy's wagon that seemed to always get stuck over the axles about the same place each time on the swampy muddy trail into our 160 acre federal plot near Willow. That federal homestead program was ended by statehood in 1956.

My great great grandfather, Granpa Olsen, first came to Alaska in the late 1800's by boat. He built his own schooners in Seattle and sailed them north. Sometimes to Siberia but mostly to areas around Nome or further south in Cook Inlet to Seldovia and Knik.

There is quite a diverse population in Alaska with roots from all over the USA, as mentioned in the above blogs. As the state is so young, very few residents can claim to have been here for more than 2 generations, unless they are native. Some settlers arrived in 1936, relocated by the government as for the great depression, and others moved up with the military presence established as for world war II and remained, at least for a few years, than they tired of the long cold nights of winter, and remembered they left some distant family in the lower 48 and at some point, "retired" back outside. Yet a few hardy ones stayed on.

If you are standing in Alaska, your inside the state. If you are standing in Montana or another state, you are outside, as outside of Alaska, or down in the lower 48, as in the continental 48 states. Sorry Hawaii, you were the 50th state, after those monikers were already decided.

Before Statehood in 1956, federal Marshalls or territorial police were the law enforcement. If there was an unsavory character the community deemed a nuisance, they petitioned for a marshal to remove said character. This was done with a "blue ticket". It was a one way ticket out of the state. Dont come back.

Nearby Portland Oregon, was a sanitarium called "morning side". Some of these characters were sent there by blue ticket. A joke ran back than that Alaska had three sides. Outside, inside and morning side. Well, Just a few memories that Sarah Palin's generation did not experience. Now she is outside, down in the lower 48.






May 28, 2011
Click to view Dolce21's profile

This is how CNN get their polls, by having you people tell them what they want to know, in a round about way to say things that are nasty and degrading to make their point. So sneaky!

May 28, 2011
Click to view wallyolson's profile

I first visited Alaska fifty years ago and returned the following year and have made it my home ever since. Over the years I have published books and articles about Alaska and its people. Yet there are many things I still don't know about the past. I am still a student.

Over the centuries there have been those who have lived here a long time, the ancestors of the Natives have lived here for countless generations. Then there have been, and are those, who have come temporarily to exploit and take whatever they can and "return home."  That includes the Russians, the whalers, many in the "Gold Rush," the Guggenheim syndicate, the salmon industry controlled by outside interests, the timber industry and now the oil industry


Each Alaskan has their own "story." But having read nearly every history text, and hundreds of articles, biographies and studies of Alaska,one needs to know the whole history of our State. From all of the books I have read, Steven Haycox' "Alaska:An American Colony," is by far the best summary of our distant and recent past.

There are many, many good biographies and autobiographies about Alaskans past and present - and of course,some pretty poor life histories as well.


Wallace M. Olson, Professor of Anthropology (Emeritus) University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau, Alaska


May 28, 2011
Click to view Susitna's profile

Scoto -

I didn't vote for Palin, and neither did anybody else that I know.  Don't assume we're all Palin-loving, fur-wearing, razor-eschewing hicks from the Bush.  It makes an ass out of you.  The full saying, of course, is "and me", but as an Alaskan (born and bred, which is more than many), I'm not of a mind to share the label with you.


Welcome to Alaska - land of people who don't take to being told who we are or what to do by Outsiders, and very much willing to tell you so.


Better yet - get off your tail, come up, and figure it out for yourself.

May 28, 2011
Click to view conoclast's profile

I got quite used to not seeing the sun for months here in Oregon; took some years but I finally did it.  That said, I truly wonder how Alaskans deal with their even-more-severe lack of sunshine in the winter months.  How do they cope with Seasonal Affected Disorder??

May 28, 2011
Click to view wallyolson's profile

Conoclast - Alaskans hunker down in the winter - we've learned from the bears and Native people how to do that so we can enjoy 18 hours of daylight in the summer...

My old friend, Capt. Jim Binkley of the Riverboat Discovery answered your question when asked by visitors. His reply was," Up here we sort of paraphrase the Bible at times. You've probably read the passage that says 'any are called, but few are chosen.' Well, In Alaska, "Many are cold, but few are frozen !

May 28, 2011
Click to view Horsehooves's profile

As long as you are not living in Los Anchorage the challenges and excitement and rewards living in Alaska are astounding.  Alaska lives up to all the hype associated with it: the scenery will eat you alive; the weather will regularly attempt to kill you; meetings begin when everyone is there....not by the clock; the darkness will find out what you are truly made of; the sunlight will make you celebrate till you are almost giddy; the isolation will absolutely find out what you are made of; the drop-dead WILD beauty will keep you grateful, reverent, and humbled all the days of your life; you don't understand what "rush hour" means and any significant shopping is revealed in brown paper packages and boxes through the post office; what's a "mall"?; impulse gratification is hunting/fishing and sex....there's nothing else; you are never in a rush...because you can't get there when you want to anyway; WEATHER PERMITTING should really be the State motto; massive commercial tourism hides true Alaska...there are all these little artificial town fronts (just like a store front) so that tourists think they are stepping into something that disappeared a long time ago;  Sarah Palin really did make sense in Alaska....too bad she forgot her roots and her purpose, everything since is an embarrassing joke; the air is so clean you see things clearly in the distance, it's the first time in your life you realize air can be transparent; I thank my higher power the weather is so drives all the winers and carpet baggers out; you will never know Alaska or it's people until you stay through three winters.  If you manage to reach that milestone and can still smile and be friendly...and be conscious..then you have an idea of Alaska.  Ey-le-Eska: THE GREAT LAND.

May 28, 2011
Click to view wallyolson's profile

Horsehooves - RIGHT ON!!!

And when you have lived here fifty years, you realize how much more there is to know, love and appreciate about the State and real long-time residents.

The first shock probably came when you were driving along an isolated road, with no settlement within thirty or more miles and the first real Alaskan comes by in an old pick up truck,stops and asks "Is there anything I can do to help??"

May 28, 2011
Click to view 707rdr's profile

I have lived in Alaska for 5 years, the state itself is incredible and beautiful. Winters are long and dark, summers are nice but short. As you all can tell by reading these posts the worst thing about the state is the people, they are extremely full of themselves and flip out if you suggest Alaska is not the best in any category. Majority of Alaskans are very rude and care only for themselves, most of them walk around acting like tough guys just because they live in Alaska but cower at real confrontations when provoked I have found from personal experience. So in summary the state is wonderful the people suck, if you want to come and visit I highly suggest it, best fishing for salmon or halibut you will find. If you are thinking of living here and enjoy the cold and are a jerk you will fit in just fine, and be a horrible driver too that would help. Now watch the flames fly.

May 28, 2011
Click to view bowky's profile

I'm a lifelong Alaskan.


I like reindeer hotdogs, local beer, snowmobiling, hiking, camping, fishing, snowshoeing and gardening. I drive an SUV in the winter and a bicycle in the summer. The darkness in the winter makes me sleep too much, and with all the daylight in the summer I hardly sleep. I like being able to hike in daylight until midnight or later. I have friends who fish commercially so I eat tons of salmon and halibut. I pay $2.00 per pound of fresh salmon when I don't catch it myself, and get free moose and caribou from my uncles and cousins. I know all of my neighbors and we're all friendly with each other. There are some gritty, unsavory characters here, but you can find those types anywhere. For the most part we're very independent, hardworking people.


This is just my take. Alaska's population is extremely diverse. It would be nearly impossible to accurately sum up what it means to be Alaskan. I invite everyone who wants to know what Alaskans are like to come on up and find out for yourselves!

May 28, 2011
Click to view gbsk's profile

I live in Wasilla and did not vote for her  In fairness to her, she was not that bad when she started out as governor.  She got into trouble with the Troopergate scandeland then went "Hollywood" when she was nominated for VP.  I am pretty liberal and love the outdoor activies here.

May 28, 2011
Click to view brandy1c's profile

The contents of my septic tank are more qualified to be President than sarah palin.

May 28, 2011
Click to view akwoman1's profile

Kudos to my fellow Alaskans for their righteous comments on our outrageously fresh and wonderful state. We are raw/wild, educated/cultured, dressed in chestwaders to diamonds, and a glorious melting pot of peoples. haven't lived till you have used an outhouse at minus 70 below zero, while listening to the wolves howling across the frozen river, but not worried about it cuz the Aurora Borealis is blazing overhead. Who the heck is Sarah???

May 28, 2011
Click to view LostInAlaska's profile

I have been here for 25 years. This is a place of extremes. Extremes in weather, religious beliefs, political leanings etc. People are generally friendly and helpful. I recently spent some time in the Dakotas and people are superficially friendly but really very closed off if you aren't one of them. It is not like that here. Almost everyone is from some place else.The biggest issue I personally have with Alaskans is the sense of entitlement to everything. They don't want to pay sales tax or income tax and they want that permanent fund but the road better be plowed the minute it snows and that fire truck better show up right away. I had never experienced that until I moved here. Doesn't seem so bad with the old timers but prevalent now.I personally never voted for Sarah and never will. I hate what she has done to the perception of this state and it's people. Arizona please take her!

May 28, 2011
Click to view thpgto's profile

I've also lived here quite awhile, I love the state, the people and the scenery.  I have noticed in the past few years , more crime and disrespect towatds our fellow neighbors.  Yes, things can be more extreme here, but that just means more adventure and even more pleasure when the sun is out and warm.  Working in the hotel industry, I get to enjoy and meet folks from around the world.

I get upset when people start asking about Sara.  I never voted for her and never will.  I met he many years ago, she seems to be an oppertunist.  Sarah does not represent what is good about Alaska and my friends and neighbors

May 29, 2011
Click to view BettySue22's profile

It bothers me that the first thing people associate now with Alaska is Sarah Palin.  She does not define Alaska and there is so much more to talk about when it comes to our great state.  When I tell people I'm from Alaska, quite often they say "Oh, Sarah Palin!!"  Anyhow, I love Alaska because the people there are unique and tend to be more down to earth.  The friends I made there are so genuine and if your car breaks down, somebody will stop and help you.  It is not materialistic and yet the people are beautiful inside and out.  We appreciate the little things and the outdoors more than the average american I think.  Alaska attracts great people who are generally outdoorsy, genuine, and just plain nice. 

May 29, 2011
Click to view BettySue22's profile

P.S. I really liked Sarah Palin until she quit as our governer.  I would never vote for a quiter and thats really my biggest problem with her.

May 29, 2011
Click to view ArdDruid's profile

Hmmm  Just by the answers here the many statements about diverse and involved (and self indulgent) people seems extremely truthful.  I would personally like to thank all the honest folks that answered here the wit displayed is by far some of the best on earth :-) 

May 29, 2011
Click to view Dea2's profile

I've been a resident of Alaska for more than 20 years, but thanks to the military I have not lived there for most of it.  Nor have I gotten my PFD (which is NOT free money) in many years.  Anyone who accepts it is literally signing their lives away to the state and promising to live there forever.  Which isn't a problem for me, we'll be going home after the AF is done with us. 


Sarah Palin's antics have turned many AK moderates against the Alaska Republican Party, and the GOP in general.  I didn't vote for her or Frank, I wrote in Tony Knowles, which I do nearly every election because the choices usually suck. She is not one of us anymore, she lost that distinction when she let political power go to her head and she started abusing the offices she has held, and began running nasty campaigns back in the mid 90's.


As for the daylight, Alaska is so big that the longest night ranges from several weeks in Barrow, to less than 18 hours on the southeast "thumb".  Anchorage gets 3 hours of above the horizon sunlight on Dec 21, which is enough for me.  The same is true for the sunlight in June.  It doesn't get dark enough in Anchorage to see fireworks on July 4 until it is nearly July 5th.


It's a life that people either love or hate, and the haters are welcome to leave as soon as they can.


@Dogwelder, we're called Alaskans, not Alaskanites. 

May 29, 2011
Click to view Dogwelder's profile

Thanks for the tip Dea2. I guess getting a joke past you is tough.

May 29, 2011
Click to view blackbart's profile

Hello! I live in Juneau the capital city of Alaska and I have been here all my life.


Our state is beautiful but we need YOUR  help to keep it that way.


Oil drilling is being pushed here BUT the  oil companies still have no way to clean up their spills and they are on record stating that the Arctic would be the most challenging of conditions for them to drill in.  Oil companies already destroyed the Gulf Ecosystem and we dont want that to happen here.


Its up to all of us "The People" to demand  change in our economy, we must change the way we do things because we are living on a Water Planet.

We have to stop the oil, gas, mining, and other polluting industries from dumping their waste into our water ways.


These people are killing the planet we are living on.


The entire Gulf of Alaska is already having problems with ocean acidification, which happens when burning fossil fuels and then the atmosphere mixes with the ocean. The ozone layer is also thinning  over our state.  I live just a mile from the Mendenhall Glacier which is rapidly disappearing. 


Alaskans want alternative energy and many of us are trying to keep the oil, gas and mining companies from destroying this Last Frontier.  


You can help our state by taking a stand and voting for the individuals in your area that will  work to protect our planet from the abusive ways of industry.  


Good Planets are hard to come by.

May 29, 2011
Click to view blackbart's profile

The thing to remember about Sarah Palin


Sarah Palin quit her job as Governor of Alaska. She was not even half way through her term when she quit. 

She bailed on all the people that worked to put her in office and she bailed on all the people that voted for her to be Governor.


Its up to us The People to bring change in this country.

Don’t buy into or “click” to read anything about Sarah Palin because when you do you are feeding the beast.

Boycotting is power.  Reward those that deserve it.


Only buy from responsible businesses and boycott those that aren’t responsible, stuff like this really does make a difference. Teach your kids this and your friends. We can cause things to change if we all do this.


May 29, 2011
Click to view sandmansf's profile

Wow, so this crap passes as news?  You're kidding, right?  And BTW, nobody gives a damn about Alaskans.

May 29, 2011
Click to view akjlo's profile

As an Alaskan, I'm really just tired of the word "Palin".  There is so much more to Alaska than her, and she needs to be forgotten.  Whenever someone from "outside" asks me about her, I say, "Who?".

May 29, 2011
Click to view Dea2's profile

@dogwelder, sorry, it's too hot in NC, my brain is fried until September.

May 29, 2011
Click to view Dea2's profile

@akjlo, I just say "The half term quitter queen?" and most walk away highly offended that I am not on my knees thanking God for her existance.

May 30, 2011
Click to view itscryttle's profile

I'm on the boat with the majority of Alaskans who cringe when Palin comes up. And I didn't vote for her. But thats because we had recently moved here when that election was going on. I knew nothing about the local politics so it didn't seem right for me to vote. If she runs for the Rep. ticket I will believe then and there she is clueless and her entire staff should be fired. Most of the educated world views her as a bumbling backwoods redneck. 

June 3, 2011
Click to view sergiocodon's profile

nothing could be further good to than true

June 6, 2011
Click to view Siddique's profile

Great idea...

August 24, 2011
Click to view naomiran's profile

Good idea !!

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