Story last updated at 7/18/2012 - 5:24 pm
We fought a hard head wind into Kake and arrived just as the rain transitioned from shower to pour. After gaining our bearings, we hustled to the other side of town to pick up our food boxes one hour before Alaska Marine Lines closed for the weekend. After setting up a tarp at the ferry terminal to protect the food, Andrew and I took off for a scouting mission to figure out hours and locations of the grocery store, post office, and airport.
We didn't know quite what we would find in Kake. One friend said that he had heard rumor that the mostly Tlingit population of the village "didn't like white people." I didn't want to let a bit of hear-say define my expectations, but the 10-mile radius of clear cut and slight scent of burning garbage as we approached the town didn't leave me too optimistic that we were arriving in Pleasantville. We left the dock with smiles on our faces but uncertainty in our steps.
Andrew and I went to the first public place we could find: the liquor store. This seemingly unlikely place for a friendly conversation changed our whole perception of the town and what a community of generosity looks like. Dave, the first customer that entered the store behind us instantly started asking questions. Before long he was giving us phone numbers and offering rides around town.
Dave is one of the teachers at the local school, a resident of Kake for over 15 years, he came to town on a spontaneous job offer and then realized there was no place he'd rather be. As he lined us up with a date for Internet access at the school library, neighbor after neighbor rolled through the store, greeting us with curiosity and giving us various helpful names to contact.
Dave's Samaritan attitude seemed to be a common theme with the people that we encountered in our three days in the village. The abundance of generosity held strong all the way until our last moments in town, when I stumbled upon Ann and Joel Jackson as they were smoking freshly caught halibut behind their house. Joel is a member of the most prominent family in Kake. An elder of the Khaach.adí clan, his residency in the village runs generations deep. Ann originally came from Louisiana, but has been a citizen of Kake for 48 years. The couple openly entertained me with lessons in food preparation and deep thoughts on village economics and healthy lifestyles.
I finally pulled myself away from Kake as my hunger kicked me back to our campsite across the bay. But Ann and Joel wouldn't let me leave without three jars of smoked salmon, one of salmon berry jam, and a bag of Hudson's Bay tea leaves. They assured me that I needed it, that most of the food that they harvest gets given to others anyway. I had no trouble believing them after my three days experiencing this community of kindness.
From the first person I met to the last people I left, almost everyone wanted to give us something or help us out. We paddled away from Kake regretting that we couldn't stay longer but thankful that the town is so close to home. I look forward to my next chance to go back and return all the favors.
Learn more about the Funky Five's A Trip South at www.atripsouth.com.