Native Alaska


IMPORTANT: The Native Alaska Plunge is on hold for re-assessment. This trip may go to an every-other-year schedule, beginning Spring 2013.

The Native Alaskan Plunge explores the cultural and social aspects of the Native Americans through various perspectives. As an immersion program, we examine the struggles of specific Native Alaskan communities from a social, economical, and cultural standpoint. This is done through a variety of service learning projects and involvement within the community.

Issues addressed throughout this program include, but are not limited to, education, health care, land rights, substance abuse, family dynamics, and the traditions and customs of the native culture. As a service learning trip, we actively immerse ourselves in the native culture, while also volunteering at local homeless shelters, schools, and other community organizations.

Great Last Full Day in Town!

It was a long day in Juneau. We drove into town and spent the morning at “Glory Hole” a homeless shelter, serving lunch and cleaning the homeless shelter. After eating some of the lunch with the group we had a little bit of free time to see the city. After regrouping we went to hear from members in northern towns about mental health and access to healthcare in rural areas. We rushed after that to explore the Mendenhall glacier and before walking across the frozen lake to the glacier we met with the forest rangers.

It’s amazing to see how far the glacier has melted in past years! After the beautiful view we finished our long day at the Canvas poetry slam. It was so cool and fun to hear from the community members their moving poetry! Great last full day in town!

Great day for the group.

We woke up early and were able to go to Sealaska office to meet with its board members. Afterwards we were able to watch a large group of Native Alaskan dancers. Finally we met in a place called Canvas where peoples with disabilities come to practice the arts. We finished our night with delicious Alaskan salmon! Thanks again for following us and see you soon!

Got to Sleep in Today!

The extra thirty minutes left everyone refreshed for the conservation hike led by an environmentalist worker in Sitka. Several students went and led a discussion for several hours at Sitka High School. The rest of the day was spent packing and flying to Juneau. It’s snowing heavily now heavily now and we are headed to the Shrine of St. Therese for brinner (breakfast at dinner)! Thanks for following us as we tread across Alaska!


Yesterday was a good day as we hiked cross trail and then a small group went to Pacific High School where they talked to students about college. After grabbing lunch the group reconvened at a conference room where the operators of the SAFV house for domestic abuse, talked to us about the Native Alaskan history and its effects on domestic abuse.

Afterwards several students went to SEARHC, the Native Alaskan hospital to tour the site. Several senior nursing students from our group are seriously considering coming back to work at SEARHC! Its very exciting to see things that we learn on this trip affect some of the students!

Foraging, Totems, and Dancing

We started today with a wonderful quiet walk to reflect and take in the surroundings. After we were taken on a tour of the town from a local woman who also taught us the various usages of the plants. During this tour we were able to meet a group of men who are carving a totem pole. After our tour we were able to see SNEP which is a group of native Alaskan youth who sing and dance tribal songs. They actually had us all dance in the final song!

After they served us the most amazing clam chowder and herring eggs salad, which was new for most of us! We talked and ate with the youth before coming back to our space for dinner. Over grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup a lot of us learned to make friendship bracelets. After dinner five us went to a local boarding school for native Alaskans and talked about college with some students. It was an amazing experience to talk with the students!

We ended the day with reflection and prayer, before putting our exhausted bodies to bed.

What a day!

This morning some of the group went to the catholic mass, while others went to a Russian orthodox mass, or for some of our group both. It was amazing to see the various ways the town worships, and especially the Russian orthodox service since most of us did not have much background on the religion. Later we took a group tour around Sitka and learned about the town from a Russian prespecttive and how that has influenced Sitka and its inhabitants.

After our tour, which ended in seeing a totem pole be made, we had free time.  A large group of us took that free time to climb Mt. Verstovia, a trechourous mountain with lots of ice and snow. After the infamous mt climb, and a group reflection we enjoyed a dinner with Sitka’s Jesuit volunteers. They shared their lives and volunteering information with us and it was a nice conclusion to the day.

Day 1: Plane Hopping

Our day began plane hopping from Portland to Seattle, Seattle to Sitka. We definitely got the weirdest stares for our bulky backpacks. I told one checking clerk we would be backpacking through Alaska in search of polar bears, and others asked if we were going on “field trips.” Yet, despite running late to connecting flights and having bag issues, we managed to land in Sitka. We did have a scare when the weather was so bad the pilots couldn’t find the landing strip in Sitka (which is on the water)! The pilot scared us by saying “I guess we will try to see if we can find a landing strip” after circling several times and announcing we didn’t have enough fuel! Yet, we landed safely and saw a snow covered Sitka! We also enjoyed a wonderful Sitka open mic night, where Sitka’s local talent showed off at the “monthly grind.” Great fun start to our trip!

Today we flew into a town with groovy spruces, and snow falling like tiny mountain goats.

Native Alaska 2011

The Native Alaska Plunge 2011 group will travel to Juneau and Sitka, Alaska March 12-19.

Check back for more updates!

Video: Native Alaska Immersion 2010