National Guard flies Santa to remote Arctic village
National Guard flies Santa to remote Arctic village Christmas toys and other supplies are loaded from a C130 military transport plane onto sleds being pulled by snowmobiles in Shishmaref, Alaska. At left, Santa and Mrs. Claus get off the C130 (AP photos)
National Guard flies Santa to remote Arctic village
Lexile: 1200L

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Volunteers who brought Christmas to a remote Inupiat Eskimo community on Alaska's western coast came bearing necessities like coats and school supplies as well as rare treats like apples, oranges and even ice cream.

"'Cause everybody loves ice cream," said 17-year-old Cheyenne Nayokpuk, when asked why anyone living 25 miles south of the Arctic Circle would want the cold treat.

The Operation Santa Program and the Alaska National Guard brought toys and other gifts to Shishmaref. It's the 58th year the program has brought a little holiday cheer to remote Alaska villages, where poverty is widespread.

"For some of these kids, if it weren't for the toys we're delivering, they might not get a toy or anything at Christmas," said Maj. George Baker, divisional commander for the Salvation Army in Alaska.

"In many respects, some of these village areas are almost like Third World villages, and a lot people don't understand that," he said. "You think we're living in the United States, but for a lot of these folks, this makes Christmas for them. Were it not for (Operation) Santa, they might not have anything."

Besides Shishmaref, the other village that received a visit this year was Newtok. Both are among Alaska's most eroded villages; both have plans to relocate, with Newtok further along in the process.

The National Guard provided a C-130 transport plane to take the volunteers, including a Salvation Army band, and gifts to Shishmaref, located about 600 miles northwest of Anchorage or about 100 miles east from Russia, across the Bering Strait in the Chukchi Sea.

"There is a lot of need in Shishmaref," school Principal Ralph Watkins said. "Having access to just some of your basic things is an event."

He said it takes effort to get to the village. For anyone wanting to get there from the Lower 48 states, it would require first a flight to Anchorage, followed by another airplane ride to Nome, followed by a small-plane ride to Shishmaref. It's a big deal for someone to come in and bring gifts, he said.

"It's all the kids have been talking about for the last week," he said.

Some community members drove their snowmobiles to the airstrip to greet the arriving airplane and wave to Santa and Mrs. Claus as they got off. The honored couple rode in a pickup to the school for the big event, while other volunteers jumped in sleds and were pulled to town by snowmobiles.

Before Santa and Mrs. Claus made their appearance, the children of Shishmaref welcomed the visitors with Alaska Native dances.

The Clauses then arrived to a standing ovation from those in the packed gym, including the estimated 300 children who would receive gifts.

Santa then met with every child some more willing than others before the children went down a line to receive a gift, backpack, a book and then ice cream.

Nellie Okpowruk, 18, was among the students standing in a long line to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. As for her gift, she had something specific on her wish list.

"I want a trip, a round-trip ticket to Oregon to see my cousin and her daughter," she said with a giggle.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are the villages of Shishmaref and Newtok planning to relocate?

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Assigned 7 times

  • evanb-Orv
    12/15/2014 - 04:15 p.m.

    They are planning to relocate the villages because it is hard to reach and the basic needs are hard to come by up in the middle of the frozen tundra.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    12/15/2014 - 06:04 p.m.

    I feel really bad for some of the people in Alaska, families and children who are struggling to make a living. Most people don't think of Americans up in Alaska when we are told a fairly large percent of the nation is homeless. I can't imagine living in such a cold place, especially if I didn't have a house or much to live by. It's nice to see that someone is trying to help them.

  • devonm-3
    12/15/2014 - 07:45 p.m.

    Santa and Mrs. Clause head to Alaska. Many of the kids in this town don't get any toys for Christmas so this organization bring them some holiday cheer and presents.The operation Santa program is being present to the remote Inupait Eskimo community in Alaska's coast.mThe native Alaskans welcome operation Santa with a Alaska native dance. One girl 18 wanted a round trip to Oregon to see her cousin. Santa might have trouble bringing that one. I think this organization is beautiful. It gives lots of children the Christmas spirit. Some of these kids may not haveeven a single present on Christmas but thanks operation center they will.

    12/16/2014 - 01:01 p.m.

    Those two towns (Shishmaref and Newtok) are planning to relocate because they are very eroded and the people are leaving very soon. Also there is poverty in those two towns.

  • JSteven-Sti
    12/17/2014 - 11:29 a.m.

    M - The thing it was very nice to bring Santa Clause to that remote island because some of those people their need something true to believe and not to be scared to believe in Santa.

    E - The Evidence I don't really know how to explain the evidence in this one.

    A - My opinion is that i to would have taken Santa their so that those people would know who Santa is.

    L - The whole thing would come together and it was very generous of all those people brought Santa to that Island because now those people know what to truly believe in and now they will never feel alone again.

  • AFrank-Sti
    12/18/2014 - 10:08 a.m.

    M: Two people went to Alaska pretending to be Santa.
    E: The military brought them to Alaska to bring the kids in one little town presents for Christmas.
    A: They brought the presents in a air shipment.
    L: They changed the year Christmas.

  • SoleilE-5
    12/19/2014 - 01:14 a.m.

    This Christmas, the National Guard flew "Santa and Mrs. Clause" to a remote Inupiat Eskimo village. The children of the small village(s) were given special gifts, necessities, backpacks, books, and ice cream. The children of the community look forward to this event every year since they live in a very impoverished area.
    I think those living in the United States too often forget there is poverty in their own country. I did not know about the poor Inupiat Eskimo villages before reading this article. I think it is very important to incorporate holiday cheer into aid for the villages to make the help seem more personal, "Project Santa" is a great program.

  • CharismaM
    12/28/2014 - 05:22 p.m.

    These people did an amazing thing for that community. They gave people necessities that they would need to survive in such cold weather and a good holiday in general.

  • Julian10
    4/09/2015 - 04:10 p.m.

    Volunteers who brought Christmas to a remote Inupiat Eskimo community on Alaska's western coast came bearing necessities like coats and school supplies as well as rare treats like apples. The foundation brought toys to the people in Alaska. Both villages plan to relocate somewhere in Alaska. Nellie Okpowruk, 18, was among the students standing in a long line to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. As for her gift, she had something specific on her wish list.

  • alanahw-DeT
    8/24/2015 - 12:37 p.m.

    It feels so good to know that other kids are happy in the world
    That makes me feel so much better inside.

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