Snapshot: A Day in Toksook Bay, Alaska

BY Sarah Clune  October 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM EDT

“It’s not the end of the world,” David Lefner told us, “but you can see it from here.”

That was our greeting as we stepped off our flight in Bethel, Alaska. It was our last stop before boarding the tiny charter plane that would take us to Toksook Bay, 115 miles to the west.

The small Yup’ik Eskimo village of about 550 is on the edge of the Bering Sea. The Yupiit (plural of Yup’ik) still rely on subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering for food, which thrives in the moderate climate south of the Arctic Circle. Flying in from Bethel, we could see the marshy plain was dotted with too many tundra lakes to count, and crisscrossed with waterways that the Yup’iks used instead of roads. It was a glimpse into one of the many different ways of life that make up the United States.

We came to Western Alaska to report on the Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapist Training Program. It trains high school graduates to perform basic and preventative dental care for Alaska’s rural tribal villages — like Toksook Bay.

Our report will air in coming weeks on the PBS NewsHour. Check our health page for updates.