Open-shut case: Tribe paid families to move to Karluk so school could open, but the families left after a month


The Karluk Tribal Council, which didn’t have enough students to open its school, paid a couple of families from the Lower 48 an all-expense move to the village so it would have enough students to open the school. The families would have all their expenses paid for a year to live in Karluk and enroll their children in the school.

Two families were chosen out of numerous applicants.

On Oct. 24, the Karluk school board met in an emergency meeting and voted to close the school again, after both of the families that were chosen for the honor of living in the village left, and took their children with them after only one month.

The tactic of getting enough children to attract state funding for the school made national news after a social media campaign was placed this summer.

Karluk is located on Kodiak Island and was once a thriving village with a fish cannery. The village is down to about 20 residents and the school closed in 2018.

According to KMXT radio, the district will try to get the State to send money for the students for the weeks they did attend, but other than that, the district is short about $80,000 for the experiment.

More at KMXT.


      • I checked yesterday and on the lower Kuskokwmin it’s open till the end of the month. So if it’s the same there, they paid for moving expenses for no gain in the enrollment numbers.

        Time for homeschool.

    • Steve-O, the student count date is the first 3 weeks of October. So, the count period is over for counting students.

      • David,

        I tried looking it up but wasn’t having any luck, how did I know you’d be the one to respond…

        I’m guessing the families moved out before the end of the counting period or they wouldn’t have closed the school down. Glad to hear the grift has ended, at least for this year.

  1. Most rural villages have no economy to support the population. Just a fact.
    Not many people really want to live near the sewage lagoon or pay 9 bucks for gas or milk.

  2. All moving expenses paid as well as one year living expenses paid? And they didnt stay?
    They took lessons from Anchorage Assembly on their mission to get the Homeless off the street.
    Spend a s**t ton of taxpayers money to accomplish what???
    It takes more than money to solve issues.
    Good common business sense goes a long way to make a village attractive.

    Give year round soup kitchens as well as free cannabis and needle dispensaries a try.
    Throw in some heavy doses of Fentynal for recreational activity and your town will be bustling with new residents weekly.

    • When the Americans and others were coming to Alaska they wanted to make a living in the new frontier but they also wanted to help the settlers. Some brought livestock and agrarian skills. They were world travelers and knew to record their deeds and marriages. It was later when the lower level grifters got here who intended to dispossess the settlers that social friction became so profound. I am a descendant of one of the best judges in Colorado who was a descendent of founders of universities. These were people who highly prized complete educations. They were descendents of founding fathers of this nation. No brag just fact. They fought among themselves to teach Alaskans about their national heritages. The early schools were literally beautiful.

  3. Hahahaha. Village life is tough living! As well as its a very simple lifestyle. It’s not what these four generations are accustomed living. (Boomers, GenX, Milkennials, GenZ).

  4. this would had been an excellent opportunity for a single mother who doesn’t have much financial support as well limited job skills and opportunity. However the time when single mothers need such an opportunity as paid housing, job training, and basic needs paid is during her baby’s infant thru the preschool years development.
    Maybe between the state and these tribal councils our villages and village schools should become places to house single mothers or single dads and babies and become places for Preschools rather than K-12 learning. I think the state, tribes and education should look into targeting another demographic single parents with infant to preschool age) than families with K-12 aged students.

    In 2013, I would had liked going to Karluk, have my own house, further job training, and be living a village lifestyle while being closer to the ocean. I miss the ocean everyday.

    • I remember back in ’88 when I was a summer hire for a bush electric coop. I chatted with a young lady in the store in Chevak, I believe, who was excited because she just got pregnant at 16 and was “going to get a house now of her own”. Really stuck with me over the years when I hear about housing, single moms and the rest.

      • Pregnant at sixteen. She grew up Native. She wanted to get out on her own out from her birth family’s own. Sounds like her Native family were dysfunctional. I can have compassion on her and see why she’d be all excited about the possibility having her own home for a time. I have a relative she got pregnant at 15 and married at 16 to a 30 year old lawyer whom through the divorce proceedings she got him to pay for her law school education. From My mother’s memories their family childhood days were dysfunctional with abuse, alcohol, gambling, and criticism. Like the girl from Chevak the two girls were trying to get away from their families sooner.
        You know that “Growing Up Native in Alaska” by A.J Mcclanahan it doesn’t even come close to what growing up Native is like for Native descendants. It’s an ANCSA book and that’s all it is.

  5. Why don’t they teach their children themselves instead of accepting these indoctrination centers they call schools? If they did this their children would grow up a lot smarter. Maybe they would actually learn American history instead of U.S. History. And they would know how to count in their own language like the Gwich’in and Dena’ina do.

  6. Yeah, paid for moving and living expenses for a year, but did they THINK to pay them for their return back to home.?

  7. Looked good on pictures and on paper. Families showed up and realized that they were in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing to do and no friends/family to share the bad decision with. Makes one scratch their head and wonder just what the “government” of Karluk was thinking when they hatched this plan.

    • That would be because of the current Alaska native leaders still in power, Jimmy Carter and the Alaska native initial loss of cash assets also known as the Alaska national interest land conservation act that won’t even allow a road to get to a hospital let alone for commerce, a non-negotiable right here in the lower 48… A value that creates equality is not allowed for us Alaska native folks… Just the ones registered to the corporations board w the Alaska division of commerce. It’s why we need to modernize our laws and have these ANCSA tribal elections properly certified by the Alaska public office commission since the feds have given the state management… Whatever

  8. Wouldn’t it been cheaper to just have someone home school the kids. I mean you could of just got one person to come in or someone from the village to do it. A lot cheaper than feeding and housing 12 or so people for a year.

    • Homeschooling programs were decentralized by the state and farmed out to prop up the smaller city school districts mandated of first-class and home rule cities in the Unorganized Borough, because local enrollment isn’t enough to sustain many of them. These programs are favored by urbanites more than anything else. Villages facing depopulation and school closures tend to send their children off to Mt. Edgecumbe if they’re old enough. If not, they probably choose homeschooling if there’s no available alternative.

  9. I wonder what the parents of the school age children in Karluk do all day? It sure seems a correspondence program of some type would make much more sense and be far more cost effective. But alas, the daily government baby sitter would no longer be available, and maybe that is the actual reasoning for trying to keep the brick and mortar school open. If by chance the paren(s) are daily employed it is understandable but what employment is out there? I am not being facetious but am curious.

    • Good parents bake bread nearly every day. They stay attuned as best as they can to international events. They wash by hand laundry and dry it. They mend clothing, plan and prepare sufficient food for the family and arrange to procure the same. They bandage wounds. They sanitize their homes, they take care of business if any. They care for domestic animals. They build and destroy trusts among themselves. They know for instance what everyone is having for dinner that night. They know who has onions “in town” and who doesn’t. They know who has an order coming and what is in it and what their opinion is about it (disapproval). They know when someone is bathing (the mother has announced it for all they would like interested by announcing on the cb radio: Lori, your hot water is ready for your bath please come home) The lonely men all perk up for this announcement. ETC. Shall I continue?

  10. It’s a common problem. People move up here thinking it’s Northern Exposure. Or they came up on a cruise and wanted to stay. Every person I’ve ever talked to who say they want to move here, I stress you gotta do your homework.

    A quick google search would have shown them what they were getting into.

    Life he is rewarding, but hard.

    • Life in rural Alaska is hard. Women tend to die in childbirth or the child dies. Sanitation difficulties are day to day. After one has just given a tumultuous birth running out in winter to chisel ice and pail home the slopping water is arduous. The Alaskan Peninsula is not overwhelmed with forests to chop down and burn each day. They do not have pharmacies at the corner to “dispense” proper dosages of “proper” antibiotics. Petty jealousies burn more brightly than the oil stove. If you introduce a woman of loose morals to the village the village is rewarded many generations over. Also a stupid man takes a lot of resources to sustain.

    • I must say. The old buildings are even older and moldier. There’s your crippling arthritis kiddo Greg doesn’t know about. The dead grandmother leaving all the work to the malnourished older daughter which weakened her so severely it’s a wonder she survived to care for her drunk husband. The dead are still in their graves. Not revising my family to suit fladah.

    • I am curious about this, too. Since these two large families both left after less than one month in Karluk, something very significant must have taken place or something upsetting came into their awareness.

      Several years ago I was hired to teach high school summer school in a village near Bethel. The high school students did not want to attend classesl so I worked with younger students. I was very upset when I met an 8th grade student who was 16 years old and in the late stages of her third pregnancy. Since I decided to speak out against this, the senior administrator (not a licensed superintendent but paid as one in this three-village school district) called in an airplane and told me to leave.

      • You were an idiot for trying to interfere in business that wasn’t yours. You need to walk softly until you’re accepted and speak even softer. This isn’t the lower 49.

  11. I’d like to know if the paid the taxpayers back.
    I’d also like to know why Karluk thought it was smart to pick outsiders? Should have chosen Alaskans for this experiment, I’d bet they would have seen it through. Real Alaskans stick it out.

  12. I’ve spoken to a lot folks who flew into Fbks for their first experience in Alaska from the lower 48 . Some know the second they get off the plane that they’ve found a place they will live the rest of their lives ! They just fall in love with Alaska ! Conversely , Ive spoken with folks that stepped off the plane and just hated everything about Alaska immediately and could not wait to leave . Someone should write a book about it ? I think it’s been like that since the sourdoughs got here in the early 1900’s . Some folks are just more adaptable I guess . Actually feel sorry for the people that never gave it chance and on the other side , thankful that they left with their bad ideas about our wonderful state and it’s people .

  13. Having lived in rural AK many years this has happened over and over. Often times no money is exchanged but children sent to live with relatives to keep a school open. Should have been stopped years ago by changing the Oct count.

  14. The whole venture really strikes me as fraud. To have lived there your whole life, and then hear outsiders will be paid FULL RIDE by the government to live better than you in your own neighborhood? I would be livid.

  15. It’s time for bush Alaska to start hiring teachers to supervise homeschooling.

    Or take a page from the past, modify it properly. Reinstate naive/bush schools (this time voluntary) villages can chose to send their kids to school.

    It’s pointless to attempt to compel education on someone who doesn’t want it.

  16. Hi Suzanne,

    It was the Kodiak Island Borough Board of Education that voted to close the Karluk school. (As far as I know there isn’t a Karluk school board as mentioned in your article.) We had voted to open the Karluk school because of their enrollment in September and moved a mountain to start school two weeks later. Very disappointed in outcome and necessity to close (reclose) Karluk school.

  17. Interesting to listen to the comments from many successful older native alaskans who went to school in Mt Edgecumb before schools were forced into every village and educational achievement levels went down the drain. Is it remotely possible they had it right when they removed the kids ?

  18. While doing family genealogy I unexpectedly found my Grandmother the oldest of many children living with her younger siblings and she was running the household alone for education purposes. She was published in a newspaper in Colorado. Her Grandfather, a well-known Judge was no doubt interested in what she had to say. The judge’s family had been pioneers with the Mormon wagon trains. Frontierism was not universally looked upon with such class disdain as is now the norm in contemporary Anchorage, Alaska social caste systems that are so institutionalized and far more impermeable than Selma Alabama ever was. Ergo the tents in Anchorage.

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