49 Voices: John Fitka of Tuntutuliak

John Fitka looks at his fish drying rack on Wednesday, April 3, in Tuntutuliak, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney)

This week we’re hearing from John Fitka in Tuntutuliak. Fitka was born in Bethel and is a subsistence hunter.

FITKA: I was living in Marshall, and the one thing that I miss about living up on the Yukon is the hills and trees. I met my wife in high school and we got married. When her mother got cancer, we decided to move here and be with her.

The people are friendly and I’m able to go seal hunting and walrus hunting close by. And white fishing in the lakes. Right now, I’m a subsistence gatherer, so it’s pretty hard this year, hard on the family too, so we have to ration what we’ve got.

When we hear that the seals first come in, we bring the boats down and prepare them to go out. Sometimes we have to go out quite a ways, like over 20 miles to get seal. So it’s been quite a challenger. On floating ice, we came up to it, and I shot it while it was sitting on the ice. Sometimes I catch them in the water. It’s very… I don’t have the words to explain how it is.

There’s no English term for what it feels like.