Dispatch from “Occupied Canada”

By , January 27, 2011

I generally take offense at insults, but sometimes they’re just so good it’s hard not to appreciate them.

Historically, the rest of the state has held a certain contempt for our region, Alaska’s “panhandle.” Never mind that the state’s two capitals are both located here; we just don’t get much respect. One of the early professors of Alaska History at the University of Alaska Fairbanks actually refused to teach the history of the region! I’ve heard many slights and insults from interior Alaskans, but the one that makes me laugh is one label for Southeast Alaska: “Occupied Canada.” If you’ve ever looked at a map of Alaska, you know that our Southeast borders Canada to the east.

It’s worse than that in Haines and our nearest neighbor, Skagway. We live in a notch of the panhandle that bumps north, taking a jog east of the main part of our state. Canada isn’t just to the east of us, but also to the north, and to the west of us! Recently, a Canadian group voted Haines “The Best Canadian Town in the U.S.” Occupied Canada, indeed.

These last few days, Canada has been on our minds even more than usual.I will be traveling the Alaska/Canada Highway (ALCAN) soon, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the mountain pass through British Columbia to the Yukon Territory, how to communicate with my family using a cell phone that doesn’t have coverage in Canada.

Even more interesting, Aly’s been casting around for archeological opportunities, and has discovered a dig at Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, through Yukon College in Whitehorse. We’ve been in contact with the director, and are getting pretty excited about the possibility of her being accepted for attending. It’ll be a logical next step after the dig she participated in last summer, and she won’t be very far from home the whole time. Getting there and back will be a car trip, she won’t have to fly or take a ferry. It’ll also be an excuse for the whole family to spend a little more time in our neighboring country this summer.

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