Angoon teens learn what it’s like to be a guide in their own backyard

Angoon teens learn what it’s like to be a guide in their own backyard
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 9:01 PM AKDT
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ANGOON, Alaska (KTUU) - Three Angoon friends are on a mission to explore their own backyard — and possibly earn some money along the way.

Last August, Beebuks Kookesh, Trevor Fredrickson and Sam Fredrickson were trained by two professional guides on successfully completing a wilderness tour known as the Cross-Admiralty Canoe Route, a trip just under 30 miles long. Last year’s tour was the first of what will hopefully be regular trips across the island for Angoon residents and a way teens can stay close to home and make money.

“You’re scouting new places around the island,” 15-year-old Sam Fredrickson said.

“We got to see parts of the island that we don’t get to see every day,” 17-year-old Trevor Fredrickson said.

Chenara Johnson, a Tlingit language teacher in Angoon, chose the three teens because she said it’s their way of life.

“Being out in the wilderness and being able to do this kind of stuff was right up their alley, and I knew that they would be really good at it and represent really well — and they have,” she said.

The teens learned the basics of guiding, everything from how to pack their bags, take care of camp, and properly store food, as well as bear and boating safety. Bear safety is paramount on the island because of its concentrated density of brown bears.

“I’m really proud of them. They have come out of their shells, they have grown up, so to say, and it’s just amazing to see them excel,” Johnson said. “And I knew that they would, because this is their life, this is what they like to do. It makes me proud to know that they’ve come this far in this amount of time.”

Johnson said the lack of summer employment opportunities in Angoon sometimes means teenagers look outside of the community for work. Creating new avenues for employment in Angoon — like starting a guiding service — could start to reverse that trend.

“As a mother, it wasn’t something I wanted to do, and as a teacher, I didn’t like the idea of my students having to travel away from their families in order to get some money into their pockets. It was an opportunity to ensure that they can stay home and be here with their families and help better our community,” Johnson said.

“At the same time, the corporation Kootznoowoo [Inc.] was starting their tourism projects and hoping that they can expand that here in Angoon. So I just kind of combined the two.”

The hope is more kids will follow in their footsteps.

“Soon they’ll be doing this on their own and I hope later on the down the road this program will still be going and they’ll be more kids following their footsteps,” Johnson said.