Camp Cheechako immerses military children in Alaskan culture, history

Military children throwing atlatls, a traditional hunting tool used by ancient native Alaskans, at Camp Cheechako. (Photo Credit: Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska For kids in military families, they can call multiple states home over the course of their childhood. Michael Campbell, Outreach Services Director on Fort Wainwright, says Camp Cheechako is a cultural and historical experience that immerses children in their new home when they move to Alaska.

"This transition program helps kids adjust to our environment, so not only do we leverage the military culture, but we take advantage of the Alaskan culture, and immerse them in that. So we do everything from going to the Morris Thomas cultural and visitor center to right now we're actually throwing atlatls with cultural resources right after they learned about the flora and fauna of the environment," said Campbell.

Joshua Lynch, an archaeologist with Colorado State University, says one of his favorite parts of his dissertation research is learning these ancient skills and teaching them to the public. "For a long time in Alaska, people have been living off the land similar to the way they do today. Out here we will use some of the tools people were using for large game hunting in Alaska, between about 12,000 and maybe up to 1,000 years ago, for about 10,000 years. People were using spear throwers like the kind the students will get to test today for hunting their food," said Lynch.

Youth in grades 6 through 12, can participate in this free camp where they go on field trips around Fairbanks to see their new home, while learning ready and resilience skills. "We help students achieve success, and we encourage them to make friends while they're here and take advantage. People save their whole lives to visit Alaska, and now they get to live and play here," said Campbell.