by Terry Don
NIMA Corporation, Mekoryuk’s Village Corporation made their foray into eco-tourism and the education industry last summer 2004 with the creation of Nunivak Island Cultural Education and Adventures, LLC. (NICEA, LLC).
Although the corporation had explored the idea for a number of years, they were searching for the right opportunity to introduce the concept. The opportunity came knocking on their door in January 2003 when Cruise West, a Bering Sea eco tourism carrier called and asked that NIMA support their plans to land at Nash Harbor, a historic settlement located 25-30 miles west of Mekoryuk. Although Cruise West has been operating in the Bering Sea for a number of years, Nunivak was never considered an option on the route; that is until a storm forced them to divert and take refuge near Nash Harbor. During this time as they were waiting for the weather to break they decided to take passengers ashore to do a limited tour. The impromptu tour was so popular with the first group that they decided to make Nash Harbor a formal stop on the ten day Bering Sea Cruise which includes the Aleutian and Pribolof islands, Saint Lawrence, Providenia, Yanrakynnot and Nome.
View video of 2006 tourists visit!
Capitalizing on this tremendous opportunity, NIMA created NICEA and made plans to build a camp, which would support the eco tourism operation at Nash Harbor.
In addition, NICEA also created a science curriculum in collaboration with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskokwim campus. The course was developed primarily by Martin Leonard and Dr. Corky Corkern, it is called Biology 104 Natural History of Alaska. The course is taught in residence at the Nash Harbor camp and combines western science and indigenous knowledge of the area to create a unique learning environment and also serves as a forum to encourage rural student participation in math, and science. Elders in residence are employed in the camp and provide a unique perspective for the students to interact and leverage their learning from both a western and cultural approach. Participation in the program requires an application, letters of recommendation, demonstration of academic achievement, potential and an above average level of fitness.
In addition to the academic rigors, students are also taught sea kayaking and are required to complete a strenuous sea kayaking and hiking trip as part of the final portion of the science course. Students who successfully meet all the academic and programmatic goals receive 4 accredited science credits through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more on the science course you log on to http://fc.bethel.uaf.edu/~summer_science/
With one year under their belt, NICEA is poised to begin operations for this summer. Cruise West has committed to making four stops at Nash Harbor which are scheduled for June 12 and 22, July 28, and August 7th. NICEA will also host another science camp session, which will run from 14-28 June. An added bonus this year is the participation of the Rose Urban Rural Exchange Program http://www.roseurbanruralexchange.org
Rose has committed two teachers who require recency credit to participating in this summer’s science program with plans for next summer of incorporating interested Rose participants into the science curriculum.
For more information on Eco-tours or summer science camp you can log on to http://www.nimacorporation.com.
The Project manager for NICEA is Wayne Don firstname.lastname@example.org