outposts

Land of the Lost

Los Angeles Times
February 15, 2005
By Alex Tizon

She does it without even thinking, as soon as she steps out of the truck: a sweep of her eyes across the sky for a sign of bald eagles. They’re as common here as ravens, as hawks, but they’re bigger and easier to see from a distance. Maybe a single circling eagle will spiral down to the spot where lies her son — or his body, whatever is left of it. Dolly Hills has come to think along those lines.

Continue reading

Can One Man Turn the Tide?

Los Angeles Times
October 28, 2004
By Alex Tizon

NEWTOK, Alaska – The boys hunt for mastodon bones on the tundra as the women and girls gather salmonberries from their secret spots in the hills. The men keep busy with various manly things, fishing and fixing roofs and hauling water from the community well. It’s another sunny afternoon in this Eskimo village of 340 on Alaska’s west coast, and there isn’t the slightest hint that life is approaching a cataclysmic change. In as little as 10 years, the village will be swallowed up by a torrent of water from the Ninglick River, and an ancient way of life will be erased.

Continue reading

From Eons to Eye Blink

Los Angeles Times
October 9, 2004
By Alex Tizon

Geologist Jeff Wynn, in a briefing at the Cascades Volcano Observatory, described how a 925-foot mound of rock inside the crater of Mt. St. Helens had moved 2 1/2 inches in a matter of hours this week. “Imagine,” he said.

Continue reading

Stop or We’ll Shout: In Hooper Bay, Everyone’s Armed Except the Cops

Los Angeles Times
October 7, 2004
By Alex Tizon

This Eskimo village sits on the edge of the continent, part shantytown, part suburb, part Wild West. One can’t go farther west without stepping into the Bering Sea — and just beyond, onto the frosty eastern tip of Siberia. No roads lead to Hooper Bay, Alaska, which is why the modern world has taken its time coming here, and then only in spots. Clusters of plywood shacks stand a short distance from subdivisions of lookalike modular homes. There’s no running water, but lots of VCRs and satellite dishes, and computers hooked up to the Internet.

Continue reading

Once a Bad Guy, Now a Folk Hero: What Pancho Villa has in common with Osama Bin Laden

The Seattle Times
September 3, 2002
By Alex Tizon

COLUMBUS, New Mexico — From the sandstone valleys of the Navajo Nation, a world far removed from September 11, the Expedition journeyed south to this dusty border outpost where townspeople recall their own Ground Zero. It happened 86 years ago, and the bad guy, in the end, won. His name was Pancho Villa, a Mexican bandit-revolutionary who laid waste this town, killing 18 Americans and seriously hurting a dozen more, in what historians say was the last invasion of the United States by a foreign army. Yet here and throughout the Southwest, Villa is celebrated more as a folk hero.

Continue reading

9/11? Whatever

The Seattle Times
December 11, 2001
By Alex Tizon

Out here on Oahu’s sandy North Shore, the fall of Kandahar was not nearly as newsworthy as the fall of Cindy’s Gifts and Jewelry. The trinket shop was the fourth business in town to close since Sept. 11. All of Hawaii has felt the precipitous drop in tourism since the terrorist attacks, none more so than beach towns like Hale’iwa (pronounced hah-lay-ee’-vah), which depend almost entirely on tourist dollars.

Continue reading

Postcard from Mount Angel

The Seattle Times
November 22, 2001
By Alex Tizon

The monk moves quietly through the wooded common of the monastery on the hill, his swirling black robe giving him the appearance of floating above the ground like some kind of human hovercraft. His name is Karl Nielson. Father Karl. He is 48, bald, spectacled, tall. His hooded robe is probably an X-Large. He is a Benedictine, which is the oldest monastic order in the Catholic Church, and he lives among 70 other Benedictine monks on a cloistered monastery on the edge of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Continue reading

The Killing of the Bears

The Seattle Times
January 30, 2000
By Alex Tizon

RIVERS INLET, British Columbia – The bones of grizzly bears litter the town dump in scattered piles. A skull here, a jawbone there. A rib cage picked clean by scavengers. Teeth as long as a grown man’s fingers. The first of the grizzlies were shot in September after they broke into trailers on the west end of the village. In October, six more were killed, and by mid-January, the tally had reached 14.

Continue reading

The Nerve Gas Next Door

The Seattle Times
April 13, 1997
By Alex Tizon

HERMISTON, Oregon – Even the most uninformed people around here knew something was afoot when the sirens began appearing on the horizon. They were like no sirens that anybody in this high-desert corner of the state had ever seen: gigantic, fluted, metallic-black cylinders mounted on 50-foot poles. When the workers were finished, 42 of them, 10 miles apart, marked the landscape in two counties. They were put there, the U.S. Army said, just in case the unthinkable happened.

Continue reading

Against the Tide: The Shoalwaters Ride Into the Next Century

The Seattle Times
June 23, 1996
By Alex Tizon

TOKELAND, Washington – The big news around here is that a cedar log is coming to the reservation. The Rez, if you want to say it right, if you don’t want to sound too much like an outsider. The log is a beauty: red cedar, freshly cut, 37 feet long and as big around as one of those Orcas swimming out there by the buoys.

Continue reading