On a subtle bend in the meandering Kwethluk River, about halfway between the Kilbuck Mountains and the Bering Sea, five abandoned buildings rise above the alders, surrounded on all sides by acres of vast tundra. A few hundred feet off the cut-bank, centered on the compound, sits a tiny church with a bell tower that still rings when summoned. The church and surrounding facilities have remained empty for decades, collecting dust, wood rot and the graffiti of young vandals. Upon closer examination, one will find signs of children: a red winter coat left draped over a closet shelf, the remnants of a model airplane kit collects dust in the attic, a tattered homework assignment lays crumpled on the floor. The Moravian Children's Home opened in 1926, three miles upriver from the village of Kwethluk, Alaska. Moravian missionaries founded the facility in an effort to provide care and education for children, most of whom were Alaska native and orphaned by the epidemics that ravaged the area villages. Eventually the orphanage also took on the role of a boarding school and foster home, taking in children whose parents wanted them to attend school there or children from homes that government workers deemed unfit. The home ceased operations in 1973. Though littered by broken glass and damaged by years of neglect, the compound is very much intact. Books are stacked carefully on the shelves, canned food sits in the pantry, and random objects --- an old record player, a mattress, a bag of DDT --- remain on the property, untouched. Many of the children who lived at the orphanage are now elders living in communities throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

This website is a collection of stories that help to shape the history of an Alaskan orphanage and boarding school through the words and photographs of the people who lived there.

Nunapitsinghak

 

Nunapitsinghak is the Yup'ik name of the original property
on which the home was built, it means "great, little land".