Kotlik Holding Nightly Patrols, Looking For Solutions After Community Hall Fire

Mar 30, 2018

The remains of the front entryway where the fire started on the porch of the Kotlik Community Hall on March 26, 2018.
Credit Alvin Aketachunak

Kotlik continues searching for the person allegedly responsible for burning down the village’s Community Hall and is working to replace what the fire destroyed.

Kotlik Tribal Administrator Pauline Okitkun is taking a lot of phone calls lately.

“It’s always a different question or a different reason,” she said, sighing.

Most of the questions are about safety and how people can help the village recover from the fire. Her answer: volunteer and donate.

Okitkun is directing the village’s nightly watches. The community suspects that arson destroyed their Community Hall and damaged another building on March 26. Every night since, volunteers have been on patrol.

“To make sure the other buildings, the schools, the homes, are all secure and safe,” Okitkun explained.

The Tribal Council didn’t want to share any names of the patrollers to prevent word reaching the possible arsonist.

It’s been a busy time. The weekend before the fire, Kotlik hosted a junior high basketball tournament along with a dance festival and potlatch. Hundreds of people visited from surrounding communities. Then the fire happened. Deputy state fire marshals inspected the site. The Christian Holy Week followed, as well as a funeral for a two-month-old infant.

Meanwhile, the community has been figuring out what to do about the destroyed building. The first priority, Okitkun says, is replacing what the Kotlik dancers lost.

“Eskimo dance drums and the sticks, the dance fans,” Okitkun listed.

Dancers are selling raffle tickets and planning to launch a GoFundMe campaign.

The second priority is getting Bingo running again. The Community Hall housed bingo almost every night, and the tribe looks to bingo for money to pay their nightly patrol. There is one building in town that could act as a temporary replacement: the National Guard armory.

“The space is not as big as our community hall," Okitkun said, "but it’s something that we’re looking into.”

The city owned the Community Hall and has scheduled a visit with its insurance agency. The Kotlik Tribe is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

Donations can be mailed to:

Kotlik Tribal Council Gaming
PO Box 20210
Kotlik, AK 99620