Rolling through downtown Petersburg, our local guide James pointed out important sights like the fish cannery where many locals work, the post office where, as James explained, “two day delivery” is more like “two week delivery,” and the hardware store: “If they don’t have it, you don’t need it.” He also waved to his mom and fiancé, who were running errands for their upcoming wedding. He ran into a childhood friend who just returned to town, and when his students ran by, he momentarily switched “hats” from guide to track coach to encourage them to keep up the pace. Life in the small coastal Alaska town of Petersburg is all about community. Community makes it possible to make a living, to find joy with family, friends, and neighbors, and to thrive in a challenging environment.
Petersburg is nestled between the ocean and the steep Coastal Mountain Range, which also creates the border with neighboring Canada. About 3,000 people call Petersburg home. Many of them are of Norwegian descent thanks to town founder, Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian businessman who established the commercial fishing and canning industry in the area in 1898. Around town, brightly painted homes extend out over the harbors on stilts, and Norwegian flags fly alongside the stars and stripes. If it weren’t for the Indigenous Alaskan totem poles, one might think they were transported to the fjords of Norway!
Photographers: Kerri McAllister and Kayvon Malek