Four sequences, filmed over a two-month period, portray aspects of the lives of the
people of Tununak, a village on the south-western coast of Alaska. In the first, the
villagers evacuate their homes and camp on higher ground, fearing that a Nuclear test
on Amchitka Island, 1000 miles away, may cause a tidal wave. In a quietly ironic scene,
the Eskimos listen to the countdown on their radios, wondering if this modern blast
will bring forth an ancient disaster.
In the second vignette, a group of men travel by snowmobile to place fishtraps under
the river ice. They become lost in heavy fog, blinded by the glare of the ice, and
confused by the complicated turns of the rivers in a landscape where the only landmarks
are short, low-lying bushes or old fishtraps. In spite of the difficulty of seeing,
they discus their quandary calmly and eventually find their way.
A sudden storm from the Bering sea hits Tununak with gale force winds and heavy snow.
Laundry blows wildly in the wind as people prepare for the storm.
The concluding sequence captures communal warmth as people gather in the meeting hall
for traditional story-dancing. All participate: men beating drums, and singing, women
dancing, adorned with beaded headbands and feathery finger masks. The dancing in Tununak
still provides an important outlet for individual expression, at the same time communicating
the village's unwritten history.