Wrangell’s tribal government is working to keep people from leaving town. Some are calling it the “cradle-to-grave” strategy.
At a recent community meeting facilitated by Wrangell Cooperative Association, tribal members and other community members brainstormed ways to encourage folks from skedaddling.
Wrangell lost a lot of population in the 1990s when the sawmills closed. Since then the population growth has been slow. Aaron Angerman works for SEARHC – a tribal health organization – that recently took over Wrangell’s hospital. He says there are things his sector can do.
“One of the main things that came up was people would like to see babies be born at home again and we also want elders and everyone else to be able to stay here. So the cradle to grave being babies being delivered. Those youth having options here for health services, camps and things like that, to home options, assisted living all the way through,” Angerman said.
He added that offering health care services locally is another major factor — especially for seniors.
“Because traveling is a pain in the butt,” Angerman said. “We are very isolated, but we’re here because we want to live in a small community, because we love the quality of life Wrangell presents, and we don’t want to be forced out.”
The Wrangell Cooperative Association is one of several Southeast tribal governments to receive federal funds to do a two-year study and come up with a strategic plan. Tribes in Petersburg, Ketchikan and Klawock are running similar initiatives.
The conversation about keeping people around often centers around jobs. Chris Buness of Wrangell Cooperative Association says a thriving local economy is key.
“Our short-term goal was to increase tourism options, our longer-term was sustainability … having jobs for kids when they grow up so that they can go get an education that they need and then come back,” she said.
Consultants Salt and Corvus Design have been retained by the tribe to help draft a plan. Their initial research shows three quarters of jobs in town are in healthcare, public sector and maritime industries.
The grant-funded planning period is slated to wrap up by October. Right now, ideas are aspirational and just taking shape. From there, a more detailed action plan is expected to keep Wrangell’s community thriving.