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Diocesan Magazine

2018 07 Missionary Disciples eMagazine

The Alaskan Shepherd

Shepherd v 56 no 4

 

Arctic Footprints

artic footprint summer

 

 


Teller is located on a sand spit of the Seward Peninsula between Port Clarence and Grantley Harbor, 75 miles northwest of Nome. The Teller site was a traditional Inupiat Eskimo fishing camp called "Nook" in 1827. When a Western Union Telegraph expedition wintered there in 1866, it was called “Libby Station.” When the United States Government operated a reindeer station there from 1892 to 1900, it was called Teller Station, after U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior, Henry Moore Teller. Teller became the name that stuck.


In 1900, after the Bluestone Placer Mine discovery 15 miles to the south, Teller became for a time a boom town trading center for miners, and for Inupiat Eskimos from Diomede, Wales, Marys Igloo, and King Island. In 1918, an influenza epidemic ravaged the community and claimed many lives among the Inupiat people.


Teller made international weather history on May 13, 1926, when the Italian dirigible, the "Norge," on a flight from Norway across the North Pole to Nome, had to land at Teller due to inclement conditions.


Teller today is a traditional Inupiat village with a population, as of 2011 Alaska Department of Labor Estimates, of 245. Lifestyles are based on subsistence activities supplemented by part-time wage earnings. Fish, seal, moose, beluga whale, and reindeer are primary meat sources. A herd of over 1,000 reindeer roam the region, and the annual round-up provides meat and a cash product that is sold mainly on the Seward Peninsula. Approximately one-third of households produce crafts or artwork for sale, and some residents trap fox.


For most of its history, the Teller Catholic community was served by missionary priests, visiting usually from Nome, but sometimes from Marys Igloo, Pilgrim Hot Springs, and Little Diomede. Most visiting clergy were Jesuits, though Diocesan priests also served.


Catholic presence came to Teller in 1902 when a Jesuit priest visited from Nome. Others followed suit, and a semi-permanent residence and church was established in the early 1900's. In the early 1960's, another building began to be used as the church; and the original building became "Saint Ann's Catholic Church Youth Center." Interestingly, the Teller Mission of the early 1940's was known as "Saint Emma's Catholic Mission." Records are unclear when the mission changed names from Saint Emma to Saint Ann.


Saint Ann Parish is currently served by a visiting pastor from Nome.