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Cheechako

Pronunciation: chee-CHAH-koh

Cheechako is a term used in Alaska that frequently refers to people who are newcomers to Alaska, usually from the contiguous US. Newcomers shouldn’t be afraid if somebody calls them a Cheechako when they are visiting Alaska because the term isn’t meant as an insult. They will be welcome even if they don’t know the many different uses of duct tape or what bunny boots are. Cheechako isn't the only unique term used in Alaska. Others include:

  • Sourdough:  a person who has survived a minimum of one winter in Alaska
  • The Panhandle: the Southeast portion of Alaska
  • The Midnight Sun: refers to having to wear sunglasses at 3 A.M. from May through September
  • Low Bush Moose: what a hunter calls a rabbit when he was hunting for a moose
  • The North Slope: where the oil is located north of the Brooks Range
  • The Interior: the coldest part of Alaska with the exception of the North Slope
  • The Outside: how people from Alaska refer to everywhere else, from Hawaii to heaven
  • Cabin Fever: what people get when spring comes late
  • Ice Fog: a large contributor to cabin fever as a result of frozen air
  • A Breakup: when the ice breaks signaling the end of winter
  • A Freeze up: the first freeze in the fall
  • Termination Dust: the first snowfall of the year
  • Bunny Boots: large white, heavy felt winter foot wear
  • Rocking Chair Money: an insurance check for unemployment.

Most people in Alaska consider the conversion of a Cheechako into a Sourdough a process that is made up of living through the first wintering experience in Alaska. This isn’t as easy as it first may seem as it is necessary to obtain and utilize the proper survival gear. Survival gear is anything that would allow somebody to survive all of the aspects of the environment in a harsh winter. Examples of survival gear include a warm parka, bunny boots, a beaver hat, water, food, and shelter.

It is necessary for all people who live in Alaska, both sourdough and cheechakos, to make it through the long winters in Alaska.  Developing friendships, trying out some new experiences in Alaska, attending activities, and making connections all help to make it through the winter.

The alternative is becoming a stir crazy, bored and lonely cheechako who quickly develops cabin fever. That is no way to become a real sourdough.

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