ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Stepheni Hawk smokes at the bus stop before dawn, standing along 36th Avenue where the Holiday gas station glows day and night. The bus rolls in. The doors sigh. She steps on for the quiet ride down to the University of Alaska-Anchorage to start her shift at a register in the cafeteria.
Hawk is 21, on her way to her first serious job, first real way to pay for her own place, to buy groceries and toys for her little girl. It's taken two years to get this far, two years since she moved to Anchorage to escape the villages where she was raised.
Quinhagak. Tuntutuliak. Tiny outposts on the tundra beyond Bethel where time was a slow-moving river and people whispered about her mistakes, where her mother faded in and out, where she was called Akiugalria, a Yup'ik name that means "someone who always comes back in a fight," as if it was understood from the day she was born that she would always have to struggle against something, that she would always have to watch out for herself.
Hawk sees women like her everywhere in the city, pushing strollers to the bus stop or in the elevator at Cook Inlet Tribal Council, riding up to see a social worker. They were at Clare House, the shelter where she lived last year when her plans fell through. Village girls in their late teens and 20s, some of them mothers, looking for jobs and apartments, for boyfriends better than ones they had before, looking to start school or start over.
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