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Yukon Men: George doesn't make it home, Tanana mourns his loss

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

George Roberts did not make it back to Tanana, and the town comes together to honor his life on the Discovery Channel's Yukon Men.

Many fans of reality shows have grown cynical of the genre. Shows have become so scripted and predictable, there seems to be little-to-no “reality” left, only the “show.” However, last night on the Discovery Channel’s hit, Yukon Men, fans learned that sometimes reality rears its head, regardless of what the producers, actors or viewers would like to see on the small screen.

Forty-year-old Tanana resident George Roberts, known to the locals simply as “G,” went missing in a recent episode. Fans likely assumed he would return this week, because, after all, this is television. But, unfortunately, unhappily and definitely tragically, George met his fate while trying to cross the Tanana River on his way back from a goose hunting expedition. Residents had been hopeful that he would be found alive, as he was a skilled woodsman and was capable of surviving many situations, but, unfortunately, rescuers soon came to realize that, following the snowmobile tracks in the area where he was last seen, the most likely scenario was that he had met with tragedy on the thawing Tanana River.

“We found George,” Stan Zuray said solemnly. “He didn’t make it.”

“The only reason George is not here with us today is because he hit his head,” Charlie Wright, George’s brother-in-law, explained. “The snowmobile flipped up, hit something and flipped up, hit the ice wrong, and that’s it. Just takes one little mistake. That’s a hell of a loss, to lose one of your loved ones like that, to the river.”

“I learned so much from him,” Bob, Charlie’s son and George’s nephew, said. “The guy is amazing, you know? Losing my uncle, it’s tough.”

A small town like Tanana, with less than 200 residents, feels such a loss hard. And, the whole town came out to support the family and honor George.

“Everybody is close here,” Charlie said. “It’s like one family.”

“The loss of any one person in this village is incredibly significant,” Stan said. “Everybody is so close.”

Stan’s son, Joey, was one of the last people to see George, and was taking the loss hard.

“It’s going to be tough on him for a long time to come,” Stan said.

Custom dictates that the family host a funeral potlatch—a feast for the whole community. At a funeral potlatch, moose is served as the main course. This could have been a true burden on the family at this time of mourning, if the community were not so ready to come together and support one another. Stan went out hunting the moose (it is permissible, he explained, to kill a moose out of season for a funeral potlatch) and, when he dropped one, all of the men of Tanana came to help dress it out and get it ready for the potlatch meal. It was truly inspiring, to see how the residents of the town supported the family and how they honored their fallen son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.

Goodbye, G; well-wishes to his family and all of Tanana.

Yukon Men airs on the Discovery Channel on Friday nights at 10/9c.

Would you like to read more about Yukon Men? Search "Yukon Men" right here on Huliq.

UPDATED: Charlie hunts a deadly black bear

Image: Discovery Channel


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
You mean people that lived 100 years ago should not have lived.. This show is about how people lived 100 years ago but are living it out today. Sorry they don't go down to the local grocery store and shop for their meat like you do, they have to kill what they eat. If you noticed they also use every part of the animal they kill.. You realize they kill the food for their families unlike you that allow others to kill so you can eat.. Sucks for the Wildlife... Yea sucks for the Cows that get killed so you can get your steaks..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Yep. You're a treehugger. You have swallowed the KoolAid of the Greenies, ie. man is the disease of the planet. That means you too, Treehugger.

Submitted by carl (not verified) on
only a ass could make a statement like that ,no what they should do is get goverment entitlements.

Submitted by Ren (not verified) on
I would like to thank the community of Tanana for sharing the ritual of death, the Potlatch with us. I was not sure at first if you should be filming this family's and this community's grief, however I really appreciated seeing the beautiful tradition of the Potlatch when someone passes away. I gave me such a sense of community and togetherness that I wished I was part of a community that had these traditions. The singing, dancing, preperation and ceremony made me long to belong to a culture such as yours. Hold on to what you have, culture, tradition and language is too easily lost. My concolences to George's family and friends.

Submitted by greg (not verified) on
Can you imagine how many animals are killed on the highway each year? How much habitat is lost to the building and expansion of urban areas? The hunters of Tanana are just a drop in the bucket.

Submitted by carl (not verified) on
well said

Submitted by Meredith Allen (not verified) on
He sounds as if he came from Lynn/Saugus/Revere, Massachusetts area. Is that where his parents were from?

Submitted by DMathews (not verified) on
I consider this to be karma - when your greed motivates you to kill for profit - this in my opinion is nature's way of fighting back. For people who say this is what your ancestors did 100 years ago you're right, but they too did it for profit. Go back 600-years ago or briefly study native american history and you'll see that it hasn't always been this way. The true stewards of the land killed only out of necessity to feed and clothe their family - they didn't do it to make tons of money from the fur trade and they didn't hunt animals to near extinction. It is the reason why when the first Europeans came here there was an over abundance of game animals and why fur traders were able to make a profit for as long as they did. For whatever purpose people are using real furs we can do it synthetically today - there's NO excuse for killing for profit. For those of you who are religious - is this what Christ would do? Did God put these animals here for your sport? Live the lifestyle but the way it was before the first European stepped foot on this land - that's really being true to our roots. Do what you have to do to feed and clothe your family but not one bit more. Finally, to the person who wrote that if we compare the number of road kills to what the Yukon men are doing there's no comparison - that's just stupid. That's like saying if 100 people rape their daughters in Maine that you being the only one to do it in New Hampshire shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Submitted by Nancy (not verified) on
It would help you to understand the reasons behind hunting/trapping/fishing for your own food after you google Rural Alaska Food Prices. Once you see that shopping at the local village store is NOT an option for most Indians or Eskimos who live in Tanana, Alaska, then you might understand that necessitates taking wild game. Hunting to the local Native peoples is not a "sport" as in the lower 48 states; it is a means of putting meat on the table. The Eskimos and Indians have been doing this on this continent for 15,000 years now and haven't depleted the game populations at all. It is the overhunting/overfishing since 1492 that has adversely affected the wild game. If you feel the local Natives should leave their village life and "assimilate" into the cities, then the white business owners would need to start hiring those Natives for city jobs. That is NOT happening; Natives barely get interviewed for jobs that whites get hired for. Sad fact for Native Americans in America. If you feel your way of life is less "savage", perhaps you should go to and look up cattle and poultry feedlot overcrowding or factory farming. The Natives in Alaska don't keep animals for months or years in such putrid conditions before harvesting them. Your local supermarket is full of "innocent animals" all packaged neatly for your consumption. The Natives in Alaska are NOT trophy hunters. You will never see a mounted animal head in a Native household like the Great White Hunter's household. The reason for trapping for money is to buy much needed supplies such as medicines/clothing/sugar/flour/rice/vegetable seeds/tools/etc. No one is getting rich trapping. Indian Health Service only covers so much; Natives still have to pay for dental or eyeglasses. I am Koyukon Athabascan Indian; my last pair of eyeglasses cost $379 and my last dental bill was $255. Because of the snow glare in northern latitudes, Natives up here in Alaska are at very high risk for glaucoma, so regular eye check-ups are a necessity.


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